Roger Waters: This is Not a Drill
T-mobile Center/Kansas City, MO
September 3, 2022
IN THE FLESH AND OUTSIDE THE WALL
Near the ceiling of the T-Mobile Center, the electronic signs warned patrons not to use offensive language and advised reporting people who engaged in that sort of discourse to management.
Thankfully, Roger Waters missed that note before hitting the stage last Saturday night. There were enough F-bombs to flatten Moscow.
Throughout his 2½ hour set, the former Pink Floyd bassist, lyricist, singer and driving force made his views on politics explicit. When some Pink Floyd fans lament the activist bent in his more recent music, it’s tempting to wonder if they had simply been using the Floyd for chemical recreation and missed Waters’ agitation in the words for “Us and Them” and the entire George Orwell-inspired album Animals.
At 78, Waters may be campaigning for the release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange during his performances, and his set seemed like a refutation of some of the themes he and his former bandmates explored in The Wall.
This was for the best.
Waters conceived The Wall because he was disturbed by how fame and massive area shows (like the one he was giving when I saw him) had separated Pink Floyd from their audience.
Nearly 4½ decades later, Waters seemed sociable. The slender Englishman bounced around the stage. He quoted Wilbert Harrison’s “Kansas City” and made a point of thanking fans who had held onto their tickets for two years. Covid ruined a lot of plans. He even left the T-Mobile Center marching through the crowd with the band. He repeatedly acknowledged that his shows were for the fans, and they clearly returned the love.
For a guy who has written tunes about grief, alienation and even the price of nuclear war, Water came off as contagiously giddy. Even when he briefly tripped over the words to one of his newer songs, Waters’ enthusiasm buoyed the entire night.
Opening with “Comfortably Numb,” the performance of the offering from The Wall missed David Gilmour’s soaring and then ominous guitars solos. Nonetheless, it still sounded captivatingly eerie.
That song came with unsettling images of bombed out rooftops and people mindlessly waking through lines as the walked through lines mindlessly. The screens would be raised and lowered at strategic moments and supplemented the newer songs to illustrate why Waters had written pointed tunes line “The Powers That Be” and “The Bravery of Being Out of Range.” He ran a slide show of unarmed people across the world who had died in police shootings. The list seemed even more urgent that night because it included Donnie Sanders, who had died here in Kansas City.
The screens also enabled Waters to add backstory to songs he was performing from Wish You Were Here. Waters still mourns original Pink Floyd leader Syd Barrett and slides of the band’s early lineup made the tunes even more poignant. Seamus Blake’s passionate sax solos on those tunes and on “Money” and “Us and Them” certainly helped. The rest of the band delivered a solid, tightly rehearsed set. Apart from “Comfortably Numb,” they followed Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright’s original playing on the Floyd songs.
The dancing animated pigs on “Money” made of up for any lack of spontaneity.
In addition, longtime fans were rewarded with the expected lasers, giant inflatable pigs and sheep and theatrics that recalled Alan Parker’s movie of The Wall.
When Waters broke into songs from Amused to Death or Is This the Life We Really Want, the crowd lost none of its enthusiasm. It probably helped that the enormous screens displayed a disclaimer letting anyone who objected to his takes on indigenous rights or police shootings to “f**k off to the bar.”
It’s a nod to his newer song “The Bar,” which deals with being able to freely discuss difficult topics. Waters clearly knows how to entertain (who doesn’t love giant, floating pigs?), and much of his outrage is sadly warranted. His songs may have launched a thousand bong hits, but if Bob Dylan, whom he cited in his show, can write “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Waters can warn us about the urgency of addressing nuclear war.
I attended the show as a guest of Kansas City Veterans for Peace, Chapter 97. I’m merely a former military contractor (a cubicle jockey) who doesn’t want troops being put into peril for a fool’s errand, and nuclear conflict certainly qualifies. Waters correctly cited Kansas’ Dwight D. Eisenhower, who repeatedly expressed many of the same concerns.
That said, I’d like to have a beer with him at a bar sometime. I’m not sure how we’d get along, or if alcohol would be conducive to the topics at hand. I have quibbles about Mr. Assange, but challenging subjects don’t get the attention they need when people simply shut up and sing.