Roger Waters began the first night of his 2022 This Is Not a Drill tour with a cheerful message projected onto the screens above the stage: “If you don’t agree with Roger’s politics, you might do well to fuck off to the bar right now.”
For the most part, the crowd at the PPG Glass Arena in Pittsburgh Wednesday night laughed, roared and whooped their tacit acknowledgment of the Pink Floyd co-founder’s advice.
While decidedly political, Waters’ first tour in five years is more than just a strident pulpit for his progressive (some prefer the word “radical”) views. Yes, This Is Not a Drill takes to task everyone from the past six U.S. presidents to rich oligarchies to foreign fascists. However, it also acts as a signal boost for both compassionate altruism and revealing aspects of Waters’ mythology.
You can see photos, the full set list and fan-shot videos of the show below.
Waters and his band performed in the middle of the PPG floor, surrounded by catwalks, stage extensions and an elongated hi-tech screen system above the musicians. The screen was used repeatedly for excellent dramatic (and political) effect, displaying short films, disturbing animation and archival footage of his first band. The proceedings began with a widescreen panorama of a skyline of dilapidated, semi-destroyed skyscrapers, best described as somewhere between such dystopian sci-fi classics as Blade Runner and I Am Legend. It was the perfect visual for Waters’ opening salvo, a lugubrious droning arrangement of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” performed by him and backing vocalists Shanay Johnson and Amanda Belair channeling some version of a celestial choir.
Watch Roger Waters’ This Is Not a Drill Introduction Video
Watch Roger Waters Perform ‘Comfortably Numb’
And that was only the beginning of an arresting evening filled with dynamic playing, personal history, political invective and one new, as-yet-unrecorded Waters composition. He accompanied himself on piano during “The Bar,” describing the song not as the place where naysayers who didn’t like his beliefs could go, but rather as a place where people with shared beliefs “can be better people for all our fellow human beings.”
That poignancy gave way to Pink Floyd’s cynical “Have a Cigar,” one of the best songs to ever smack down music industry egos. Then Waters (via typed narrative text on the screen) discussed the roots of his friendship with tragic genius and Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett. That then led to him describing a breakdown that led to the creation of the song “Wish You Were Here” and excerpts from the Barrett paean “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” These personal moments would give way to the footage of Reuters journalists being killed via drone strikes, material that was leaked to the internet by Chelsea Manning and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Waters was running both sonic and psychic roller coasters to his listeners in the hopes of consciousness- and/or hell-raising before breaking for a 20-minute intermission.
For the second set, Waters and his band tempered their headline-news warnings with fan favorites and more unlikely twists and turns. Donning a full-length leather duster and aviator sunglasses (and flanked by a faux security detail), Waters delivered a scathing take on Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh,” ramming home the rock-star-as-fascist-despot role with great aplomb. A spirited version of “Run Like Hell” followed, with that crucial line (“They’re gonna send you back to mother in a cardboard box, you better run!”) still capable of turning your blood to Freon, decades after its release. Waters continued his activist awareness with passionate performances of “Deja Vu” and the pointed “Is This the Life We Really Want?”
Watch Roger Waters Perform ‘Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2 + Part 3’
But fans who came to This Is Not a Drill with a great sense of the apolitical were still rewarded. The band delivered stellar versions of all the tracks on Side Two of both 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon and 1975’s Wish You Were Here. Some people would think Waters would be eye-rolling his way through these fan-service gestures, playing songs older than everyone currently in the SoundScan Top 100. But Waters did not need to deny his past or come off cloying.
He commandeered guitarist Jonathan Wilson to sing the classic “Money” so he could put his bass on and get in the trenches with the rest of his backing band. Contemporary versions of “Us And Them,” the wondrously psychedelic instrumental “Any Colour You Like” and the FM-playlist staples “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” were delivered with enough contemporary energy and wondrous musicianship that it didn’t come off like a cover band phoning it in quickly for free drinks and middle-aged divorcees at the bar, post-show.
Watch Roger Waters Perform ‘The Bar’
After wrapping up the concert with “Two Suns in the Sunset” (Waters’ ode to the Doomsday Clock from Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut LP) and a reprise of “The Bar” segueing into “Outside the Wall,” Waters and band said farewell and played themselves offstage as a video crew followed them into their dressing room, projecting the exit onscreen in real time. Waters showed gratitude to both his touring crew’s professionalism and wherewithal in building the elaborate in-the-round set and to his audience for their continued dedication.
But it’s those fans who understand without question Waters’ passion and dedication to his craft. At 78, Roger Waters can stay at his home in the Hamptons with his wife and collect mechanical royalties from a career that’s been both lucrative and alluring for well over half a century. With the U.S. looking irredeemably polarized, Waters is either ambitious or audacious in his desire to wake the populace in the best way he sees fit. He doesn’t need to be traversing our highways spreading a message. After all, it’s right there in the name of the tour.
Watch Roger Waters Perform ‘Wish You Were Here’
Watch Roger Waters Perform ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)’
Roger Waters, 7/6/22, PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, Pa.
1. “Comfortably Numb”
2. “The Happiest Days of Our Lives”
3. “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2”
4. “Another Brick in the Wall Part 3”
5. “The Powers That Be”
6. “The Bravery of Being Out of Range”
7. “The Bar”
8. “Have a Cigar”
9. “Wish You Were Here”
10. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)”
12. “In the Flesh”
13. “Run Like Hell”
14. “Déjà Vu”
15. “Is This the Life We Really Want?”
17. “Us & Them”
18. “Any Colour You Like”
19. “Brain Damage”
21. “Two Suns in the Sunset”
22. “The Bar (Reprise)”
23. “Outside the Wall”
Roger Waters in Pittsburgh, July 6, 2022
Pink Floyd legend launches 2022 North American tour.