“If you’re one of those ‘I love Pink Floyd, but I can’t stand Roger’s politics’ people, you might do well to f**k off to the bar right now.'” This is the message displayed on “the round” before every show at Roger Waters’ This is Not a Drill Tour. Spanning nearly seven decades, Roger Waters’ musical career has become a staple of transformative and progressive rock. Beginning in 1965, Waters cofounded and became the lyricist and creative director for Pink Floyd, where he would transform a whole genre of music into a political and philosophical movement, a shift in mainstream music yet to be reproduced.
Now, nearly 50 years after Pink Floyd’s first breakthrough album, The Dark Side of the Moon, Waters is embarking on his seventh world tour, a solo tour that encompasses everything from Pink Floyd’s most influential hits to Waters’ newly released, highly political-driven solo albums. Although many have flocked to Waters and Pink Floyd’s concerts over the years solely for the seminal hits, Waters’ current tour offers much more than music. The tour is a movement, a space where Waters has brought light to issues ranging from war crimes to poverty to police violence to apartheid.
On July 9, 2022, I was lucky enough to attend the This is Not a Drill tour in Toronto, where Waters, at the age of 79, performed his second show of a back-to-back series of shows. In a strange series of events, the weekend of Waters’ Toronto tour dates, one of Canada’s largest cellular networks experienced a nationwide blackout, with millions across the country losing WiFi and phone services, and large stadiums and arenas losing the ability to operate large-scale shows and scan patron’s electronic tickets, but Roger Waters was not going to let a nationwide blackout stop him from spreading his message.
Roger Waters performed both nights, in front of nearly 40,000 WiFi-less fans determined to witness his monumental tour.
As the last stragglers streamed into the late-night show, Waters emerged from underneath the stands to the excited screams of thousands of fans. Surprisingly, it was the youngest “Gen Z” concertgoers that were most excited, which seemed confusing as most of Waters’ music was most popular nearly 30 years before they were even born.
When the concert began and Waters and his bold visual sets illuminated the stage, it became clear why both the tour and Waters’ music was so exciting for young and old fans alike. It was revolutionary, an extremely popular artist using his massive platform not simply for ticket or record sales, but to criticize corrupt governments across the world and to highlight the issues that are often at the center of our minds but are rarely discussed by mainstream media.
Split into two acts, the first act of the concert encompassed some of Pink Floyd’s greatest hits, all of which Waters acted as lyricist for. Behind blaring hits like “Another Brick in the Wall”, “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb”, Waters expressed his advocacy for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. With Waters performing “Comfortably Numb”, there was something much more powerful than the lyrics or Waters performing talent, it was the visuals that accompanied the song.
Playing over his head, videos of people of colour from the United States being murdered or assaulted by police, which then quickly shifted to videos of activists, artists and bystanders being arrested, killed or assaulted by government institutions from countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and China. At times during this performance, many concertgoers turned away from the screens, simply because the reality of our world and the reality of what many governments do to their own citizens is something often watered down by social media and the news.
Concluding the first act and giving concertgoers a short fifteen-minute intermission, many attending may have thought that this was an opportunity for a break, but Waters' incessant messaging did not stop for a moment. A nod to one of Pink Floyd’s greatest hits “Pigs”, a flying inflatable pig was released to float around the stadium for the entirety of the intermission. Decorated with images of drones, coffins, fighter jets, and the phrases “F**K THE POOR” and “STEAL FROM THE POOR GIVE TO THE RICH”, the flying pig has become a symbol of protest.
Specifically, during the This is Not a Drill tour, the flying pig has come to represent Waters’ disdain for the treatment of those living in poverty, and quite frankly that our society is not particularly focused on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of No Poverty or Reduced Inequalities, as there remains such an imbalance of equality within society.
Following the intermission, Waters returned to the stage with a bang, dressed in all black, wielding a fake machine gun, with Marx-esque banners dropping from the ceiling, once again referencing issues like poverty and capitalism. Yet, the most poignant moment in the entire show came when Waters cut the music and played visuals that branded some of the most well-known world leaders “war criminals” and “warmongers”, calling out leaders like George Bush and Barack Obama.
It was at this time that Waters began to close out the show, but not without explicitly detailing why these leaders are war criminals. In doing this Waters points out what he deems “the brave acts of acts” of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and former American soldier and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who leaked footage of an American airstrike in Baghdad that killed two Reuters journalists. This is when Waters’ true intentions arose, as in providing this footage, Waters utilized his artistic platform to highlight the lies, deceit and violence that major governments across the world commit daily, and the ease in which they hide them.
In an age in which musical expression is often altered by mainstream artists’ desires for record sales and social media success, Roger Waters’ catalog of hits and his passionate overwhelming political statements throughout his tour are refreshing. A time where the world is in constant turmoil, where injustices occur everywhere we look, Waters is using his musical ability and popularity to force people to question what our governments are doing and the state of our society. Waters’ may say that his tour and his music are not for everyone, especially those that don’t care for politics, but in the words of Pink Floyd, “Hey you, don’t tell me there’s no hope at all. Together we stand, divided we fall,” and that is exactly the message that this tour brings to light.
Roger Waters’ This is Not a Drill Tour continues through June 2023. For more information on tour dates and tickets visit Roger Waters Tour.