Well that escalated quickly. Roger Waters is known for a lot of things, and most of them are music-related. But, he’s also been at the nexus of controversy for some time. Whether it was the bitter split from Pink Floyd as a founding member and the follow-on spate of acrimonious lawsuits against ex-partner David Gilmour who continued to use the band’s name in his absence, or his fairly recent controversial position regarding the Israeli government and subsequent siding with the BDS movement, it’s clear that Waters is not afraid to speak his mind. And tonight, speak his mind he did. The show started out pretty peacefully, with a bucolic beach scene whose skies gradually darkened as a storm rolled in. The figurative storm clouds would form a bit later.
Coming out of the gate with a look into Floyd’s best selling record, the timeless Dark Side Of The Moon, the lunatic giggles of “Speak To Me” segued into “Breathe.” Waters has assembled a crack band, and guitarists Jonathan Wilson and Dave Kilmister did a solid job carrying the significant load of replicating Gilmour’s god-like guitar lines. Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from Lucius have been singing with Waters for a while now, and their brilliantly blended voices are as seamless integrated and complementary as their myriad sartorial choices. “Great Gig In The Sky” was their first opportunity to show the audience their talents and they didn’t disappoint.
After a few perfunctory songs from his latest record, darkness hit like a black wall until the roar of helicopter filled the arena and a single blinding headlight scanned the crowd from atop the stage. The band broke into the quasi-disco hit of “Another Brick In The Wall (part 2)” when a dozen or so local youngsters assembled on stage, clothed in Abu Ghraib-like garb, black masks over their heads. As the song progressed, they tore off the masks and pulled off the jumpsuits to reveal #RESIST t shirts. After the song was over, Waters took a moment to say that it’s important to not only have an opinion, but to be able to express that opinion, and with the projection screen blazing “#RESIST in giant letters, he symbolically knelt down, certainly the flash point gesture of the last week.
If Trump supporters were angry at that, the start of the second set sent them straight to boiling point and some to the exits. Seriously, how can it be a surprise that Waters has decidedly leftist views to anyone who has paid attention to his music career? Aside from isolated instances like “Welcome To The Machine,” 1977’s Animals was Waters’ first overt foray into exploring the oppression of humans, mainly via capitalism. And who’s the most famous, orange-tinted face of capitalism right now? Yes, Donald Trump’s visage was stretched across the giant screens that ran from the stage to the soundboard, overhanging the floor seats. The original image of the Battersea power station that adorned the album cover gave way to images of a ravenous dog as Waters sang the words describing ruthlessness at others’ expense.
“Pigs” is where Waters went for Trump’s throat. He didn’t need to add in a White House reference as the song’s already got one, and the pig mans and fat chins and charades references were pointedly underscored by accompanying, unflattering graphics of Trump in various guises. As an inflatable, drone-powered pig made a slow circle around the arena, various self-damning quotes from Trump were plastered upon the screen, and it was this point that a small percentage of fans put on their MAGA hats and left the building. With their Sundays now free, Pink Floyd songs won’t be filling that entertainment gap either.
The rest of the show was solid, though it’s doubtful anyone needs to hear “Money” again in their lifetime; another deeper cut a la “One Of These Days” would have hit the spot nicely. “Us And Them” is the name Waters gave this tour, and the song starts out about war and its two sides, but turns towards the differences of the haves and the have nots. If there’s one thing that Waters and his work underscored tonight, it’s that divisions remain deep among a variety of classes and it doesn’t look like that gap will close anytime soon.
More photos of the show: