Roger Waters performs with purpose
Roger Waters once hinted that the final shows of his 2010-2013 The Wall Live concert tour would be his last. As politics and society became increasingly divisive in the period following those shows, he began to see how themes of alienation that characterized Pink Floyd’s classic ’70s material resonated with the current times. He also became inspired to write new material, resulting in his first album since 1992, Is This the Life We Really Want? A massive Us + Them tour that celebrates the most popular material from Floyd’s song catalog kicked off a week before the album’s June 2 release date.
The new songs are as acerbic and cynical as anything Waters produced in the past, but it’s in the live setting that he really opens fire. Starting with his appearance at the Desert Trip festival in October, Waters has made Donald Trump a primary target of his withering satire. Trump’s image was all over the giant screens at a May 21 “dress rehearsal” concert at Madison Square Garden that preceded the kickoff of the Us + Them tour as Waters and his band played a marathon set in front of a backdrop designed in homage to the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals.
Waters also has that cover’s infamous inflatable pig on hand, which comes out during “Pigs (Three Different Ones).” That’s when he really gives Trump something to tweet about, but Pink Floyd fans will be more grateful for the two dozen songs Waters chose for the set list. Free of the constraints of having to play The Wall track by track, he opens up with “Speak to Me/Breathe” from Dark Side of the Moon and proceeds to lead the band through the songs from that album’s first side before segueing into material from his new album.
Recorded with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, songs from Is This the Life such as “Déjà Vu” and “Smell the Roses” are musically reminiscent of Floyd’s mid- to late-’70s period. Diehard aficionados expecting Waters to dig deep into his solo catalog may be disappointed, but the tour is a dream for Pink Floyd fans. His touring band is joined by journeyman session drummer Joey Waronker and vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Brooklyn indie band Lucious, who put their own spin on the iconic vocal interlude from Dark Side’s “The Great Gig in the Sky.”
Waters has stated that this tour could go on for two years, making him 75 at its conclusion. He and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason have expressed a willingness to perform together at an upcoming festival date, but Gilmour has repeatedly expressed that he would not participate in future Pink Floyd reunions. The legacy of Pink Floyd’s music is squarely in Waters’ hands now, which is what he fought for when Gilmour kept the band going without him. All in all, the Us + Them tour could be the final brick in the wall for the Pink Floyd saga. Missing it would be a Floydian slip.
T-Mobile Arena, 8 p.m. June. 16, starting at $55 plus tax and fee. 888.929.7849