Now I need to talk about that screen.
The screen structure is a long, central, black wall bisected by another, shorter one to create a cross-shape. Everything was projected onto those screens. The video above shows the third announcement that the show is about to begin. These announcements started at the fifteen minute mark and reappeared every five minutes until the show started promptly at 8:30 p.m. Doors opened a bit before 7:00 p.m.; the ticket listed 8:00 p.m. as the start time. After seeing the structure, I thought to myself — great, I’ll get to see ¼ of the band. Interesting way to visually represent disconnection. Maybe Roger will wander around to each part eventually? But as you see in the later videos, the structure lifts. It’s hard to advise best seating for this concert. I feel like a more distant vantage point is a better one for this kind of visual, but my seats were a bit too high: the light rigging got in the way of the upper part of the screen. I’d advise seating no higher than the lower promenade, unless you want someone on stage to sweat on you. Floor seats help you see more of the performers, but less of the entire spectacle. Think about what you really want.
This video starts the concert, gives Roger’s warning, and leads in to the first notes of “Comfortably Numb.”
“Comfortably Numb,” of course, showcases one of David Gilmour’s great guitar solos and one of the great guitar performances of the 70s. Waters recruited guitarist Dave Kilminster for this tour, who has longtime progressive rock cred, performing with Keith Emerson, The Nice, Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, John Wetton of King Crimson and Asia, Ken Hensley of Uriah Heep, Carl Palmer (ELP), and as a touring musician for Roger Waters since 2006. On every song Kilminster matched Gilmour note for note and riff for riff: Waters’s band, overall, so perfectly emulated Pink Floyd’s sound that they made the original band sound like sidemen for Roger Waters, which they essentially were on Animals, The Wall, and The Final Cut. But on “Comfortably Numb,” Gilmour’s guitar work was left untouched. Waters’s backup singers (think Dark Side of the Moon) covered these parts, recasting Gilmour’s guitar parts beautifully.
Fortunately, the stage rose by the third song, “Another Brick in the Wall,” Waters appearing at the bottom right section of the cross-shaped stage.
The following videos are Water’s performances of “Sheep,” “In the Flesh,” and “Dark Side of the Moon,” which was the climax of the show.
“In the Flesh” — the pig had little propellers that helped direct it a bit less haphazardly than the sheep.
And finally, “Dark Side of the Moon” — visually stunning.
In terms of sheer spectacle, this was one of the best concerts I’ve attended. The closer you sit, the more you’d feel immersed in a rock video. The only concert I’ve seen that rivaled that effect was U2’s Zoo TV tour. I was on the thirty yard line and felt like I was inside a rock video due to the sheer size of the set.
I think it’s time to get explicit about Waters’s politics. But what are politics? Politics are a programmatic, legislative attempt to serve the interests of a people group. When the gun industry convinces people their freedoms are at stake to protect their own profits at the expense of human lives, that’s politics: give the antelope guns, tell them they’re predators, not prey, and you own them. When Bernie Sanders wants to provide affordable healthcare for all Americans, that’s politics. He’s not working for an industry but for working and middle class Americans. When health insurance companies make you fear “socialism” so they can continue to enrich themselves by collecting premiums and not paying out claims, that’s also politics.
In that sense of the word, Waters did not make a political statement at all last night. For Roger Waters, politics are human rights. That’s it. Every single life matters to him, including the lives of photojournalists killed as “collateral” damage during a drone strike halfway around the world. He’s not anti-American. He is pro-human-life. His major objects of critique were the United States, England, and Israel for human rights violations, but they weren’t his only targets. His biggest target wasn’t Trump, whose face did appear on the screen at times, but Ronald Reagan, whom Waters labeled a “war criminal” because of 30,000 dead in Guatemala. Footage of one of Reagan’s speeches appeared during one song, his face dissolving away over and over again, juxtaposed against images of human-like, animated figures being brutalized by guns and batons. The images were disturbing, but they were necessarily so. They were meant to be. The names and faces of victims of human rights violations from around the world appeared on the screen throughout the night.
His primary target of attack is an international corporate environment that provokes these human rights abuses around the world to protect its own financial interests. The bad guys are fascists, as they always are, but Waters emphasizes how closely fascism and capitalism work together, as they always have. And yes, they did very much work together in Hitler’s case, who reinvented a national socialist party to gain power with the blessing of the oligarchs. The screen structure served many purposes, but at times it projected the lights you’d see on an office building, and in one image it topped four skyscrapers, one under each of its four outermost points.
Waters’s politics is merely to advocate for human life, especially when it is sacrificed for the profits of multinational corporations.
But after all of that, on the way out of the venue I overheard a 30-something white guy say that he liked Pink Floyd, that he liked the music, but he didn’t like Waters’s politics. “That stuff happens all around the world,” he said, “why just target the United States?”
Waters didn’t just target the United States, and more importantly, that night he was only performing in the United States. After all of that, even after the opening warning, the man fell back on a banality that renders him immune from concern. He chose his own immediate emotional comfort over human life.
Stay on message, Roger. You won’t get through to everyone, but you got through to me. Thank you.