Roger Waters' concert Wednesday laden with societal, politcal issues

·4 min read
Roger Waters performed at Nationwide Arena Wednesday night.
Roger Waters performed at Nationwide Arena Wednesday night.

Halfway into the second set of Roger Waters’ two-hour concert (minus intermission) in Nationwide Arena Wednesday night, his band launched into a medley of the last five songs from Pink Floyd’s 1973 album “Dark Side Of The Moon.” As founding member of that band — and after the departure of singer Syd Barrett in 1968, the lead singer and prime songwriter — Waters arguably hit his artistic and certainly his commercial pinnacle with “Dark Side.”

It was surely the reason that a large part of the audience bought tickets for the arena show.

More important, however, was the second of those songs, “Us And Them,” which spoke best for the malaise Waters found at the core of humanity, then and still now. Lyrics about the cancer of war-baiting nationalism and cultural self-preservation were accompanied by images of wars — including in Ukraine — as well as walls, from Israel to the southern U.S. border.

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All the while the music and melody provided some of the most pleasant and soporific accompaniment of the evening. The climax at the end — where the song’s protagonist blithely admits he can’t be bothered by the homelessness and suffering — was the most dramatic and euphoric of the evening.

It cut to the core of his catalogue’s philosophical underpinnings, from Pink Floyd through recent solo work. “Comfortably Numb,” which opened the show, spoke of the narrator’s feeling of alienation as a child while the gigantic video screens — which cleaved the in-the-round stage like a giant plus sign — rolled a video of silhouetted figures standing in the dark in a long line frozen still. The song, from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” suggested an opiate solution.

In fact, much of the program painted the same grim picture while it talked about societal opiates, including money, power and violence. It wasn’t a pretty picture, but it was delivered by songs that have become classic musical opiates in themselves.

That was and continues to be the point. And it continues to make engaging art.

After the dramatic opening, the huge curtained blocks that separated the band into four groups lifted to about 25 feet, allowing the group to interact and roam from side to side in order to address the whole audience from the center hall staging.

The flying screens, which were as significant a part of the concert as the music, continued to deliver videos, text and an artful light show all through the night. The video of “Powers That Be” drove its powerful message home with a design that suggested Banksy’s streetwise art, while the printed text added a journalistic edge.

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“The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range,” from a Waters solo album, featured portraits labeled “War Criminal” and included American presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the last whom it claimed was “just getting started.” During a recent interview, Waters laid much of the blame for the atrocities in Ukraine on the current president for not insisting on negotiation instead of encouraging war.

During one short monologue toward the end, Waters claimed “CNN made me look like a (expletive),” following it by saying he would always stand first for “human rights.” Earlier, he said, “If you don’t know what’s wrong with me, read the papers,” in a remark that likely referred to the recent controversy, set off by an interview on CNN that questioned his inclusion of Biden in the “War Criminals” video.

It is interesting that during an era marked by the United States' diminishing influence in the world, this country is still the most popular lens through which to examine the condition of the planet. For example, the biggest cheers of the evening came during Waters’ litany of gripes declared in huge letters onscreen, especially “(Expletive) The Supreme Court” and “(Expletive) The Patriarchy.”

Politically, musically and spiritually Waters’ message was consistent during a lengthy concert that had as much eye on the theater of it as the music. From his days with Pink Floyd through his solo work — which Wednesday night included a brand-new song called “The Bar” — his view hasn’t changed. And if it is a little dark, then it at least insists we’re all in this together.

Following “Us And Them” the instrumental “Any Colour You Like” begins an uplift in mood at the end of “Dark Side.” And though “Brain Damage” revisits madness one more time, the closer “Eclipse” insists after a laundry list of human experiences, that “Everything under the sun is in tune/But the sun is eclipsed by the moon.” There is a glimmer of light there somewhere.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Roger Waters concert filled with hits, political statements