BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER It was pretty much 40 years ago today that Sgt Pepper taught the other bands to play like they were Picassos with guitars, and after that songs were replaced by statements — grandiose, interconnected, deeply ruminative — and albums were no longer mere collections, but high concepts. Arguably, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon is the highwater mark of rock’s evolution from low pop to high art. Some 34 years after its immaculate conception, the album remains a definitive statement on life, death and all the beautiful madness in between — and at any given minute on any given day, somebody somewhere in the world is listening to it. Preferably with headphones.
Aside from headphones, the absolute best way to hear Dark Side is performed live by its creator. Such was the case Friday night when Roger Waters performed the classic concept album beginning to end as the second act of a two night, sold-out run at theWachovia Center. A noted and irascible perfectionist, Rogers got what he wanted out of his band Friday night. Backed by a revolving cast of multi-intrumentalists who recreated every sonic detail of the recording with the highest of fidelity, Waters — looking hale and healthy and sounding in fine voice — seemed especially pleased by the spectacle of his grand concept coming to life once again before an ecstatic, adoring crowd. This too is one of Dark Side‘s great accomplishments: it freed art from the cloister of elites and connected it to the Everyman — and a few women, too. The crowd sang along with every word like it was the soundtrack of their lives.
The visuals — ultra-vivid wall-sized projections of tyrants and other “incurable wasters of life and limb” behind the band, a laser-guided pyramid and giant pig levitating above the crowd — only upped the wow factor while somehow avoiding the Spinal Tap-like self-parody such outsized props often evoke in a rock concert setting. Broken into two acts, the performance began with an impeccably-selected Whitman’s sampler of the Pink Floyd songbook, kicking off with the wailing air-raid siren guitars of The Wall’s “In The Flesh” which morphed into “Mother” which morphed into “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” with flawless execution. And so it went — bombast, pathos, and then into the mystic. In a word: Wow.