Roger Waters Emphasizes Communication As ‘This Is Not A Drill’ Tour Hits Chicago


“It’s been a while,” said Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters with a smirk on stage in Chicago. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in Chicago. I’m happy to be here, trust me.”

Sounds of thunder rolled and animated images of derelict downtown buildings ran on screen as Waters took the stage at United Center during his first tour since 2018.

Building off a presentation he introduced during the “Us + Them” outing in 2017, perpendicular screens hanging over the stage split the stadium’s upper reaches into quadrants, symbolic of the division that continues to define the American experience.

A massive two-tiered stage set at the center of the arena floor was flanked by runways on each side, plenty of room for the nine band members on stage, while presenting Waters and company more or less in the round.

“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,” read the video screens at the top of Tuesday’s show , further requesting fans put away their phones.

As always, Waters had plenty to say on stage but he’s letting the screens do the heavy lifting in terms of putting forth images and words which combine to drive the narrative each evening.

Laquan McDonald. Location: Chicago, IL, USA. Crime: Being Black. Punishment: Death,” read the screen early, localizing the show in a sad way as Waters put out “The Powers That Be,” from his 1987 solo album Radio KAOS (themes like monetarism amidst the Cold War lending the album a renewed relevance).

McDonald was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer in 2014. More names followed. “Philando Castile”. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor,” each killed by a member of the law enforcement community. Simulated sounds of gunfire accompanied the performance disarmingly. “You better run!” sang an impassioned Waters.

Waters kicked off the set with a stripped down take on “Comfortably Numb.” Gone this time around is the iconic David Gilmour solo, replaced instead by organ and wails.

“Up until now, we’ve done those songs and then I’ve wandered over to the piano. But I thought, ‘No. I’m gonna stand here and soak this in,’” joked Waters on stage in Chicago before tickling the ivories on “The Bravery of Being Out of Range.” “We wonder where all this super violence comes from… Well, I’m going to sing about it,” he said, setting up the song.

An image of Ronald Reagan ran on screen behind the words “War criminal. Killed 30,000 innocents in Guatemala.” “Just getting started” read the caption accompanying a photo of President Biden. “Old man, what the hell you gonna kill next,” he sang.

Arms wide, Waters explored the stage’s expanse, playing to all sides. Returning to the Pink Floyd canon, the group soared toward intermission with a murder’s row, rolling out “Have a Cigar,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” and “Sheep.”

“I’m enjoying being here in this room with all of you people tonight. But you have to hydrate, trust me,” joked Waters, 78, slamming a bottle of water. “If any of you get to my age, you’ll learn that: you have to hydrate.”

Tuesday night’s performance was at times almost autobiographical, videos addressing topics like the singer’s first marriage and Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett. “Syd and I had it completely figured out,” read the screen during “Shine on you Crazy Diamond.” “The rest is history.”

“F-k the Supreme Court”. “F–k the patriarchy”. F–k drones,” said the video as Waters picked up a guitar during “Déjà Vu.” “Palestinian rights. Yemen rights. Indigenous rights. Reproductive rights. Trans rights,” his message continued. “Human rights,” came the closing salvo, summing things up.

On an evening where a run of the mill t-shirt cost $60, “Money” was an ironic addition to the set, saxophone wailing as fans returned to their feet, “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” soon signaling a show heading for the finish.

While the band is forced at times to tune down as Waters speaks and sings, his message is nevertheless resonant in a world where communication is often at a minimum, the cost of technology supposedly designed to ease and emphasize the experience.

“We should all do more communicating,” said Waters, illuminating the concepts dreamed up alongside co-creator Sean Evans which defines “This Is Not a Drill.” “That would be a really good thing.”

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