Roger Waters’ “Us + Them” tour, marked with stunning visuals and strident political commentary, arrived on schedule at the renovated Nassau Coliseum Friday, even as some protested his views on Israel, though threatened legal action to halt the concerts did not materialize.
Although Nassau County decided not to challenge the concert, a handful of lawmakers, religious leaders and residents protested before the show over what they call Waters’ anti-Semitic views about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
However, as provocative as Waters’ concert can be at times, it is surprisingly designed to be a crowd-pleaser, giving the crowd unforgettable special effects — which the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer dreamed up with his creative director, Sean Evans, a native of Northport — and lots of the most familiar songs from his years with Pink Floyd, including “Wish You Were Here” and a potent version of “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II),” which featured 10 adorable children who removed orange prison jumpsuits to reveal black “RESIST” T-shirts.
Those songs followed the centerpiece of the first half of Waters’ show — a four-song suite from his recent “Is This the Life We Really Want?” solo album.
Waters looks at the current state of the world from a variety of viewpoints in the nearly 20-minute piece, from what he would do as a drone in “Déjà Vu” to life as “The Last Refugee” after another world war. He wraps up the piece with the intense “Picture That,” which feels like the dystopic flip side of The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” as he rails, “Picture yourself as you lean on the port rail” and ramps up to “Picture a leader with no [expletive] brains.”
Wonder who he’s talking about? Well, the picture of President Donald Trump that flashed on the screen answered that question quickly.
The images and rhetoric of Trump are broadly on display during the snarling “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” and “Money,” projected on screens designed to look like the famous Battersea power station, complete with massive smokestacks belching smoke, from Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album cover. Waters’ band is first-rate, starting with the great drummer Joey Waronker, best known for his work with Beck, and guitarist Jonathan Wilson. My Morning Jacket’s Bo Koster filled in nicely for the injured Drew Erickson, while Lucius’ Jessica Wolfe and Holly Laessig delivered on vocals.
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There is no doubt that Waters is succeeding in getting people talking about his issues.
Waters, who splits his time between homes in Bridgehampton and Manhattan when he is not on tour, did not speak about Trump or Israel from the stage. After a huge ovation that he said left him uncharacteristically at a loss for words during his encore, he did address the day’s protests. “They were accusing me of spreading hatred,” said Waters, who will return to Nassau Coliseum on Saturday. “I kind of wish they were in this room right now . . . The love is palpable.”
SETLIST: Breathe / One of These Days / Time / Breathe (Reprise) / The Great Gig in the Sky / Welcome to the Machine / Deja Vu / The Last Refugee / Picture That / Wish You Were Here / Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) / Another Brick in the Wall (Part III) // INTERMISSION // Dogs / Pigs (Three Different Ones) / Money / Us + Them / Smell the Roses / Brain Damage / Eclipse // ENCORE: Vera / Bring the Boys Back Home / Comfortably Numb