Hitch Hiking Birmingham (Highland HL625/626)
NEC Arena, Birmingham, England – June 27th, 1984
Disc 1 (66:36): Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Money, If, Welcome To The Machine, Have A Cigar, Wish You Were Here, Pigs On The Wing (Part 1), In The Flesh, Nobody’s Home, Hey You, The Gunner’s Dream
Disc 2 (55:01): 4:30 AM (Apparently They Were Traveling Abroad), 4:33 AM (Running Shoes), 4:33 AM (Running Shoes, Part 2), 4:37 AM (Arabs With Knives And West German Skies), 4:39 AM (For The First Time Today – part 2), 4:41 AM (Sexual Revolution), 4:47 AM (The Remains Of Our Love), 4:50 AM (Go Fishing), 4:56 AM (For The First Time Today – part 1), 4:58 AM (Dunroamin, Duncarin, Dunlivin), 5:01 AM (The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking, Part 10), 5:06 AM (Every Strangers Eyes), 5:11 AM (The Moment Of Clarity), Brain Damage, Eclipse
Hitch Hiking Birmingham is a nice document from Roger Waters’ early days as a solo artist. The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking, his first solo album whose conceptual roots go back to the last years of Pink Floyd, was released in May 1984. The first tour began in early June with the first shows at the Eisstadion in Stockholm.
The final two dates in England were at the NEC in Birmingham on June 26th and June 27th, both of which have excellent tape sources. This tape of the second Birmingham show has been released before on Pros And Cons Of Live Hitchhiking (Silver Rarities SIRA 45/46).
The second silver release came out in April, 2001 on Safebreaker (Mid Valley 093/094), a four disc set that also includes the June 26th show in Birmingham. Safebreaker is the third and final volume of an extraordinary series documenting the Swedish concerts and those in Earl’s Court.
Highland released Hitch Hiking Birmingham a year later and use the same excellent quality stereo audience recording. There is a hint of deterioration on the tape producing a “waving” quality in the left channel during “Money.”
The tape source is cut between “Wish You Were Here” and “Pigs On The Wing (Part 1).” There is also a small cut twelve seconds in “4:50 (Go Fishing)” and five minutes fifty-one seconds in “5:01 AM (The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking).” An alternate source is used for eight seconds to fill the gap. There are also strange faint pop on disc two that sounds like vinyl noise and clicks between tracks.
For his initial foray on the road Waters brought along the Bleeding Hearts Band, which consisted of: Eric Clapton (guitar), Mel Collins (saxophone), Michael Kamen (keyboards), Andy Newmark (drums; he also played the drums on “Two Suns In The Sunset” on The Final Cut), Tim Renwick (bass), Chris Stainton (keyboards) Doreen Chanter and Katie Kissoon (backing vocals).
The first half of the show features classics from the Pink Floyd era with some re-interpretations to fit their talent. “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” is devoid of its “space rock” connotations and is turned into a great jam piece with emphasis on sax, guitar, and the woman vocalists carrying the tune. “Money” includes Mel Collins playing a saxophone solo followed by Clapton duplicating Gilmour’s solo.
Stainton and Kamen follow, playing Hammond organ and cocktail electric keyboards off of one another expanding the conceptual narrative of the piece beyond all comprehension. “If,” a song played only once live by Pink Floyd on the BBC, is given an optimistic coda augmented by the backup singers.
Waters sings “Have A Cigar” with much more confidence than in the seventies and instead of the radio broadcast bridge, there is a gorgeous piano melody linking that with “Wish You Were Here” which continues through the piece, underlying the lyrics in a beautiful arrangement. Waters begins “In The Flesh” by shouting; “there will be no visling in the audience!!” His statement is of course greeted with a chorus of whistles. “Hey You” is played close to the studio version except contains a blistering Collins saxophone solo in lieu of the guitar solo.
The second half of the show is the elaborately staged rock opera. Like many of Waters’ projects, the power of the performance lie in the visuals as much as the music and it is helpful to understand the stage show as the music progresses over the forty minutes. The disc begins right during the taped intro to “4:30 AM (Apparently They Were Traveling Abroad).”
Some of the songs are expanded with additional lyrics not found on the studio version including the latter half of “4:33 AM (Running Shoes, Part 2)” where Waters sings: “Ooh Babe, where ya been? / You bring back the feeling / the flavor of damp teenage skin / and hot afternoons by the river / spent crushing the clover / I said “Lie down, roll over / I wanna go back there again” / Oh baby, sweet Fassbinder lady / ooh, where ya been?” Eric Clapton has his big moment during “4:41 (Sexual Revolution)” with a blistering solo complimented by a loud ovation by the audience.
After the massive rock opera Waters says, “This is our last one in England so it was good that you were here, it’s been really nice and we really enjoyed it.” Birmingham is rewarded with “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse,” Waters’ greatest contribution to Dark Side Of the Moon, as a double encore.
Hitch Hiking Birmingham is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with excellent photos from the tour with equal space devoted to both Waters and Clapton. This is a fascinating era for both artists since Waters was beginning to find himself as a solo artist after being in Pink Floyd for almost twenty years, and Clapton spent a large part of the eighties finding inspiration by playing with other artists.
It is a shame the second disc on this release contains the clicks and pops that it does, but despite that it is good and a good way to own one of the best Pros And Cons shows on tape since the Mid Valley sets are sold out.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)