Waters in the field

Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters' performance promises to be a landmark event in the annals of rock and roll in Israel.

roger waters 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
roger waters 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
This Thursday's performance by Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters at the Latrun Monastery's Neve Shalom chickpea fields promises to be a landmark event in the annals of rock and roll in Israel. Surely the 50,000 local fans expected to attend have been doing their homework in anticipation, blasting the timeless sounds of Pink Floyd's "big three" albums - Wish You Were Here, The Wall and The Dark Side of the Moon. The Dark Side of the Moon will be played in its entirety during the three-hour set. These classic space-rock albums appear on almost any respectable list of the top rock albums, and their sales statistics are mind-boggling, with The Wall ranking as the third best-selling album in US chart history and Dark Side having spent a whopping 741 weeks on the chart following its 1973 release. Those familiar with Waters' psychedelic chillout jams know that the classic Waters-Floyd playlist has considerable depth and variety. In 1968, the band bid farewell to founding member Syd "Crazy Diamond" Barrett, and the band welcomed new lead guitarist/co-lead vocalist David Gilmour. Gilmour went on to carry the Pink Floyd torch even after Waters officially quit the band in 1985, but even in the late Sixties, the quartet from Cambridge, England, was going through a transitional period. Single-chord "freakout jams" were being phased out, while opus suites like "Atom Heart Mother" and "The Man and the Journey" were taking shape. In-between, the band flirted with the three-minute post-Sergeant Pepper pop format - experiments marked by varying levels of success. The first Floyd double album, Ummagumma, was released in 1969, and features a classic four-track concert set of extended jams, followed by a sequence of four strange sonic exploration suites, each penned by a different Floyd member. Several of these compositions would later be combined with additional material to become the seminal The Man and the Journey live suite, a precursor to the concept albums that would become the Pink Floyd signature. The acoustic guitar-driven "Grantchester Meadows," written by Waters, is a beautiful ode to youthful afternoons spent expanding minds in rural England. Pink Floyd released Atom Heart Mother in 1970. The album's extended jams carry echoes of the band's past, while the compositions' complex, epic structures and studio savvy served as a forerunner for later releases. From here, the sonic leaps to 1972's Meddle and 1973's Dark Side seem like a logical progression. Also in 1970 Roger Waters teamed up with avant-garde producer Ron Geesin to release his first solo album, Music from the Body. The project can be compared to this spring's equally self-indulgent solo Waters release, Ca Ira, an opera about the French Revolution. In addition to its music, Pink Floyd experimented in film, too. Live at Pompeii, which debuted in 1972 and was recently released on DVD, provides a twist on the "concert movie" concept. By the late 1970s, Pink Floyd had essentially conquered the world, thanks to mind-boggling levels of success for its best-known albums. But Waters, having emerged as the group's principal songwriter, was growing increasingly disillusioned with playing at mega-stadiums, which he came to associate with totalitarianism. On tour in 1977, Waters cursed fans who disrupted the performance with fireworks, and spat in the face of a screaming teenager who climbed a barrier fence nearby. In the following months, Waters would wonder what kind of monster he had become on this night, and his answers took the form of the autobiographical double album and Hollywood movie The Wall. The overwhelming success of The Wall proved debilitating for Pink Floyd, which was ready to collapse. The Final Cut, which the band released in 1983, is considered by many to be the first Waters rock solo album. His lyrics are poignant and melancholy - two of his signature moods as a songwriter. No concert tour followed, and in 1985, Waters issued a press release announcing that he had quit Pink Floyd, with the musician assuming that the band would cease to exist without him. It didn't. In recent years, Waters has returned to the enormous concert venues that inspired him to build The Wall 20-odd years earlier. But he was comfortable with the proceedings this time around - comfortable enough to tour for three years, to reunite with Pink Floyd for one night only, and eventually to set out on a new world tour. While Waters is only one of a growing list of international performers to visit Israel this summer, his political views are surely the most controversial among them. Following the March announcement of Waters' performance here, anti-Israel groups immediately lobbied the singer to cancel the show. The groups argued that Waters - who lent his name to the War on Want protest against Israel's security barrier last year - would surely not want to show solidarity with the citizens of Israel. Waters, however, refused to cancel the Israel stop of his world tour, and instead moved the venue to Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, a cooperative village of Jews and Arab Israelis situated between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Following the decision to change venues, Waters issued this statement: "I moved the concert to Neve Shalom as a gesture of solidarity with the voices of reason - Israelis and Palestinians seeking a nonviolent path to a just peace between the peoples." Roger Waters performs at Neve Shalom at the Latrun Monastery this Thursday, June 22. Gates open at 5 p.m. Tickets, priced at NIS 375, are available at (03) 604-5000 and at all box offices. The concert will be broadcast live on two radio stations: 88 FM and Reshet Bet.