There’s always that one guy at every party, social gathering or on an unwanted soapbox who says they wish musicians would separate their music from their political beliefs. Artists like Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and, most notorious, Jane Fonda have used their celebrity over the years to flaunt their specific causes. I was at a rally last year prior to the election and this dude was bitching about Springsteen. “I love his music, man,” he told me. “But I hate his political stuff, just play the damn guitar and stop whining about politics.”
Which, of course, left me baffled as I immediately wrote off this guy as an authority on Springsteen and politics in general for that matter. The Boss, a blue collar Jersey native, has woven politics into his music from the first time he ever picked up a guitar.
If there’s one artist (or group, for that matter) whose politics are woven into his music like a medieval tapestry, it’s the conceptual force behind one of the 1970s’ most revered bands, Pink Floyd. Born at the height of World War II and left an orphan after his father was killed fighting at Anzio in 1944, Roger Waters has maintained a pretty specific world view regarding life, the world and, especially, authority since his early days in Pink Floyd.
There was a kerfuffle with the local NBC affiliate, WKYC, prior to Thursdays’s show. WKYC, a huge pot-stirrer with their social media posts, interviewed the Shaker Dance Academy owner who was contacted by the tour to provide ten dancers for a few numbers from Waters’ best known work, 1979’s The Wall. A reporter asked the parents if they approved of Waters’ “Anti-Trump” message. In a panic, and perhaps rightfully afraid of a Right wing-fueled smear of her studio, the owner pulled the dancers out at the last minute, leaving the tour sans any locally-sourced dancers for the first act closing numbers, “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” and the seminal “Another Brick in the Wall, Parts I and II.”
The tour made some last-minute phone calls and at three o’clock Thursday afternoon, five hours prior to showtime, got a local chapter of School of Rock to donate ten kids to the production. The youngsters, with about four hours of rehearsal time, pulled off the numbers flawlessly and with aplomb.
Shame on Channel 3 for their clickbait mentality; the kids from the Shaker Dance Academy were denied a tremendous opportunity. But, hey, WKYC got their social media numbers up.
Okay, political digs at Trump aside, and there were plenty of them, how was the show?
Once again, as I stood in front of my seat for most of the show, I lamented the fact that this was the first time I had ever witnessed any incarnation of Floyd. It really made me wish I could’ve seen them when they were at the peak of their powers, when all the members of the band took the stage prior to contract fights and attorneys getting in the way of Waters/Wright and Gilmour doing what they do best. I hope that someday the surviving members (Barrett left the band early on and died in 2006 while Richard Wright succumbed to lung cancer in 2008) can reunite and provide us with a very special moment.
Quicken Loans Arena, hosting a sold-out crowd, was a perfect venue for this massive show. A giant, two-story video screen constantly displayed images of a war-torn world. Anti-Trump messages and photos of an over-sized baby superimposed with Trump’s head peppered the screen. A large screen appeared from the rafters, effectively dividing the audience into two parts (get it?) and displayed the same images as the massive screen behind the band; it was an Orwellian nightmare come to life, and it had the impact that it was meant to convey.
A large part of Act One was filled with tunes from Waters’ new solo album, his first in two decades. The recently-released Is This The Life We Really Want? echoed most of Waters’ philosophies, but the fans were eager to hear the music in which they grew up with.
Timeless tunes “Time” and “Wish You Were Here” were set one highlights, bringing the crowd to their collective feet, from where many of them stayed until the encore an hour later.
After a short intermission, the band returned to the stage. Waters, approaching 75 years old, has the stage presence of a man half his age. Maybe its the message, maybe he just likes performing, but the second act really kicked into high gear with his assault on our current political state that has seemed to divide this country in a state that resembles pre-Civil War America.
“Pigs” started the second half as none-too-flattering images of Trump played on the giant screens. The famous floating pink pig made an appearance and, at the end of the song “Trump is a Pig” flashed across the jumbotrons, just in case the lyrics were somehow lost on the crowd. An immediate segue into Floyd’s “Money” wasn’t lost on those paying attention: images of Trump’s wealth and apparent disdain for obeying the rules gave a distinct show-and-tell vibe to the song written almost forty-five years ago.
Mid-set offering “Brain Damage” effectively showcased Waters’ vocal talents. “Eclipse,” an electric mind-numbing show-stopper, ended with a giant laser-light pyramid encapsulating the audience.
Encoring with the classic “Comfortably Numb,” Waters brought the show to a close. He then thanked the crowd and emphasized that “so much love” in the world was enough to combat repressive governments and leaders who think that they’re above the law.
Love him or hate him, you have to respect his devotion to his point of view. I, for one, think the world needs more Roger Waters.