Sometimes great rock 'n' roll offers a momentary escape, and other times, it's an unapologetic reminder of the chaotic world surrounding us. On Monday night in a packed American Airlines Center, legendary Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters had no intentions of letting anyone get too comfy in the iconic psychedelic sounds and sights his visionary band became famous for many decades ago.
Unlike the recent D-FW stops for rock titans Metallica and Iron Maiden, in which both acts declared to not "care who you voted for," Waters very clearly cares who you voted for. Long an outspoken critic of many social and political issues, the 73-year-old also knows how to weave his convictions into an enthralling audio-visual presentation.
Besides, wishing Waters would avoid overtly political statements is like asking Jimmy Buffett to give up flip flops and umbrella drinks.
Throughout the first of two sets, Waters offered up dramatic takes on tunes both beloved and brand new. "Breathe" and "Welcome to the Machine" were atmospheric and swirling beauties while "Déjà Vu" from his recently released solo album stunned in its simplicity, backed by chilling drone footage on the massive screen behind the band.
Jonathan Wilson, the California producer and guitarist, handled many of the vocal parts that Waters' Pink Floyd mate David Gilmour used to sing, giving the leader a bit of a chance to slap his bass and lead his band. Not unlike when Kris Kristofferson performs "Me and Bobby McGee," a song he wrote that Janis Joplin made it famous, hearing Waters take on 1975's "Wish You Were Here" was nothing short of sublime.
But when it comes to arena rock shows, Pink Floyd and Waters have few, if any, peers. Majestic laser light shows, quadraphonic-style surround sound systems and, yes, flying pigs make for a multi-media experience that's unmistakably Pink Floyd. Though the first set was light on the grand effects, it closed as a group of local kids danced to "The Wall" dressed in orange prison-style jumpsuits, setting the stage for the lavish second set.
As it happens, the first set was a quiet acoustic coffeehouse show by comparison to the overwhelming, colorful electricity of the second. The massive set of screens that descended from the rafters were more or less dedicated to mocking President Donald Trump without mercy. Cartoonish images of Trump attached to bodies of infants and animals splashed the screens along with giant letters spelling out "Charade" during "Pigs (Three Different Ones)."
It was at times uncomfortable to see and hear people cheering for a band while disturbing images of the president, refugee camps and homeless people were displayed so largely. But Waters and Pink Floyd are nothing if not provocative and all-consuming.
And here's the thing about the most classic of classic rock: The ballot box in our brains and the jukebox in our hearts merely have to coexist, not mirror one another.
Flip through photos of the Roger Waters concert in Dallas:
As a giant, colorful pyramid of laser lights lent its iconic imagery to "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse," it was a reasonable hope that everyone in the arena was on the same page near the end of the evening. After all, what good is a show like this if we can't all sing along, bro-hug and high five, regardless of tax bracket or party affiliation? On that note, there wasn't a more fitting closing number than the ambient, emotional triumph that is "Comfortably Numb."
Waters makes no bones about telling you what he thinks about many things, Donald Trump included. He also cares a great deal about providing a legendary show befitting his timeless band's legacy.