Roger Waters delivers hope, anger & Pink Floyd classics at dazzling ‘This is Not a Drill’ tour in Boston (review, setlist)

Roger Waters delivers hope, anger & Pink Floyd classics at dazzling ‘This is Not a Drill’ tour in Boston (review, setlist)Published: July 13, 2022Roger Waters at tour kickoff in Pittsburgh (photo by Kate Izor)

Having delayed his highly anticipated in-the-round style This is Not A Drill tour for nearly two years due to covid, Roger Waters finally began his nationwide trek in Pittsburgh on July 7 and landed at Boston's TD Garden on Tuesday night, July 12, for a triumphant, sobering, hits-heavy career survey where the political messages got as much applause as the Pink Floyd classics the people came there to hear..

With no new album to promote, Rog and Co. delivered a setlist that covered highlights from his solo career as well his career in Pink Floyd, though it leaned heavily on Dark Side of the Moon in set two and didn't touch any material earlier than that album. When the lights dimmed, the LED panels that had overtaken the center of the arena on the stage illuminated with text of a public service announcement that was also narrated by Waters. First, it instructed people to please turn off their cell phones. Then he stated that "… 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." This was met with rapturous applause and some boos as well; it wouldn't be the last time his messages would be met with cheers and jeers at this show. I think that is one element of Roger Waters I love the most; he has rabid fans who hate his guts.

The night opened with an incredible, new, darker, more subdued arrangement of "Comfortably Numb." At this point the LED screens were still dropped to stage level so the musicians were obscured in quadrants around the stage, silhouetted by a gorgeous post-apocalyptic video of a ruined urban landscape and catatonic shadow people trudging through the landscape. They forgoed the epic, world famous guitar solo and kept the song in a gorgeous, dense, plodding sonic atmosphere. You half expect a show like this to start with a bang, but by creating a thick aural fog with stunning visual accompaniment, it simmers the crowd down and lets their brains adjust and focus. Start them off at a gentle idle, then pull your foot off the clutch and start to floor it.

Which is exactly what they did when, as "Comfortably Numb" faded away and the screens were pulled up into the air to reveal the entire stage, they tore into a three-phase exploration of The Wall with "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" and "Another Brick in the Wall Parts I and II." Bombastic, full volume, lights and videos blazing, the arena came alive with sound and vision. Guitar solos were ripped by the great Dave Kilminster. Arms were crossed and raised into the air. Scream-singing fans stirred from their pre-game drunken stupors. The show was on.

Roger has been an outspoken critic of social injustice issues like police violence, fascism, strident capitalism, war-hungry psychopathic politicians, racism, the suppression of women's rights and transphobia and for the next few songs and for much of the show he made sure none of these stances were ambiguous. "The Powers That Be", from Radio K.A.O.S. was accompanied by videos of horrific police violence and the names of people killed by police. "The Bravery of Being Out of Range" was accompanied by images of politicians and their genocidal and brutally inhumane bona fides. The boos and cheers reemerged with images of Trump and Biden. However, Roger balanced that pessimism and criticism with a new song called "The Bar." He described 'the bar' as a metaphorical and physical place where people who care about human rights and free press and democracy can go with a sense of community. When Roger headlined Newport Folk Festival in 2017 he played the piano for a song in front of a crowd, according to him, for the first time ever. Now, with "The Bar", a song of hope and optimism, Roger performing behind a piano is now an official part of the live experience.

The next few songs, "Have a Cigar"," Wish You Were Here", and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)" set a more autobiographical tone. During "Wish You Were Here", an anecdote read across the screens about the time Roger Waters and Syd Barrett went to a concert when they were teens and how when they got home they made a pact to start a band when they went university in London. Another anecdote detailed a minor nervous breakdown Roger had in the Abbey Road canteen during the recording of the album Wish You Were Here. I know Roger's music is quite autobiographical but, man, these little trickles of personal anecdotes he peppered throughout the show REALLY makes me hope he's working on a proper autobiography in his free time.

After a tremendous rendition of "Sheep" and a 20-minute intermission, Roger Waters and company came out firing on all cylinders with a one-two punch of "In the Flesh" and "Run Like Hell" from The Wall. Fascistic cross-hammer banners dropped down from the ceiling, a giant floating pig lazily circumnavigated the arena just above our heads, animations of soldiers and marching hammers roared across the video screens and, of course, Roger came out in his classic WWII German officer-esque leather trench coat with cross-hammer armband. This bombastic, militaristic onslaught really woke everyone up and then transitioned to a more sedate, ethereal tone that would last for the rest of the evening. In addition to "Deja Vu" and "Is This the Life We Really Want?" from his latest album Is This The Life We Really Want?, they went into a five song Dark Side of the Moon survey, "Two Suns in the Sunset" from The Final Cut, "The Bar (reprise)" and finally "Outside the Wall" from The Wall.

Set one really felt like "The Roger Waters Show." He is truly as energetic and as virile as ever, with pipes that age has done nothing to perish. He is an absolutely ferocious yet completely affable performer who made sure to make treks out to all parts of the stage so that the entire arena had a chance to get some solid one-on-one Roger time. Set two, however, created a more 'ensemble' experience. Guitarist Jonathan Wilson, who, in a weird way, looks A LOT like Animals-era David Gilmour, took on a lot of the vocal duties in the second set, generally lending his pipes to the tunes David Gilmour had done in the past. Vocalists Shanay Johnson and Amanda Belair, who have replaced Lucius for this tour, felt more front-and-center as well. Although all the songs were played exactly as they were intended, the vibe on the stage felt looser. I felt like I was focusing less on Roger in particular and was focusing more on what the other members were doing.

The stage design itself was phenomenal. I loved the blocky orientation of the LED screens and I loved how the screen apparatus felt like a massive living roof snuggling in the performers. By focusing everything into an in-the-round orientation, the technical production oddly felt a little less ambitious compared to his last tour where we not only had an end-stage spectacle but also gigantic motorized screens with projections hanging over the entire floor seating area of the arenas. Believe me, I am an AV guy. I know exactly how ambitious the This Is Not A Drill production is. My mind is still reeling about the technical details. But even with all that tech attacking our senses, the show felt very intimate.

Although the show went heavy on political narrative, covering things like Julian Assange, genocide, occupation, reproductive rights, police brutality, and fascism, This Is Not a Drill imbued something else into the narrative; hope. His last tour was heavy on the politics, but underlying it was a relentless sense of pessimism and anger. However last night, thanks to Rogers charming stage banter and the inclusion of his new song "The Bar," the show was permeated by an undertone of possibilities. We're fucked, maybe, but we can't give up. Our common denominator is our capacity for humanity. We have to tap into it soon before it's too late.

Check out the TD Garden setlist and video highlights below.

Pick up Pink Floyd classics on vinyl in the BV shop.

SETLIST: Roger Waters @ TD Garden 7/12/2022
Comfortably Numb (Acoustic)
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2
Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3
The Powers That Be
The Bravery of Being Out of Range
The Bar (New song)
Have a Cigar
Wish You Were Here
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)

Set 2
In the Flesh
Run Like Hell
Déjà Vu
Is This the Life We Really Want?
Us and Them
Any Colour You Like
Brain Damage
Two Suns in the Sunset
The Bar (Reprise)
Outside the Wall