Roger Waters’ concert tour titled, “This is Not a Drill,” is a display of both fantastic music and enormous courage, generosity and urgency. He delivers a message that is clear and unapologetic. It calls for justice for Palestine, justice for all oppressed people, it is an anti-war, anti-gun, anti-nukes, pro-environment, pro human rights message. But above all, through his music, he delivers a message to young people that we must all speak up and raise our voices without fear.
Waters’ message is an answer to all those who tell young people that they must be silent; that speaking for justice, particularly regarding Palestine, may obstruct their careers or ruin their lives. And here, this larger than life mega-star, the beating heart of the legendary Pink Floyd, is saying it like it is and doing it in front of tens of thousands of people. This concert is a combination of genius, generosity and courage.
At one point, Waters talks about sitting around the bar. We are all invited to huddle together (all twenty thousand people in the arena) around the bar, where there is a piano, a few bottles of booze, and an atmosphere of closeness. This is an idea that Roger Waters talks about, “where everyone feels safe to express their thoughts, agree or disagree and still be welcome to stay.” He sits behind the piano surrounded by the band and he speaks to us, all of us who are there.
He creates the sense of intimacy successfully by speaking plainly into the microphone, unedited and unrehearsed and straight from the heart. About respecting one another, about caring for all people, about fearing for our future not as Americans, Britons or Africans, but as people who inhabit the Earth and have no other home to go to.
His political message is in sync with this human appeal, this invitation to gather around the piano. Banning guns that benefit only the greedy, dismantling walls that surround us and keep us apart, and standing for the rights of the oppressed. His message underlines the generosity of the mega rock star who, unlike so many others, cares.
Say Their Names
Roger Waters is not like so many of the other still-performing mega-stars of his generation. While they –Elton John, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney etc. – are all talented, their concerts are largely a regurgitation of their old stuff. Not so with Waters. While he certainly plays some of the great old classics, it is revived and rejuvenated and filled with contemporary relevant political and social messaging.
The names of Shireen Abu-Akleh, George Floyd, Mahsa Amini, Rachel Corrie, and many other names of innocents murdered by oppressors who were armed and felt they had a right to kill are displayed on the massive screen during the concert. Roger Waters will not let the world forget these names and when he has the opportunity, in front of tens of thousands of fans, he says their names.
In a terribly reactionary, almost embarrassing, (to the magazine, not to Roger Waters) piece in Rolling Stone magazine, Waters is made to seem like some radical fool for stating the political beliefs that he holds so dear. In another interview with CNN’s Michael Smerconish, he is asked about a message that is displayed on the giant screen right before the show. The message is, “If you’re one of those, ‘I love Pink Floyd but I can’t stand Roger’s politics,’ people, you might do well to fuck off to the bar right now. Thank you and please enjoy the show.”
Smerconish says that he can buy into some of Waters’ messages and others he cannot, so should he fuck off or stay. “I’ve only got one message,” Waters replies, and I wrote it in 1970.” That message is, “two people passing each other in the street, by chance their passing glances meet, and I am you and what I see is me.” It was on the album Meddle from 1970. “I recognize your humanity,” Waters continues, “but I also recognize that of the Russians and the Chinese and Ukrainians and the Yemenis and the Palestinians.”
A star with a backbone
Waters is a brilliant musician who uses his art, fame and his massive success to bring an important political and social message to the world. He has the means at his disposal, and rather than hide behind his fame, he is accessible and generous. Whereas we may never know what Elton John really believes politically, though his tears at receiving a medal from Joe Biden do not exactly show him to be particularly principled. The same goes for other superstars. But with Waters, who listed Biden as a war criminal among other U.S. presidents, one can only imagine what his response might be if invited to the White House.
Waters’ tour is nothing short of epic. He is not only a genius, but he pulls out all the stops, making his show absolutely breathtaking. However, it is not just the music, it is the combination of cutting edge music, lyrics, ideas, political awareness and a sense of social justice. It is also the ingenious ability to put it all together in a way that is moving and unforgettable. One cannot come out of this show and not be moved by the powerful message conveyed through imagery, words and music.
The right answer
In response to his courageous political message, there are people who would say that a guy like him can afford to do this because he is so successful and wealthy, so has nothing to lose. The truth, however, is the opposite. There is no such thing as a person who has nothing to lose. Making bold political statements is never easy, and particularly in the political environment that exists in America today, it is a huge risk. It is not that he has nothing to lose, and so he can do this. He has everything to lose and still he dares to put it all on the line, calls us to join him at the bar, huddle around his piano, talk, fight together and stand up for those who need support.
Art and politics do not always go hand in hand well, but it does not mean that they shouldn’t; indeed, it means that they should. Art and those who call themselves artists, particularly the great and the famous ones, those who have everything to lose, can learn from a giant like Roger Waters; learn how to stand up and speak up.
Feature photo | Roger Waters performs in concert at Crypto.com Arena, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Los Angeles. Chris Pizzello | AP
Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”