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Wednesday, June 28, 2017 This Week's Paper

Roger Waters bashes Trump, thrills with timeless Pink Floyd classics

And you thought Kathy Griffin hated Donald Trump. The comedian made headlines last month, stirring up controversy with her infamous bloody mask photo, and losing a few bucks in the process. Meanwhile, rock legend Roger Waters has been on the road doing some Donald roasting of his own with his new, politically themed “Us + Them” tour. Among two-hour show's most memorable moments Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome were a good 20 minutes of cheeky, multimedia satire.

It's no shocker that the 73-year-old English rocker would wear his lefty political leanings on his sleeve. Waters - best known as the co-founder of Pink Floyd - sneaked a few George W. Bush digs into his “Dark Side of the Moon” set in 2006, after all; but those were subtle compared to the high-tech sledgehammer he took to our CEO-in-Chief during “Pigs (Three Different Ones)." 

Blaring sirens and flashing, red lights heralded Pink Floyd's 11-minute ode to oligarchs, also alerting 18,000 fans that there was about to be a big reveal. Onstage, waiters in sheep masks poured champagne for their wealthy pig overlords as translucent screens descended from the rafters, eventually running the length of the arena floor. Those brought to life the bleak factory setting depicted on the cover of Floyd's 1977 album "Animals" before being flooed with a flurry of splashy Trump art, done in the style that recalled Andy Warhol's pop art. The President appeared onscreen, “charade” stamped across his snarling mug (as in “ha ha, charaaaaade you are.”) He morphed into several freaky characters: a bloated man-pig, a row of klansman, a fussy baby cradled by his bestie, Vladmir Putin. A mini-van-sized pig drone appeared midway through the song, “piggy bank of war” emblazoned on one side, Trump declaring “I won” on the other. As it cruised around the arena, Trump's looniest quotes flashed onscreen. (Oh yeah, he did say that creepy thing about his daughter.) In case that was all too subtle, the song ended with "Trump is a pig" appearing in massive, neon letters. This all went over pretty well; there didn't seem to be many Ted Nugent fans in the house. 

The Trump-bashing inevitably continued with follow-up number “Money,” Floyd's critique of capitalism and, ironically, probably the band's most profitable song. But the show's broader themes were about the growing chasm between haves and have-nots, and the shysters (demagogues, corporatists) that manipulated common people into hating and ultimately killing one another; hence the decision to name this tour after wistful "Dark Side" cut, “Us and Them.” The song's continued relevance was underscored by imagery from Black Lives Matter protests and footage of drone strikes poignantly juxtaposed with closeups of children that are too often their casualties.

One of the show's most affecting moments was actually a twist on a gimmick Waters employed last time he came to Tacoma, in 2010 with his “The Wall” tour. The rocker recruited a group of local school children who entered in matching prison jumpsuits for “The Happiest Days of Our Lives/ Another Brick in the Wall.”

From a distance, most appeared to be black or Latino, and they kepy their gazes turned somberly downward for "Happiest Days." But stirred in those kids as Waters launched into Floyd's most familiar refrain: “We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control.” Their joy palpable as they enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame, dancing on the T-Dome stage, shedding their jumpsuits to reveal t-shirts emblazoned with the word “resist.” A hopeful message for bleak times.

Parts of the show were more about nostalgia than any sort of messaging. Fans stepped into the way-back machine as Gerald Scalfe's stark '70s animation provided the backdrop for “Welcome to the Machine.” A 3D laser version of the “Dark Side” prism filled the arena with rainbow colors at the peak of “Eclipse” (easily concert special effect of the year.) And “Bring the Boys Back Home” turned into a rousing barroom sing-along before the band finished wrapped up with – what else? - “Comfortably Numb” from Waters' magnum opus, “The Wall.”

Waters also notably performed a few cuts from "Is This the Life We Really Want?," his first album in 24 years. Standouts included “Smell the Roses,” its groove reminiscent of “Have a Cigar” from Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" album, and the dreamy, longing “The Last Refugee,” rendered all the more heartbreaking by Waters' video collaboration with filmmaker Sean Evans. With Pink Floyd, Waters created some of the most challenging and original music of the rock era; and half a century into his run he still has something to say.

Set list: “Breathe,” “One of These Days,” “Time/Breathe (Reprise)," “The Great Gig in the Sky,” “Welcome to the Machine,” “When We Were Young,” “Déjá Vu,” “The Last Refugee,” “Picture That,” “Wish You Were Here,” “The Happiest Days of Our Lives,” “Another Brick in the Wall” “Dogs,” “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” “Money,” “Us  and Them,” “Smell the Roses,” “Brain Damage,” “Eclipse,” “Vera,” “Bring the Boys Back Home,” “Comfortably Numb”  

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