Roger Waters @ Madison Square Garden

Roger Waters (Glyn Emmerson)NEW YORK, NY—Roger Waters played it like a psychedelic shaman at the the altar of this Garden party, throwing off diatribes at the power elite and that fine line between intellectual euphoria and mental madness all in the space of a two and a half hour set.

Waters’ backup band played the Floyd classics verbatim with a trio of guitarists taking on David Gilmour’s parts. They were a somber unit that pushed and pulsed at the originals, breathing life into them with Waters at the helm stalking the crowd with the wide-eyed grin of a man in control and at peace with his legacy.

Countering the contemptuous scowl of rock audiences that inspired Waters to write The Wall, this time around he graciously smiled and winked his way through the band’s set, making eye contact with the crowd and adding a human element to the Floyd sonic dirges.

The band’s sound boomed throughout the arena, crystalline and full throttled with the three backup singers who added a soothing, soulful vibe to the rattling chatter of guitars, bass and drums. A screen provided the backdrop to the songs’ messages, flashing blotchy pinks and reds one sec, then archival political shots the next. Pyrotechnics rounded out the extravaganza, giving the event a flashy glitz of Vegas chic.

Starting with “In The Flesh” from The Wall, Waters pinpointed members of the audience as the spotlights swirled above to “get them up against the wall!” An acoustified “Mother” followed. “Set The Controls To The Heart Of The Sun,” from Pink Floyd’s 1968 album A Saucerful Of Secrets, was a spacey offering as the backdrop oozed its pinks, purples and reds with a silhouetted Waters playing flamenco-ish slides on acoustic.

On “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” images of the recently departed Syd Barrett graced the screen in a tearful ode to the Floyd founder. Although politics undermines almost all of Waters’ work, “Southampton Dock,” “Amused To Death” and “Leaving From Beirut” were blatant in your face reminders of the ravages of war from a man who lost his father in the Second World War.

“Southampton Dock,” from the final 1983 Floyd album The Final Cut, took on the industrial military complex, under the guise of the Falkland War conflict between Argentina and the U.K. “Amused To Death,” from Waters’ solo album of the same name, presented the concepts that war and its inevitable body count have become entertainment for the masses. “Letter From Beirut” was an autobiographical memoir to a night Waters spent in a Lebanese home in the early ’60s when his car broke down and he had to hitchhike from London to Beirut. Its attempt at humanizing a group of people was met unfortunately with some jeers and an en-masse exodus to the beer stands.

“Sheep” ended the set, with its edgy guitars as the famous pig made an appearance flying below the rafters at the Garden with graffiti spray painted on it declaring “Religions divide.” The Dark Side Of The Moon was played in its entirety for the second set. Waters barely sang on it, keeping true to its original, but added in on the choruses to “Eclipse” as the opus closed to an end and a triangular prism splashed fractured lasers throughout the Garden.

“Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2,” “Vera” and the grand finale left everyone “Comfortably Numb.”