Classic rock-loving Republicans have always had a rough go reconciling their musical tastes with the overwhelming liberal bend of most iconic rock artists. (It can even lead to madness — National Review‘s Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs of All Time list from 2006 is a tragicomic exercise in pretending bands from the Who to the Sex Pistols are tangentially aligned with Republican values.)
But even so, it’s hard to imagine someone deeply loving Pink Floyd‘s catalog and buying a ticket to Roger Waters‘ 2017 concert run only to be aghast upon realizing the show is rife with imagery lambasting Donald Trump. And yet, Tuesday (Sept. 12) night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, one lonely man spent a good deal of Waters’ set loudly booing the former Floyd musician’s virulent anti-Trump imagery, which recurred throughout and took center stage during an ardent run-through of, naturally, “Pigs (Three Different Ones).” While his boos were audible, they were nevertheless overpowered by the overwhelming cheers from most of the audience, who relished Roger’s unflattering depictions of Trump via doctored pictures and real-life quotes (many of which he road-tested pre-election at Desert Trip in 2016).
Apart from “Pigs,” the Commander in Chief featured prominently in “Money,” with Trump audio sprinkled throughout the rock radio staple. Subtle? Lord no. But as the fourth side of The Wall demonstrates, nuanced critiques aren’t exactly Waters’ cup of tea. But hey, if there’s a man who doesn’t warrant subtlety, it’s the guy who plasters his name on every building he owns.
Politics aside, Waters delivered a crowd-pleasing setlist and visual feast that was hard to find fault with. Timeless favorites from The Dark Side of the Moon were paired with a stunning laser light prism that hovered above the audience; Animals jams (which are funkier and more thrilling than you remember) were accompanied by industrial smokestacks hanging above the crowd; and for the band’s lone Billboard Hot 100 No. 1, “Another Brick In the Wall (Part II),” Rogers brought out a troupe of local children — dressed in orange prison uniforms, which they ripped off to reveal “Resist” t-shirts — to sing the chorus.
Naturally, when Waters played songs from his new album, Is This the Life We Really Want?, some used it as an opportunity to grab a drink or hit the bathroom, which is too bad – hearing his current material sandwiched between Floyd classics demonstrated just how solid the new songs are. Undoubtedly, had they been released during Floyd’s heyday, a number of them would be considered part of the classic rock canon, but as with Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney’s similarly excellent 21st century catalog of originals, it’s hard for an artist to convince fans to love fresh songs as much as favorites they’ve been listening to for decades.
But of the classic material, there was certainly no shortage. From opening with “Breathe” (which fans immediately augmented with the smell of weed) to closing with a beautiful “Comfortably Numb,” Waters gave the audience the songs they wanted, and delivered them via an enveloping sound design that’s among the best I’ve experienced in a live setting. And considering Waters has some of rock’s greatest compositions in his back pocket, it’s hard to argue with that.