Waters is still raging on a crusade to end political corruption and the horrors of war.
After Roger Waters and his band finished playing “Eclipse” late in their set at Portland’s Moda Center on Sunday, the former Pink Floyd mastermind paused the show to explain that a key special effect had failed to work. Up until this point, the show, part of Waters’ Us + Them Tour, was a seamless extravaganza of audio/visual delights that ran like clockwork. Rather than plow ahead, Waters asked his band (and his tech crew) if they could run through the final section of “Eclipse” again. Waters counted off a few measures and the band lurched back into the song’s hypnotic final refrain. Then a giant, transparent pyramid composed of white lasers appeared over the crowd.
Running more than 2 hours and featuring 25 songs, Waters’ new show is a continuation of the themes he brought to Portland a few years ago when he played The Wall in its entirety. While many of his contemporaries have mellowed into old age, happily playing arenas for only those who can afford the premium of tickets, Waters is still raging on a crusade to end political corruption and the horrors of war. With the ascendency of Donald Trump, Waters has plenty to be angry about, and he used the platform of the stage to convey his dismay.
Although Waters has recently released the excellent Is This the Life We Really Want?, the bulk of set mainly visited Pink Floyd favorites, leaning heavy on cuts from The Dark Side of the Moon. Waters did reach back to Meddle with “One of These Days,” yet he didn’t play anything from The Final Cut or any solo material not featured on his new album.
Waters appears to have no qualms about delivering a show that could alienate a good percentage of his fanbase. And that’s just fine. We’ve entered a new era of greed here in the United States. As the concert transpired, a small group of senators in Washington schemed to implement a health plan that could leave 22 million people without insurance. Those expecting a non-challenging night were in for a big surprise.
Interspersing trippy psychedelic space imagery with disturbing footage of war, poverty and environmental destruction, Waters recast his classic catalog into a litany of songs of outrage and protest. During a rousing version of “Pigs,” giant LED screens depicted Donald Trump in lewd and damning images, comparing him to not only Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Putin, but the titular swine itself. As the song ended, quote after awful quote appeared on the screen, taken directly from the president’s own mouth. Much of the audience around me hollered and cheered.
Waters sounded and looked phenomenal, ceding all of David Gilmour’s vocals to guitarist Jonathan Wilson or vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. It worked, especially when Wilson and Waters traded verses during a towering version of “Dogs.” During “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2,” Waters was joined onstage by a group of Portland teens dressed in orange jumpsuits. When the song came to an end, they stripped out of the suits to reveal black T-shirts emblazoned with the word “Resist.”
But the pyramid redux proved the show wasn’t simply a slick production. There was still something human stuffed in there. Waters finished the show with “Vera,” “Bring the Boys Back Home” and “Comfortably Numb,” a trio of songs from The Wall. As his band took over the instrumental portion of “Numb,” Waters left the stage, walking along the front row and shaking hands with fans. It was a small gesture of humanity during a show of big effects and big songs, one that has now become a call to arms, a plea to fight back rather than be ground down by the stone.