Roger Waters has a habit of playing to people who don’t like Roger Waters.
Waters’ last tour – which stopped at a packed TD Garden in 2017 – inspired a few walkouts along the way. Some people didn’t like his politics. Stuff like pairing images of then-President Trump on 40-foot video screens with the lyrics, “Picture a leader with no (expletive) brains.” (Never mind that Pink Floyd’s catalog often sneers at capitalism, fascism and warmongers.)
On Tuesday night at another packed Garden show, Pink Floyd’s erstwhile leader pre-empted would-be critics when the show began with 100-foot video screens announcing, “If you’re one of those ‘I love Pink Floyd, but I can’t stand Rogers’ politics’ people, you might do well to (expletive) off to the bar.”
After the warning, Waters and his nine-piece band crept into a chilling and downtempo take on “Comfortably Numb.” With those 100-foot video scenes pumping out post-apocalyptic images in the center of the arena and the audience in a circle around the stage, the band remained in the dark for the reworking of the song — no guitar solo, just “Great Gig in the Sky”-style wailing from one of the singers.
Then the video screens rose into the air to reveal the band as it thundered into “Another Brick in the Wall (parts 1 & 2).” Then the band stormed into Waters’ solo turn “The Powers That Be” under images of police brutality and names of those killed by police. Then they rolled into Waters’ “The Bravery of Being Out of Range” alongside massive shots of ex-presidents labeled war criminals.
Waters has only grown more fierce in his attack on capitalism, fascism, and warmongers. But he’s also discovered some optimistic tenderness — balance and intention make his songs and show work.
Sitting down behind the piano, he introduced a new song, “The Bar,” saying it was about a place where people who “care about human rights and free press and democracy … can go with a sense of community.” The ballad may be the most hopeful and warm thing he’s ever written.
Over two sets built from Pink Floyd classics and obscurities plus a range of solo stuff, Waters and band crashed between tenderness and rampage. The blunt force of “Have a Cigar” sat next to the lament of “Wish You Were Here.” The unnerving drive of “Money” up against the musical maze that is “Us and Them.”
Waters’ music can be brutally confrontational or freakishly elastic. But it never forgets that it’s music, that it’s art. His stage show follows that logic.
The band fell into a fever dream of psychedelic jamming during the first set (see Tuesday’s takes on “Sheep” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”). It tightened into the militaristic march of “In the Flesh” and “Run Like Hell” in the second set before once again drifting to the freewheeling jams on the second half of “The Dark Side of the Moon.”
The video screens overwhelm you because they are meant to. But Waters tempered the painful images and laser light show by walking out to the end of catwalks to sing right to individuals in the audience, to connect from a few feet away. (Another thing some miss is Pink Floyd’s catalog feeds of contrasting spectacle and intimacy.)
Roger Waters played to fewer people that don’t like Roger Waters this time around. But there will always be people that don’t like Waters. When you go on and on about drones, guns, refuges, the patriarchy, reproductive rights and occupying forces, there will always be people telling you to shut up and just sing, maybe a benign lyric like “Money, it’s a crime.”