Rogers Waters Answers Critics in LA: There are so many things to consider when covering a Roger Waters show in 2022. Gone are the days when the main concern is, “Can Waters alone be as good as Pink Floyd?” The relentless clamoring for a Floyd reunion has apparently burned out, and that’s probably a good thing.
Nowadays, he’s fielding accusations of antisemitism, and of showing support for Russia over the Ukraine. The former, he vehemently denies. His criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is there for all to see, he hasn’t tried to hide it. Where the line is regarding a step into bigoted territory, well, that’s for you to decide dear reader. As for the latter, he certainly made some clumsy missteps when criticizing the Ukraine for essentially defending itself. For the record, he also wrote an open letter to Putin asking him to stop the war. Again, you get to decide how much is too much.
What we do find out on this tour, delayed for two years for obvious reasons and hitting the Crypto.com Arena last week, is that Waters is critical of just about everyone. When a clip of Reagan is played on the giant screens with the words “War Criminal” emblazoned across it, it’s followed by Bush Sr., then Clinton, then W. Bush, then Obama, then Trump — all with their dubious war records (varying degrees) neatly typed out. An image of Biden is plastered with “War Criminal — Just Getting Started.” He’s not siding with parties here.
So for all of that, Waters has been criticized, and sometimes appropriately so. The thing is though, he doesn’t seem to care at all. There’s a statement outside of the venue as the crowd is entering — a small fenced off area with a sign reading “Free Speech Zone.” The guy is clearly intent on saying whatever he wants, to hell with the naysayers. And with this latest tour, he’s rubbing it in faces.
But on to the show, because in that area there can be no complaints. The title of the tour, “This is Not a Drill,” seems to relate to the simple fact that life is short. Now 79, Waters is no spring chicken but he looks great and he moves around the stage like a much younger man. The stage is a cross shape, with Waters and the various musicians negotiating the four platforms and allowing more of the crowd to have a closer view. There are moments when Waters has his back to you, but that’s fine too.
The set list on Tuesday was superb, and appears to be consistent throughout the tour. He opened with “Comfortably Numb,” the always spine-tingling tune performed with the band out of sight. When the screens lifted to reveal Waters and the band, they went straight into “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” and “Another Brick in the Wall,” parts 2 and 3. It was a stellar way to open a gig.
All the while, the political points were being made on the screens. Songs such as “The Powers That Be” and “The Bravery of Being Out of Range” hammered home Waters’ opposition to drone warfare and military/police brutality. Meanwhile, pics of various incidents from around the world depicting people being killed for the crime of being black, female, peacefully protesting, etc are beamed up. This is a not a night for the “musicians should just shut up and play” brigade. Mind you, it hit hard when he pulled out the Wall-era nazi satire in this environment.
A tripple whammy of “Wish You Were Here,” “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” and “Sheep” closed out part one, and then there was an intermission. Fair enough. The hits kept coming in part 2, including amazing renditions of “In the Flesh,” “Run Like Hell,” “Us and Them” and a well-received “Money.” Guitarist Jonathan Wilson sang lead on the latter two, and did a great job. In fact, the entire band was note perfect throughout.
Roger Waters 2022, then. He’s clearly not for everyone. He’s going to irritate and infuriate while simultaneously delighting. His overall message is one of peace and love, of equality and compassion. He says that he criticizes regimes, the powers that be, rather than citizens.
But again, it’s up to individuals to decide.
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