Roger Waters

Royal Arena, Copenhagen - 2023

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Roger Waters was out on his This Is Not A Drill tour, which had the ambiguous subtitle His First Ever Farewell Tour.
Given especially the latter half of the tourname, combined with the fact that Roger Waters does, after all, turn 80 later this year, we felt we had no other option than to go and see both of the shows he played at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen. On the Tuesday show, the second of the two, we were allowed to review the concert as well, so that we can share it here with you all.

“I can’t tell you how great it is to be here in Copenhagen! Well, I can, because I played here last night. It’s fucking great!”
- Roger Waters (vocals/bass/guitar/piano)

Apparently, the germ for this show was created during lockdown. How could one play a concert with social distancing and all that? The idea to play it like a film was conceived of, and from there it grew. This is why the stage was built like it was. Placed in the middle of the room, shaped like a cross with a short line intercutting a longer line across the middle, the stage floor was in different levels, but still high enough for musicians and crew to have their own walkways beneath it, with different entrance points placed at strategic spots. Connected to this were several interconnected video screens, set up in the same shape as the stage floor, so that it could be clearly visible from all wherever you were placed in the arena.
This was for the film part of the show, with a nonstop video production playing throughout the concert. Because of this video wall, as the first song began, the 2022 version of Comfortably Numb, we were only able to see the musician standing in the corner of the cross in our direction. Not that we looked much at the musician at this time, as there was an incredibly moody and gripping video playing, showing a dark and dystopian cityscape, starting at the grimy and disgusting street level where masses of people were shambling on in clouded darkness. The viewpoint slowly rose, showing us more of the broken, dark skyscrapers and flocks of black birds crowing; little by little, one futuristic, clean building became visible in the distance - a utopian place for the chosen few, with lights in the windows and likely carefree lives lived inside. Next to it was a flying pig.

We’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves though. Before the show even started, there was at first a countdown, saying it’s 15 minutes to the show, 10 minutes, and so on, and when we finally reached the beginning, there was a short announcement in text and spoken by Roger Waters’ voice, and I’m slightly paraphrasing here from memory; “If you’re one of those who say you love Pink Floyd’s music, but you can’t stand Roger Waters’ politics, kindly fuck off to the bar.”
This got a good laugh out of the crowd, obviously, but there was a theme to be found later in the show that gave this comment additional depth. You see, at one end of the stage, there was a grand piano, and at times Roger Waters would sit down here, and discuss certain topics. Political topics, among other things. He invited the other musicians to hang out with him, grab something to drink, and he called the area “The Bar”. This was also where he was when he played the song The Bar, not surprisingly. So whether you stayed on, or decided to head for a bar, you’d still get to hear Waters’ points of view on things. Take that haters, as some might say.

A Roger Waters show will be full of politics, that can hardly be a surprise to anyone, and there were some moments that got louder cheers than others - for example, when Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange were mentioned in connection with the leaked military footage showing the murder of civilians from a US military chopper - but Waters also had a lot of other things to say. For example, he told the tale of how this show came to be, the technical difficulties in playing and staying synched to a video, and he also went into inspirations such as Bob Dylan, and Waters’ own brother.
What got under a lot of people’s skin though, was his heartfelt memories shared of him and Syd Barrett, of how they started playing together, and how they got Pink Floyd going all those years ago.

Musically, we got a mixture of old and new. Plenty of Pink Floyd of course, predominantly from the hit records The Wall and The Dark Side Of The Moon, but there was also time for a lot of Waters’ solo material, which also helped set the mood, generally being of a slower and more emotional state.
The Dark Side Of The Moon showed up a bit into the second act of the show, and here we got several laser triangles surrounding the video wall, which showed a rainbow of horizontal lines shooting through the many triangles.
The show wasn’t low on visual treats, that’s for sure. Another hit was at the very beginning of the second act, where Waters donned his black leather coat and shades, and hammer banners unfolded from the ceiling. It was a stark image seeing him pull out a machine gun, and start to fire upon the audience - it was a fake gun of course, but there was a real muzzle flash issuing from the barrel.

Huge props must go out to the touring band as well, who did a phenomenal job. I especially took note of the backing vocalists, Amanda Belair and Shanay Johnson, guitarist Jonathan Wilson who also provided the vocals for certain tracks, and sax player Seamus Blake who just looked like he had a blast every time he got to go on stage and play.
We’ve covered a lot of the visual side, as well as touching on the music, but what you might have found missing are words on the performance, and you would be absolutely right. You see, the problem here was the intricate stage setup combined with the will to focus on the multimedia experience. As I described, the stage was like a cross, and the musicians were placed in the inwards corners where the two lines connected. Since the middle of the stage was higher than the sides, you could really mostly see musicians closest to you when standing on the floor, and for seated guests, the overhanging video screen hid much of the view, getting worse the higher up you sat of course.
Now, Waters, Belair, and Johnson did walk around from time to time, but not all that much to be honest, leaving us with the sad fact that there was definitely a good side to stand on, and a bad one. Since we were seeing the show twice, we were able to get a good spot the second time around, but for the first day, we were mostly looking at the backs of the two keyboard players, John Carin and Robert Walter. Why exactly the keyboards were facing the stage and not the crowd is another mystery yet to be unraveled.

I am glad we went to see the show twice. Not just because it gave us a better view of what was going on, but because we got to experience this wonder twice. Roger Waters may be the sprightliest soon to be 80 year old I know, but he can’t hang around forever, and having had a late start in watching his live shows, I do want to take as much as possible in before it’s too late.
Having said that, This Is Not A Drill wasn’t my best experience with Roger Waters. Not because of the music, nor the politics. No, the problem was that when I go to a live concert, I enjoy watching a live performance, and while the multimedia experience they were going for here worked as intended, I would have liked to see more band, less stage ingenuity.
Still, it was as always a truly memorable time, and I look forward to Waters’ Second Farewell Tour, when- and wherever it may occur.


Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd cover, 2022 edition)
The Happiest Days Of Our Lives (Pink Floyd cover)
Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2 (Pink Floyd cover)
Another Brick In The Wall, Part 3 (Pink Floyd cover)
The Powers That Be
The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range
The Bar
Have A Cigar (Pink Floyd cover)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd cover)
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-VII, V) (Pink Floyd cover)
Sheep (Pink Floyd cover)
In The Flesh (Pink Floyd cover)
Run Like Hell (Pink Floyd cover)
Déjà Vu
Déjà Vu (Reprise)
Is This The Life We Really Want?
Money (Pink Floyd cover)
Us And Them (Pink Floyd cover)
Any Colour You Like (Pink Floyd cover)
Brain Damage (Pink Floyd cover)
Eclipse (Pink Floyd cover)
Two Suns In The Sunset (Pink Floyd cover)
The Bar (Reprise)
Outside The Wall (Pink Floyd cover)

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