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Roger Waters
Gund Arena
July 27

Taking the stage to the bombastic strains of "In the Flesh," Roger Waters strutted about the back of the stage like a general surveying his troops. He led his men through a nearly two-and-a-half-hour set. Surprisingly, Waters drew mostly from his tenure with Pink Floyd, performing just a half-dozen tracks from his solo outings.

After playing a brief set from The Wall, he continued his run through the Floyd years, beginning with an acoustic medley of material from the greatly underappreciated album The Final Cut. Waters didn't hesitate to tackle songs his former cohorts have shied away from, specifically a blistering rendition of "Dogs." Ever the dramatist, Waters and his longtime sidemen Snowy White and Andy Fairweather-Low played a pickup game of cards during the song's middle break.

Waters was well into the second act before he found his voice. While guitarist Doyle Bramhall handled the majority of David Gilmour's vocal parts quite nicely, Waters's attempts at "Welcome to the Machine," "Time," and "Money" were just average. Much of the Floyd material came across as if there was something missing. Three things missing. Perhaps it was the still shots on the screen behind the stage or the note-for-note guitar solos, but at times the first set seemed like a budget Pink Floyd revue.

Although it didn't garner nearly as much response as the Floyd songs did, Waters's solo material cooked. Performing just one track apiece from Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking and Radio K.A.O.S., Waters dove head-first into his last effort, Amused to Death, and came out at the end a different man. A stomping "What God Wants (Part One)" segued into "Perfect Sense." Waters used this opportunity to turn the chorus into a rabble-rousing sing-along, providing the second set's highlight.

After finishing with "Brain Damage," "Eclipse," and "Comfortably Numb" (nobody but Gilmour should ever attempt that end solo), Waters reemerged and seemed highly appreciative. It was nice to see him embrace his past, but a little more chaos would have gone a long way. — Jay Youngless

Tinsley Ellis
Wilbert's Bar & Grille
July 30

The Howard Hughes of blues was a scratch, but Duracell guitar slinger Tinsley Ellis more than carried the show Friday at Wilbert's. Son Seals, who has always preferred gigs in his Chicago neighborhood to the rigors of the road, has had some health issues of late, nullifying a much-anticipated appearance. Ellis however, has highway miles to match his technical wiles. He and his crack band buck up for an average of two-hundred-plus shows a year.

Ellis brought an everyman blues punch that electrified even the simplest old tune with a howling sound well-suited for the numerous easy rider shows on his summer schedule. Even though the majority of those in attendance were more comfortable on a golf cart than a Harley, the band was warmly received by the crowd, thinned by a nearby Fabulous T-Birds show.

Along with material from his upcoming release on the Capricorn label, the Atlanta native mixed in plenty of memorable covers — from a smoked-up, blues-noir version of Peter Green's "If I Loved Another Woman" to Jimmy Reed's "The Sun Is Shining." Ellis broke out his Gibson Moderne, a wedge-shaped guitar that provided great slide sounds for Elmore James's "Coming Home."

The pleasant surprise of the evening came early, when sideman Rob McNelley jumped in on a furious jam midway through a version of Freddie King's "Hideaway." It would be tough to say a better No. 2 man has rolled through town this summer. The young guitarist injected life into the rhythm and — because the intense Ellis often looks like somebody's dancing with his girl — emotion to the stage show.

The second set was much looser, and Ellis traded licks with McNelley on several songs — including another King classic, "The Tumble," which escalated into a pounding finale. When the acoustic was brought back out for "Love Comes Knockin'," ears were well-rung.

Since the set list was stuffed with covers, it's conceivable that you can catch a lot of these songs from the hometown heroes. But you'll be getting fare that's nowhere near as powerful and precise as that from Ellis and his road crew. Ellis seems to realize that you can't play hellhound travelin' blues while sitting in one place. It takes a well-worn highway. — Tim Piai

The Cult
New American Shame
Agora Theatre
July 31

As lies go, it was a small one. The advertisements for the Cult show at the Agora promised "all original members," but unless bass player Jamie Stewart and drummer Nigel Preston were working in some behind-the-scenes capacity, the ads were incorrect. That misstatement of fact failed to trouble the attendees. Singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy were there, and that was what mattered.

Judging by the healthy crowd, the Cult has maintained its audience despite persona shifts (from Goth lads to hard-rockin' dudes) and records that didn't set the charts ablaze (Sonic Temple being the exception, and that came out ten years ago). One shirtless fan had a handsomely rendered Cult tattoo between his shoulder blades. "They could just play Love straight through, and I'd be happy," said another sweating admirer in the beer line. Love, it should be noted, reached all the way to No. 87 when it was released in 1985.

The thirsty fan didn't get an uninterrupted reading of his favorite record, but he got what most Cult loyalists came for: healthy portions from the band's creative peak — the consecutively released Love, Electric, and Sonic Temple. By opening with "Lil' Devil," "Sun King," and "Rain," Astbury and Duffy seemed to apologize for the '90s, a decade of iffy efforts and eventual breakup.

To see the Cult again (or for the first time) is to appreciate it for being one of the few '80s rock bands whose concert T's — if they hang tattered in the closet — one doesn't have to apologize for today. Like Jane's Addiction, the Cult made music the dark-eyeliner and Camaro crowds could rally behind together. While that union was never easy — and Astbury's Zoso/Mojo mysticism was usually embarrassing when he had a full record to indulge himself — live, the Cult delivered no-nonsense rock takes on gems such as "The Witch," "Peace Dog," "Revolution," "Sweet Soul Sister," "Wild Flower," and, of course, "She Sells Sanctuary." By the well-chosen closer, "Love Removal Machine," few were the mouths not shouting "Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby" along with Astbury.

Opener New American Shame recalled the better moments from the L.A. hard rock scene circa 1987, and it was appreciated. — David Martin

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