Pictures and Words by David Brendan Hall
Gallery of Roger Waters by David Brendan Hall
It’s no secret that Roger Waters hates Donald Trump – the giant inflatable pig he flew through the Desert Trip crowd last October was emblazoned with the ireful text, “Fuck Trump and his wall.” That was just before the election, and Saturday night at San Antonio’s AT&T Center – several months after Trump’s victory and nearly a third of the way through the former Pink Floyd member’s 61-date Us + Them Tour behind new album Is This the Life We Really Want? – the overarching theme was even more overtly defiant.
“RESIST” was the message filling the enormous background screen and printed on the shirts of a dozen local kids selected to march, dance and raise fists rebelliously during “Another Brick in the Wall” parts 2 and 3 to close out the show’s first set, which began with most of The Dark Side of the Moon side one and likewise featured the first four cuts off Waters’ latest album, plus a few more hits like the ever-affecting “ Wish You Were Here” (Lucius vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laesig served as the show’s centerpiece duo during much of this, stirring chills and drawing widespread cheers with their backup vocals on that latter ballad, and during their operatic solos on “The Great Gig in the Sky”).
As the show’s second set began, the anti-Trump sentiment continued, dominating the visuals during “Dogs” and the 12-minute “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” which were displayed on a dazzling set of morphing screens that hung perpendicular to the stage over the floor section, creating a sort of inescapable visual feat unlike any other previously attempted in an arena. This time, the messages displayed on the pig flying overhead read, “First bank of war. Bombs come out of here” with an arrow pointing the pig’s asshole on one side, and on the other, “Welcome to the Machine. I won” next to an appropriately ugly caricature of the U.S. president with money signs for eyes.
A sequence of Trump’s most shocking (racist, sexist, greed-driven) quotes ran across the screens concurrently, juxtaposed with images of war and the children affected by it, ending with the simple kicker, “Trump is a pig.” One might’ve expected a reserved reaction from a more conservative city like San Antonio, but tens of thousands of fists and cheers rose up as that final quote ran. It was by far the gig’s most intense moment of protest, even with socio-politically charged new cut “Smell the Roses” and Floyd’s “Bring the Boys Back Home” mixed within the show-closing bookend of Dark Side’s side two.
In an era where much of commercialized music and television is designed for escapist purposes – elements of the money-machine that not-coincidently often cause people to turn a blind eye to its terrible consequences – Waters’ production serves as a necessary reality check: whether you choose to believe it or not, there is ample evidence, delivered from the man’s own mouth, that Donald Trump is a sexist, racist, bigot and wannabe warmonger, all in service of himself and an elite few, not the greater U.S. population or the free world he’s sworn to protect. Don’t get me wrong – the songs still serve the purpose of entertaining (though Waters’ voice sounds rougher in spots these days, the ace ensemble he’s enlisted helped his epic medleys sound bigger and better than ever), but the superb grooves serve to disseminate much-needed subversion. Truly, that was much of Floyd’s creative strategy all along, and because those songs’ themes are now more relevant than ever, Waters’ Us + Them Tour is perhaps the most important live music production of 2017, if not the next four years.
Speak to Me (Pink Floyd song)
Breathe (Pink Floyd song)
One of These Days (Pink Floyd song)
Time (Pink Floyd song)
Breathe (Reprise) (Pink Floyd song)
The Great Gig in the Sky (Pink Floyd song)
Welcome to the Machine (Pink Floyd song)
When We Were Young*
The Last Refugee*
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd song)
The Happiest Days of Our Lives (Pink Floyd song)
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 (Pink Floyd song)
Another Brick in the Wall Part 3 (Pink Floyd song)
Dogs (Pink Floyd song)
Pigs (Three Different Ones) (Pink Floyd song)
Money (Pink Floyd song)
Us and Them (Pink Floyd song)
Smell the Roses*
Brain Damage (Pink Floyd song)
Eclipse (Pink Floyd song)
Vera (Pink Floyd song)
Bring the Boys Back Home (Pink Floyd song)
Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd song)
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