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Love Pink Floyd, but hate Roger Waters' politics? This is Not a Drill tour isn't for you

Arizona Republic 11/3/2022 Ed Masley, Arizona Republic

There are those among us who believe the stage is not the place for artists to share their political views. A Roger Waters concert is the last place you should venture if that’s how you feel. 

Fans entering the Pink Floyd bassist’s This is Not a Drill Tour stop in Glendale on Monday, Oct. 3, were greeted by a woman distributing stickers that read “U.S. militarism fuels climate crisis.”

Just behind her, two men were encouraging people sign a petition to stop the U.S. extradition of Julian Assange. A banner at their table read “Free Assange” and depicted the WikiLeaks founder being muzzled by an American flag. 

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It was the type of greeting you’d expect if you've been following Waters with even one eye since the '70s.

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"If you're one of those 'I love Pink Floyd but I can't stand Roger's politics' people, you might do well to (expletive) off to the bar right now," he announced in a video message just before he took the stage. Hilarious yet sage advice. 

Roger Waters performs 'The Happiest Days of Our Lives' and 'Another Brick in the Wall Part 2' during his This Is Not A Drill tour at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. © Alex Gould/The Republic Roger Waters performs 'The Happiest Days of Our Lives' and 'Another Brick in the Wall Part 2' during his This Is Not A Drill tour at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.

This is a man whose greatest works include a conceptual treatise on capitalism loosely based on George Orwell's satirical fairy tale, "Animal Farm," dividing humanity into three groups — power-hungry pigs, conniving dogs and easily manipulated sheep. 

I love that album.

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A set list interspersed with political statements

It's rare to see a concert as politically engaged as Waters at the recently rechristened Desert Diamond Arena, which sadly was not temporarily renamed Shine on You Crazy Desert Diamond Arena anywhere but this review. 

As the 78-year-old musician led his band in "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2," the words "control the narrative, rule the world," and "propaganda" scrolled across the screen behind him.

"The Bravery of Being Out of Range" was introduced by video of Ronald Reagan's farewell speech, superimposed with the caption "War Criminal: Killed 30,000 innocents in Guatemala."

And before you file your grievances of "liberal elites," he then applied the same charges to every US president since Reagan, from George H.W. Bush ("the Road to Basra") to Joe Biden ("just getting started...").

There were video tributes to victims of police brutality, calls to free Assange, shots fired at the oligarchs and a helpful reminder that "the (expletive) pigs will kill us all" going into the iconic sax on "Us and Them."  

He pulled out of an epic suite of classics from the back half of "The Dark Side of the Moon" by introducing "Two Suns in the Sunset" as a "rather gloomy song" about dying in a nuclear war.

"And you may think 'Why is he gonna do that?,'" Waters said in perhaps the concert's most impassioned diatribe. 

"Well, it's something we should be thinking every day because our lunatic leaders are drifting in the direction of poking other lunatic leaders in the eye with sharp pointed sticks," he said. "And all of these lunatic leaders are in charge of extremely dangerous nuclear weapons and they could kill us all in a heartbeat."

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The song itself included images of people being vaporized in a nuclear explosion.

Did it feel a little heavy-handed? Yes, of course — as did several moments in the course of Monday's concert.

It's a heavy-handed calling, one he rose to with conviction.

A Roger Waters fan fist bumps the air as he listens and sings along to the concert at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. © Alex Gould/The Republic A Roger Waters fan fist bumps the air as he listens and sings along to the concert at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.

A message in the context of classic songs

What made the concert so engaging was the way he managed to incorporate his thoughts on our lunatic leaders in the context of the songs themselves, which sounded great and covered much of what your average Pink Floyd fan could even reasonably hope to witness.

From the time he took the stage, he set the controls for the heart of the Pink Floyd demographic with a haunting rendition of “Comfortably Numb," the first of 17 Pink Floyd songs in a 24-song set, played out against a post-apocalyptic skyline.

He even included a really sweet tribute to the great Syd Barrett on "Wish You Were Here," during which he recalled their decision to form a band after seeing Gene Vincent in concert, and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," accompanied by the message, “When you lose someone you love, it does serve to remind you this is not a drill." 

Stripped of any real-world context, what he did would constitute a fairly flawless Pink Floyd greatest hits experience. The fact that it was so much more than that is what makes Waters' concerts feel more relevant than any other artist of his generation. 

The production was spectacular — cross-shaped staging and stunning, if occasionally glitchy sound that felt like it could crush you during those scenes of nuclear annihilation. And there was a flying pig. But if you've ever seen a Roger Waters tour, you knew that.

I may not agree with everything the British rocker has to say. But I wholeheartedly agree that he should scream whatever feelings he is feeling from whatever rooftop an arena tour provides. 

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Roger Waters 2022 tour setlist

"Comfortably Numb"

"The Happiest Days of Our Lives"

"Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2"

"Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3"

"The Powers That Be"

"The Bravery of Being Out of Range"

"The Bar"

"Have a Cigar"

"Wish You Were Here"

"Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)"

"Sheep"

Set 2:

"In the Flesh"

"Run Like Hell"

"Déjà Vu"

"Déjà Vu (Reprise)"

"Is This the Life We Really Want?"

"Money"

"Us and Them"

"Any Colour You Like"

"Brain Damage"

"Eclipse"

"Two Suns in the Sunset"

"The Bar (Reprise)"

"Outside the Wall"

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Reach the reporter at ed.masley@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Love Pink Floyd, but hate Roger Waters' politics? This is Not a Drill tour isn't for you

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