Tuesday, Roger Waters brought his This Is Not A Drill tour to the Mile High City and gave the 19,000 in attendance just what they were looking for: two sets of amazing music, eye candy, epiphanies, and floating farm animals. Covering material that spanned his career, including deep cuts from Pink Floyd and solo material, the man who turned 79 during the show certainly did not show his age as he moved with intent about the expansive stage throughout the evening, switched instruments multiple times, and even went through some wardrobe changes. His band was incredibly well-rehearsed and the sound was impeccable no matter if one was in the front row or in the nosebleed seating. The 200-ton monolithic stage set up was a marvel in and of itself and made Arthur C. Clarke’s look like a miniature. Standing multiple stories high and appearing like an onyx pre-show, with the first notes of the evening, the display became alive, played like a television for gods, and was integral to the message and experience that has been the centerpiece of this tour.
Although the setlist hasn’t changed from one venue to the next, one has to think of the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and certainly everyone within sight was singing along, smiling, waving their hands in the air, and talking joyously about the show on the way out, signifying that what was delivered was nothing short of quality. One noticeable difference that set this evening apart was Waters taking the moment to let the audience serenade the legendary bass player with “Happy Birthday”, which brought a genuine smile to the English gentleman’s face.
Although there have been complaints about the political nature of Waters’ presentation and many shows have even seen people walk out, the show itself was not as politically charged with rhetoric as one might expect. Certainly, there were graphic representations of atrocities, statements, and phrases projected on the awe-inspiring screens, but there was minimal soapboxing or anything that could be construed as Waters trying to sway others or be overbearing. In fact, the man was simply matter of fact, speaking truth to truths we all are already aware of and as any fan of Pink Floyd will tell you, The Wall has already been speaking to these dynamics since the 70’s. Ironically, when one thinks about the nature of rock and roll, an indigenous American element, it has often served to upset the status quo as not only a platform for the counterculture to openly call out social errors and terrors, but also as a vehicle to connect humans with the visceral, providing the opportunity to shake one’s money maker in spite of it being proper or not. If someone reports adoration for the electricity of live music, one has to accept its roots and what it stands for and God forgive anyone who is trying to hang the blame on Roger Waters for doing what so many great musicians have done, including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, CSN, Bob Marley, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and probably every other performer who ever wrote a song about the little guy or injustice. Although some might argue that they paid for their ticket to escape the ills of society, the plight of the independent thinker is not to escape it, but to integrate and be the change always so that we acknowledge our role in life and our ability to affect it.
In closing, if one has the opportunity to catch this potentially final tour of this living legend, do it. Leave expectation at the door and honor the spirit of free thinking and being stimulated, even if it makes you feel uneasy. The point here seems not to be aimed at conversion, but to stoke the fires of conversation and heighten awareness of the self, the social, and that which are the catalysts between the two that spawns the final result, all the while set to some of the most iconic and amazing music ever produced. Finally, Roger, this hat is off to you for drawing the line, saying something, and not just wanting to preserve the fan base or revenue stream, but rather using your opportunity to speak out and speak up as a human being about things we can change. Happy Birthday, Mr. Waters, may you have many, many more to come!