Roger Waters in Mexico City: Strong Words and the Best of Pink Floyd

It’s been a good year for big rock shows in Mexico. The Rolling Stones came in the spring, Phish played their first concerts in the country with three nights at a resort near Playa del Carmen, and last night (Sept. 29, 2016) Roger Waters, the creative genius behind Pink Floyd, played his second show to nearly 60,000 people at the enormous Foro Sol in Mexico City.

It’s a struggle getting to these events on a weeknight — add concert traffic to rush hour traffic, throw in some crazy adventures finding parking, and what’s normally an hour-and-a-half trip into the city starts pushing four hours. So while my wife and I see a lot of smaller concerts, we only go to the really big shows when it’s bound to be something spectacular.

And Roger Waters delivers, no question. Though only 1/4 of Pink Floyd, he has the strongest claim to their legacy. Not only did he write all the lyrics and most of the music, his voice is crucial to so many songs. While you could argue that David Gilmour’s soaring, soothing voice could be passably imitated (his guitar, much less so), Waters’ distinctive tones are drenched in urgency, confidence, and at times, desperate madness. Can you imagine “Pigs on the Wing,” “Mother” or “Vera” without him?

And with a tour called “The Best of Pink Floyd,” you can be sure that there won’t be songs newer than 1979. But you might not except early, unpolished gems like “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” or “One of These Days.” Sure, you’ll hear a lot from “Dark Side of the Moon,” but what about nearly every track from (possibly) superior albums “Wish You Were Here” and “Animals,” performed in large blocks according to album and in roughly chronological order? The final album of Pink Floyd’s great four from the ’70s, “The Wall,” didn’t get quite so much play, but probably because Rogers played the whole double album on his previous tour.

The show was three hours long, and other than Rogers’ heavy letter in Spanish (more on that below), there were no breaks — the band didn’t even leave the stage before the encore.

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And, along with a stellar song selection and great performances punctuated by swirling sound effects, the night included a simply incredible stage show. Towering behind the band was an extra-wide screen that displayed soapy old-time psychedelia during the oldest songs; thematic images like crazy faces, intricate machines, or blankets of stars over a black moonscape; scenes of Black Lives Matter mixed with the American Civil Rights Movement (shown during “Fearless,” from “Meddle,” only the second time played live, with the first time the night before); and Waters, band members or their instruments superimposed over shifting, melting and merging shapes and colors.

Guess which song this was:

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Moody scenes, smoke and acoustic guitars for “Wish You Were Here”:

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Before the unmistakable acoustic strumming of “Pigs on the Wing,” four smokestacks raised up from behind the screen:

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The factory smoked during four “Animals” tracks and stood until the end — never replaced by a wall, to my surprise. The visuals of the imposing factory, colorful graphics and larger-than-life band members were among the most impressive of the night.

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Of course, during “Animals,” you look up and around for the flying pig. You can’t wait for the flying pig. And after both parts of “Pigs on the Wing” played consecutively and then “Dogs,” it finally levitated up between smokestacks — you can see it on the left below — but that’s not all we got.

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For all of a funky, angry “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” the screen flashed images of Trump yelling, Trump with ridiculous expressions, Trump giving Nazi salutes, Trump wearing a KKK hood, Trump with the body of a pig, and even Trump’s fat naked body with a quick zoom-in on his micropenis, eliciting the loudest gasp-then-cheer from the crowd. More hearty cheers came in response to the huge block letters on the screen, “TRUMP ERES UN PENDEJO,” — Trump, you’re an asshole.

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A powerful statement and clear message: Roger Waters doesn’t like Donald Trump. My wife asked, which public figures have gotten the pig treatment in years gone by? Bush, Netanyahu, ex-brothers from Pink Floyd? I wonder. And what kind of reaction will this get at Desert Trip, the huge festival which Roger Waters will close out on the third night? (A deserving position, I am now certain.)

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Near the end of “Pigs,” the screen displayed Trump quotations translated to Spanish. They were a little hard for us to read, being partly obscured by speaker stacks (which fortunately did not block our view of the stage). This one said something about Ivanka:

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A little later, the Trump-bashing continued in a much more literal way during “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2.” A Trump piñata was lowered down, and the members of the local choir, who had sung during the verses, took enthusiastic swings at it during the extended guitar solo. It finally broke open near the end of the song — what came spilling out?

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But Trump wouldn’t be the only one on the receiving end of Roger Waters’ strong opinions. Waters read a long letter in Spanish addressed to President Peña Nieto, asking him what has happened to the tens of thousands of people who have disappeared during his presidency. At times, the word “RENUNCIA” (resign) was displayed with huge letters on the screen behind.

This riled up the crowd big time, who chanted from 1 to 43 (the number of students who disappeared in Ayotzinapa) or called out “¡asesino!” (murderer), while Roger Waters dealt with guitar problems before “Vera,” which of course led to a fitting “Bring the Boys Back Home.”

There’s a law in Mexico against foreigners making political statements on domestic issues. Manu Chao, for instance, has been banned from playing here since his last concert more than 10 years ago. We’ll have to see what kind of reaction this letter will get. Maybe Roger Waters is too prominent, too important, or maybe his going after Trump even harder will buy him some leeway. (Trump is thoroughly hated here in Mexico.)

Politics aside, the music was the highlight of the night, even more so than the awe-inspiring visuals. To finish the show, the band played “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse,” bringing “Dark Side of the Moon” full circle.

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The end: Smoke and stars after the fireworks following the “Comfortably Numb” encore:

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Tomorrow on Saturday Roger Waters plays a free show in Mexico City’s zócalo (center square), right downtown facing all the government buildings. Will he read his letter there? I can’t imagine why not.

So then the question remains, will he ever be invited back?

Final note: As you can see from the pictures, we were at the opposite end of massive Foro Sol from the stage. With such a grandiose production, these seats were fine — and when the spotlight was right we could clearly see Waters stalking back and forth when he put down the bass or acoustic guitar and focused on singing.

These, the cheapest seats, cost 370 pesos each, less than $20 USD (with the current exchange rate). So, while of course spots up front cost $100 USD or more, there were plenty of good seats available for much more modest prices. Thank you, Mr. Waters.

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About Ted Campbell

U.S.-Canadian writer, translator and university teacher in Mexico. Travel stories and practical tips on my blog No Hay Bronca: nohaybronca.wordpress.com Twitter: @NoHayBroncaBlog // Contact: nohaybroncablog (at) gmail.com

Posted on September 30, 2016, in Mexico, Music and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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