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  • Mirna Wabi-Sabi

“This is not a drill” by Roger Waters arrives in 'Brasil' invoking Resistance

Updated: Apr 28

The first show of Roger Waters' 'This is Not a Drill' tour took place in an auditorium in Pittsburgh, on July 6, 2022. On October 24, 2023, the tour debuted in Brazil’s capital, reconfigured for stadiums. The set list, the political message and the visual identity are the same, but being in the open air guarantees a renewed experience. There is no longer the 360-degree cross-shaped auditorium stage configuration, but it was possible to see the moon during ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, highlighted by spectacular lasers.

Roger Waters show in Brasilia, Brazil.
By Mirna Wabi-Sabi

Between the first show of the tour and the first show of the tour in 'Brasil', Roger Waters dealt with several political attacks, protests calling for the cancellation of his shows — especially in Germany — documentaries accusing him of anti-Semitism, and scrutiny from critics and audiences for his political positions. In response, Waters expressed genuine disappointment, questioning why he has now become the target of such scrutiny for political messages he has publicly espoused for half a century.

Since the late 1960s, concerns about nuclear war, world leaders disregarding human rights, and the brutality of global elite greed have been central not only to Roger's life but to his art. It's inspiring and honorable to see an artist like him use his talent and fame to do what he can to make positive and necessary changes in the world.

Throughout his career, it is possible to observe an artistic and political communication strategy that uses characters and narratives to convey a message. Roger, in fact, is more than a musician, he is a storyteller.

As a storyteller, he idealizes characters and places them in narratives that express the worst-case scenario imaginable. By staging explosions, shootings, deaths, war crimes, fascist leaders, and reckless capitalists, he not only presents this worst-case scenario, but also shows how close we really are to it. It's a cold bucket of water that brings you back to reality and makes you see a frighteningly close future — which we need to prevent.

The character of The Fascist leader that Waters played before the tour arrived in Brazil was performed accompanied by a machine gun and obedient soldiers. In Brasília, he was presented in a wheelchair, wearing a straitjacket, accompanied by hospital orderlies. He has gone completely mad and must in no way be listened to. For years, this character has represented political power, and how it is centered on deranged individuals. Waters is explicit about how Resistance to them is essential.

Resistance, for Roger, can happen in different ways. Resistance is a material process, like indigenous and Palestinian people fighting to regain control of their lands. And it is also a social process, through dialogue and mutual support. When he invoked indigenous, Palestinian, reproductive, and trans rights, most of the audience was moved and they celebrated. It makes a wide section of the Brazilian population, who fight for these rights regularly, feel recognized and supported.

But not everyone shares this vision. It is possible to observe the discomfort of some individuals with the criticism of capitalism. I heard at least once, “look at the communist coming to a capitalist show. I bet Roger Waters is making a lot of money.” Besides, Roger unquestionably endorsed Lula on stage.

It is possible that this call to resist capitalism will be difficult to absorb in Brazil. Because the conception of capitalism, in a country that dealt with a dictatorship which utilized the word “military” instead of “capitalist”, interprets Capital as a synonym for Income. There is no need to invoke jargon from communist theory to analyze the failure of conflating these concepts.

Roger Waters works and produces — art. If all working people were properly remunerated for their work in the capitalist system, there would be no need to resist it. But that is not the reality, and never has been. Waters is wise enough to recognize that just because he has managed to build a career that pays him generously for his work, does not mean that this is the reality for the entire world or that this system works for humanity.

It's difficult to understand how Roger Waters' vision for a better world is not unanimous. However, resistance against war, greed, fascism, racism and other ideologies that aim to eradicate human diversity can only be unanimous in a world where these harmful ideologies no longer exist or are in decline. If we all agreed that this violence should end, we would not resist, we would build a new world together.

Roger Waters in 'Brasil'

Roger Waters show in Brasilia, Brazil. "Stop the Genocide".

Given current geopolitics, it is clear that genocidal ideologies are not in decline and have endured throughout history. Therefore, resistance remains essential, and this is the central message of ‘This is Not a Drill’ by Roger Waters. We may differ or even disagree about which tools to employ in this resistance, but he demands of his audience to at least participate in this conversation.

His art transcends music. It is folklore, theater, friendship, activism, and of course — resistance. But music is still central. As I said last year in my review of the first show of this tour in Pittsburgh, “the guitar solos and back-up singer singalongs are bound to gratify any die-hard Pink Floyd fan. While the dynamic ebbs and flows of the set list, not to mention the fantastic saxophone solos, are bound to keep any music enthusiast moving.” And that continues to be true. Some of the most beloved songs of all time are played authentically and faithfully, creating an unmissable experience for at least three generations of fans.

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By Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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