Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters sets a new standard for concert artists

The former Pink Floyd frontman put on a spectacular show at Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 27.

Pink+Floyds+Roger+Waters+performs+at+Bridgestone+Area%2C+as+photographed+on+Aug.+27%2C+2022.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FMiguel+Beristain%29

Miguel Beristain

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters performs at Bridgestone Area, as photographed on Aug. 27, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)

Deniz Orbay and Krisha Shah

Have you ever been to a rock concert that was also a political rally? A movie screening that was also a drone show? A nostalgic tribute to a dear friend that was also a protest against every injustice you could think of? Well if you haven’t and any of those events appeal to you, you should have been at former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters’ performance at Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 27. The show was the embodiment of the phrase “you had to see it to believe it,” but I will try my best to capture what might have been my weirdest and most wonderful concert experience.

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters performs at Bridgestone Area, as photographed on Aug. 27, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters performs at Bridgestone Area, as photographed on Aug. 27, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain) (Miguel Beristain)
Pink Floyd's Roger Waters performs at Bridgestone Area, as photographed on Aug. 27, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters performs at Bridgestone Area, as photographed on Aug. 27, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain) (Miguel Beristain)

As a massive Pink Floyd fan who had already been to a Nashville Floyd event (and whose first purchase for his Highland room decor was a Pink Floyd poster), I was surprisingly conflicted about buying a ticket for Waters’ “This Is Not a Drill” tour due to his infamous way of politicizing his shows. Weighing in on every debate within the current political climate, from the war in Ukraine to the Supreme Court’s recent controversial rulings, Waters is renowned for infusing his political stance into his setlists. Even though I  agree with most of his hot takes, I wanted to listen to Pink Floyd live, not sit through a rant about everything that is wrong with the world. But after seeing nosebleed tickets for no more than 30 dollars, I caved, and I’m so happy I did.

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters performs at Bridgestone Area, as photographed on Aug. 27, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters performs at Bridgestone Area, as photographed on Aug. 27, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain) (Miguel Beristain)
Pink Floyd's Roger Waters performs at Bridgestone Area, as photographed on Aug. 27, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters performs at Bridgestone Area, as photographed on Aug. 27, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain) (Miguel Beristain)

There exists immense courage in using your massive presence to speak up for things that are wrong with the world, especially in Nashville, Tennessee, where half the crowd looked deeply offended by his rally against guns and abortion. What’s most respectable was how unapologetic Waters was about his performances. The show started with a message equally funny and straightforward: “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*ck off to the bar right now.”

With a setlist mostly consisting of Pink Floyd tracks sprinkled with a few songs from his solo discography and songs he wrote during COVID-19, Waters crafted the perfect balance between nostalgia and activism. He left no problem unmentioned; he touched upon reproductive, transgender, Indigenous and gun rights, colonialism, conflicts in the Middle East, you name it. At one point, huge screens shadowing the arena read: “F*ck the Roman Empire, F*ck the Supreme Court, F*ck the patriarchy, F*ck drones, F*ck your gun.” Other examples of such provocative messaging included calling every U.S. president of the last two decades a war criminal, a Tennessean Indigenous land acknowledgment and a tribute to Julian Assange. He did not hold back. 

Not only was every song accompanied by a form of protest or outcry, the music itself was also outright phenomenal  From classics such as “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2,” “Have a Cigar” and “Sheep” to songs from his solo albums like “Is This the Life We Really Want?”, the musicianship of Waters’ band and the charisma of the leading man himself left nothing to be desired. Especially when we reached the final quarter of the concert and the band started playing songs off of the spectacular “Dark Side of the Moon” album, every single element of the show came together in perfect symphony to create what might be my favorite concert ever.

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters performs at Bridgestone Area, as photographed on Aug. 27, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters performs at Bridgestone Area, as photographed on Aug. 27, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain) (Miguel Beristain)

What was somehow more impressive than the music itself was the theatricality of it all. The lighting and the gigantic on-stage screen managed to craft a narrative that added so much to the performance. The pictures of everyday people from around the world slowly accumulating on the screen while “Us and Them” played and the massive laser triangle that formed around the stage during the final climax of the concert as the screen displayed the transcendent “Dark Side of the Moon” album cover were poetic touches to already-poetic music. For the satirically fascist “In the Flesh,” Waters walked onto stage dressed as a fictional dictator with two people wearing soldier uniforms, with his dictatorship’s flag hanging from all corners of the stage. Not to mention the huge pigs and sheep balloons that hovered across the arena during multiple songs, both iconic symbols off of their “Animals” album, Pink Floyd’s homage to George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”

A nostalgic and heartfelt tribute to original band member Syd Barrett was felt throughout the performance of some of the more emotional songs such as “Wish You Were Here” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” which were originally written as love letters to the eccentric Syd. As old videos of the band members in their youth played on the screen, Waters reminisced on the formation of the band and even time spent with Barrett before the band was formed. What was interesting, but perhaps not surprising considering their long-lasting feud, was the absence of guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour in said videos. Although it didn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of these songs, it was sad to see that the rift between the two former bandmates is here to stay for now.

Roger Waters’ Nashville performance was something you had to see to believe. It was theatrical, aggressive and musically, a masterpiece. Even watching from the nosebleeds meant witnessing a master of his craft rocking it as hard as he did back in the ‘60s. Only now, he’s even madder and has more money and guts to spend to show it. I don’t think I’ll ever see again a show so weirdly bold and boldly weird.