Roger Waters made a fair bit of news earlier this week when he spoke to Rolling Stone‘s Kory Grow. Not only did he reveal that he tried to make peace with David Gilmour a few months back and fell so painfully short that the guitarist won’t even let him promote his new Us + Them tour documentary on Pink Floyd’s social media accounts, but he also said that he’s planning a new tour that will hit American arenas next summer.
“It will be even more political than Us + Them was — political and humane,” Waters said. “We were listening to songs and looking at set lists today. We were talking about, what should we call it? I shouldn’t be giving this away, but I don’t give a shit because it will probably all change, but imagine the iconic helicopter that normally comes before ‘Happiest Days’ and ‘Brick 2’ — that noise that we all know and love — and imagine a megaphone, somebody abused this device before, I know — but, ‘This is not a drill.’ I thought that could be a good title for the show: This Is Not a Drill. The ruling class is killing us.”
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A Roger Waters tour is a hugely lucrative operation these days that can pack stadiums worldwide, but that wasn’t always the case. He first went out in 1984 to promote The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking and struggled to fill arenas despite the presence of Eric Clapton on the first leg. He tried again three years later when Radio K.A.O.S. came out, but this time Pink Floyd was on the road at the same time. In a situation that caused him to nearly combust with anger, they headlined stadiums while he played to oceans of empty seats at arenas in some markets.
He wouldn’t attempt another solo tour until 1999, initially booking shows at small amphitheaters like the 5,000-seat Nautica in downtown Cleveland. Expectations were very modest because of the fiascos of the past, but David Gilmour quietly disbanded Pink Floyd five years earlier and there was a massive hunger to hear their music in a live setting. Tickets sold so fast that that the shows were quickly moved to basketball arenas and 20,000-seat amphitheaters.
The “In the Flesh” tour ultimately ran for 105 shows across three years and established Waters as a major player in the concert world after 20 years in the wilderness. Here’s video of him singing “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” at a Portland, Oregon, show in 2000.
He managed to top this tour by doing Dark Side of the Moon live between 2006 and 2008, and then he went even bigger by resurrecting The Wall for 219 shows between 2010 and 2013. The latter run grossed nearly half a billion dollars and he scaled back slightly with the Us + Them tour of 2017–2018. That was a mere 157 shows that never moved to stadiums in America and grossed a paltry $261 million.
Before the Us + Them tour began, he hinted that it might be his final big tour, and he kept relatively quiet once it ended. Nobody knew that he met with David Gilmour in June. “I came up with a big peace plan that has come to nothing, sadly,” he said. “I bet all Pink Floyd fans are sorry to hear that. They all hoped that we could kiss and make up and everything would be wonderful in a cozy, wonderful world. Well, it wouldn’t be all that cozy or wonderful for me, because I left Pink Floyd in 1985 for a reason. The reason being that I wanted to get on with my work.”
He didn’t outright say the “big peace plan” involved a Pink Floyd reunion, but that’s certainly one way to interpret what he said. Whatever he intended, Floyd fans can be happy that Waters will be back out on the road next year. We may never have Pink Floyd again, but his shows are the next best thing — at least until David Gilmour does another solo tour.
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