Will the real Pink please stand up?

In anticipation of Roger Waters' concert tonight, Ben Jacobson recalls the ups and downs in Pink Floyd's rocky internal relationship.

By BENJAMIN JACOBSON
June 22, 2006 09:17
2 minute read.

 
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Tonight's landmark performance by Pink Floyd alum Roger Waters at Neve Shalom is probably the closest thing one can come to experiencing a Pink Floyd concert in 2006, but the once-bitter divisions between Waters and his former bandmates are becoming increasingly vague. Waters officially quit the band in 1985, believing that without its principal vocalist and songwriter, Pink Floyd would be unable to exist. So when the three remaining members of Pink Floyd reunited in 1986 to record an album, Waters poured salt on open wounds when he unsuccessfully brought charges against David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason for using the Pink Floyd name. Waters' own post-Floyd solo debut Radio KAOS was released just three months earlier, and the feuding parties each set out to conquer the world with concert tours, as they had done together for so many years. The Roger Waters concert tee-shirts from his summer 1987 tour read, "Which One's Pink?," a question that in his mind drove home the idea that his was the only authentic Pink Floyd show of the summer. Fans disagreed, flocking in droves to the David Gilmour-led concerts, while Waters' own high-concept production was poorly attended. Lines were drawn: one either believed that Waters was the true carrier of the Floyd torch, or one believed that a post-Waters Floyd was possible. Perhaps conceding defeat, little was heard publicly from Waters until 1999, except for his landmark Berlin Wall concert in 1990 and his 1992 return to form on his Amused to Death album. Pink Floyd was also inactive for most of the Nineties, with the exception of 1994's Division Bell disc and tour. Then the lines that once seemed uncrossable began to blur. A few months before the millennium, Waters embarked on a short, lowbudget North American solo concert tour, which was met with so much fan support that it ended up continuing for about three years, spanning the globe and spawning a double album and DVD. With Gilmour's Floyd out of the picture, it seems that Waters made a far more successful solo Pink. Jon Carin, who played keyboards live with Floyd in '87 as well as '94, made a significant contribution to Waters' Floyd-like sound as his keyboard player in '99. Reports of Waters' hanging out at parties with Floyd drummer Nick Mason began to surface around this time, and Gilmour began playing impromptu concerts as a solo artist for the first time since the Eighties. Then Waters played live with the rest of Pink Floyd this past July for the Live 8 African hunger benefit, a reunion that surprised even the most optimistic Floyd fans. This past winter marked the release of another Gilmour solo album, and the concert tour that followed featured guest performances by Rick Wright. But the tour had to be timed carefully so that Jon Carin could play for Gilmour and then go back on the road for Waters' far bigger tour. Nick Mason is even playing the drums at three of Waters' new Dark Side shows, blurring the lines further. And with Mark Fisher, designer of the past three Floyd tours, in charge tonight's multimedia production, the pyrotechnics, quadraphonic sound, light show and video synchronizations may just dazzle fans into submission in Floydian proportions.

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