Most rock stars localize their concerts by donning a sports team's jersey or dissing the prior night's crowd in Milwaukee. Not Roger Waters.
The Pink Floyd bandleader took a very different approach to putting a local spin on Saturday night's This Is Not a Drill Tour stop at Target Center, a stunt that tells you a lot of what you need to know about the possibly polarizing but ultimately astounding performance.
After opening with two of his old band's best-known pieces, "Comfortably Numb" and "Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall" — two of the best-known rock songs of all time, really — the 78-year-old Englishman launched into a montage of solo tunes in which he turned his now-well-documented political rhetoric up to 11. Yeah, uh oh.
During the piano-led 1992 song "The Bravery of Being Out of Range," he used the impressively giant, cross-shaped video screen over the in-the-round stage to list off war crimes he accused all U.S. presidents of committing since Ronald Reagan (Trump and Obama were both called out for drone attacks; for Biden, the screens simply read, "Just getting started.")
As Waters sang the terse lines of 1987's holdover, "The Powers That Be," his screens ticked off murders he said police committed in cities around the world alongside the alleged crimes of their victims. And that's where both Minneapolis and St. Paul got the special treatment.
Next to the names of George Floyd and Philando Castile, Waters named their crimes as: "Being Black." (Castille, it should be noted, was fatally shot by a St. Anthony police officer, not St. Paul.)
Rhetoric like that is a big reason why the upper level of the Minneapolis basketball arena was half-empty, compared to the packed houses at Xcel Energy Center for Waters' last two times in town at Xcel Energy Center in 2010 and 2017. His recent bashing of both Israel and the Weeknd in the press probably hurt, too — one likely more than the other.
Musically speaking, though, the 11,000 or so fans on hand Saturday were actually treated to the most riveting and refined of those three most recent performances.
After twice putting off his tour since 2020 due to COVID — he thanked "everyone who held onto their ticket for two years" — Waters seemed well-prepared, extra-determined and literally pumped to unleash the show on Twin Cities fans. The dude looked muscular and downright svelte for his age.
He came with a well-built band, too. There weren't any name-brand players in it like Lucius, the vocal duo that sang backup on his 2017 trek. Although he did bring one former Twin Cities resident: drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M.).
The clearly expert crew brought the old songs to life with new energy. Some of the night's biggest numbers, in fact, were far from by-the-numbers.
"Comfortably Numb" was heavily remade into a more hushed, almost Leonard Cohen-ish dirge. "Wish You Were Here" — accompanied by a sweet tribute to late Floyd singer Syd Barrett on the screens — turned twangier with pedal-steel guitar and a slower, almost waltz-like tempo.
The biggest treat for old Floyd fans was hearing "Wish You Were Here" sandwiched between "Have a Cigar" and "Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Pts. VI-IX" — the same order they came in on Side 2 of the "Wish You Were Here" album. Waters pulled the same trick in the second half of the concert, playing the entire second side of "Dark Side of the Moon" in order.
With a couple other more cultishly loved Floyd nuggets also tossed in ("Sheep" from "Animals," "Two Suns in the Sunset" from "The Final Cut"), Waters genuinely seemed to enjoy dishing up treats like those for fans this time around; you know, so long as he also got to fork out his views on current affairs.
That seemed like a better deal than having to sit through a show filled with songs from a new album nobody wanted to hear, as is often the case with many other rock legends.