Seven years before writing his grandest personal statement in The Wall and only a few short months before his artistic arc bent toward the stratosphere with The Dark Side of the Moon, Roger Waters released one of his most intimate songs on Pink Floyd's 1972 album, Obscured by Clouds. Backed by a chipper acoustic guitar, cheery handclaps, and an intermittently eerie synthesizer chord, "Free Four" is a foundational text for the eminent singer-songwriter. With a palpable fear of wasted time and its eventual culmination, death, "Free Four" is a notable precursor to the themes that eventually dominated the English progressive-rock band's imperial phase, the stage when they were at their peak.
But one verse stands out in particular, not necessarily because of its lyrical content, but because its sentiment would come to dictate Waters' discourse with the public at large 40 years onward:
"And who is the master of fox hounds?/And who says the hunt has begun?/And who calls the tune in the courtroom?/And who beats the funeral drum?"
It's only natural that Waters, the son of a World War II casualty, would be skeptical of the persons and forces whose catastrophic clash consumed his father's life. Although its explicitness varies on a song-by-song basis (or even which tour), political dissatisfaction and an intense distaste for the status quo have long been a hallmark of Waters' work, with Pink Floyd or otherwise.
But evidently, somewhere along the course of his five-decade career, some people missed the memo.
When Roger Waters brings his Us + Them Tour to the American Airlines Area this Thursday, he will be doing so in the midst of one of the most divisive periods in recent American memory. It should come as little surprise that Waters, a self-described socialist who once sang about placing "overgrown infants" Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in a memorial home where they would be summarily murdered, is no fan of the current president of the United States.
Last October, before the Us + Them Tour had been announced and when a Trump presidency was still a frightening possibility instead of a sobering reality, Waters' performance at Desert Trip generated headlines for its Trump-critical imagery. During "Pigs (Three Different Ones)," visuals depicting the now-president as a robed Klansman and other indignities were accompanied by an appearance from Pink Floyd's iconic floating pig, embroidered with a simple, impossible-to-misconstrue message: "Fuck Trump and His Wall."
Waters has taken this show on the road, with his anti-Trump "Pigs" routine now joined by — what else? — "Money," in conjunction with helpful visual aids of failed Trump business ventures and Russian imagery.
Even with five decades of antiwar tunes, an entire concept album mocking authoritarian impulses and antisocial walls, along with continual controversy for his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, people continue to stroll into Roger Waters concerts with the expectation that things won't get political. Well.
Since kicking off in May, the Us + Them Tour has been complemented by local headlines reporting walkouts, jeers, and middle fingers extended in Waters' direction during the aforementioned Trump-centric segments. There appears to be a considerable subset of Pink Floyd fans who have ignored the meat of Waters' lyrics in favor of indulging in the band's pudding of stirring guitar solos and rousing sing-alongs. The number of articles reporting on this trend are shocking, if only because "Roger Waters' leftist leanings annoy concert attendees" is as well-worn a story as "Kanye West says something outrageous" or "DJ Khaled continues to blur the line between living, breathing artist and sentient meme." One would think those offended by frank criticism of elected officials would know better than to attend a Waters show by now. But alas, whether it's 2007 or 2017, anonymous internet comments lamely appropriating Pink Floyd lyrics to criticize Waters remain a popular phenomenon.
It's impossible to tell which way the wind will blow Thursday; even though Trump lost the popular vote in Miami-Dade, the Magic City doesn't carry the same propensity for progressive politics seen in other major American metro areas. If the awkward silence and staggered boos that met Bono's tepid criticism of Trump during U2's June show are any indication, some Miamians might be in for a very rude awakening.
On the off chance you're an easily upset Pink Floyd fan who was heretofore unaware of Waters' political inclinations, let this be your warning for Thursday's concert. For the rest of you, who are equally comfortable with thoughtful meditations on aging as you are rock 'n' roll's long-documented rebellious streak, enjoy the show.
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