Roger Waters

This is Not a Drill

OVO Hydro, Glasgow


ROGER Waters's superbly powerful and provocative new show has been stalked by controversies. There have been renewed allegations of anti-Semitism (which he fiercely rejects). German police began an investigation after he wore what was described as a Nazi-style uniform at a Berlin concert. Shows in Poland were cancelled after he expressed the view that the Russia's war on Ukraine, though illegal, was "not unprovoked".

Now a Labour MP has called for Waters's forthcoming concert in Manchester, on June 10, to be cancelled for fear that  his "divisive actions" could fuel anti-Jewish hatred.

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Waters has made a characteristically robust response to such controversies, making clear his lifelong opposition to authoritarianism, injustice and oppression. His Berlin performance had attracted "bad faith attacks from those who want to smear and silence me because they disagree with my political views and moral principles"; and as for the uniform, "the depiction of an unhinged fascist demagogue has been a feature of my shows since Pink Floyd’s 'The Wall' in 1980".

Waters's unambiguous message, then, is that he will not be cancelled. He observes, with some pain, that people were seeking to cancel him, as Jeremy Corbyn and Julian Assange had been cancelled. It was an "absolutely horrible feeling" when people sought to silence him.

Entirely undaunted, he has fashioned a live show that reflects his fearlessness in tackling important issues, the sort that many other songwriters turn away from. As anyone who has followed his stellar career since his early days in Pink Floyd, Waters has long worn his heart on his sleeve.

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This much is evident from his introductory notes in the concert programme. "For the last fifty or sixty years, I've been trying, through the medium of rock and roll, to express my love and concern for my brothers and sisters all over the world, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, or nationality", he observes. He also declares affection for those in the "anti-war-for-profit" movement. The current tour, This Is Not a Drill, asserts that the neo-liberal establishment is "destroying the earth". Rise up, he urges. Resist. Speak out before it is too late.

The near-three-hour-long concert is as compelling as it is visually dazzling. An inflatable pig and an inflatable sheep float over the audience at different points. High-definition video screens flash up slogans and constantly-changing imagery - police brutality, sinister militiamen, drones, eerily blasted cityscapes, animated jackbooted hammers marching in unison, and brief, grainy glimpses of footage of a lethal July, 2007, Baghdad airstrike, subsequently leaked by Chelsea Manning. Anne Frank is name-checked, as is Blair Peach. Various US presidents are condemned as war criminals - Joe Biden is merely "just getting started". Other images convey in vivid detail the plight of Palestinians.

Waters and his nine-piece band work their way through numerous Pink Floyd classics - from their albums The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, the Orwell-influenced Animals, the alienation-exploring The Wall, and The Final Cut, all from that unrepeatable decade spanning 1973 and 1983 - as well as a selection of Waters's thought-provoking and outspoken solo material.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and Have A Cigar, both from Wish You Were Here, recall Syd Barrett, Waters's Pink Floyd co-founder, while the title track itself is gorgeously affecting. Money, Us and Them, Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage and Eclipse, from The Dark Side of the Moon, have lost none of their potency or relevance in half a century. Waters has been re-working the entire album - partly, he says, to re-address its political and emotional message. Comfortably Numb, darker than the original version, and shorn of epic guitar solos, is the closing track on Waters's newly-released album, The Lockdown Sessions.

Waters, in reflective mood, interrupts the set to speak about his Scottish heritage - one of his ancestors worked with pewter in Edinburgh in (if I heard correctly) the 18th century.

The Bar, a tender and relatively new Waters song, in which he accompanies himself on the piano, has an elderly, black, homeless New York City woman being brought to a bar a Native American woman from North Dakota. 

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Music and video mesh to quite chilling effect in Two Suns in the Sunset, the final song from the last album Waters ever did with the Floyd, the second sunset being a nuclear explosion that reduces everyone to ashes - a reminder, as Waters is at pains to point out, that last January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock at 90 seconds to midnight, (due largely, says the organisation, to Russia's invasion of Ukraine).

"I've only every written about one thing my life", Waters said a few years ago, "which is the fact that we as human beings have a responsibility to one another, and that it's important that we emphathize with others, that we organise society that we all become happier and we all get the life we really want". At 79, as this show vividly demonstrates, he at least still hasn't given up hope.