Is Roger Waters passionate and outspoken? Do pigs fly? Given that the former Pink Floyd leader was the sixth of the half dozen legendary acts to play Desert Trip over the weekend, one might say he had the last word.
And he used it.
On the night of the second U.S. presidential debate, the vulgarian Donald Trump was the target of Waters’s considerable ire. During Pigs (Three Different Ones), the line “You well-heeled big wheel, ha ha, charade you are,” was pointed in the Republican candidate’s direction, while unflattering images of him were shown on the large screen behind the stage. A collection of Trump’s most odious quotes – “I’m not a schmuck. Even if the world goes to hell in a handbasket, I won’t lose a penny” – were also flashed for consideration.
Floating above the crowd was a parade-sized inflatable oinker, emblazoned with a savaging assessment of the former reality-television star – “Arrogant, Lying, Racist, Sexist” – and a coarse suggestion as to what the GOP nominee could do with his Mexican border wall.
After Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2), the emboldened rock star got chatty, rationalizing that “It’s rare somebody like me gets a platform like this, so I’m going to use it.” Which he did, by reading aloud Why Cannot the Good Prevail, a poem he had written after the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004. Waters then saluted the California college students who were protesting in support of Palestine, saying, “I encourage the government in Israel to end the occupation.”
The crowd was enthusiastic when Waters had earlier brought a wheelchair-using American war veteran to play the guitar part on Shine on You Crazy Diamond, but the smattering of applause in reaction to the singer-songwriter’s controversial politics was an indication of the crowd’s tolerance level to the musician voicing his extracurricular ideas.
For they had come to hear the sublime elegance of the Pink Floyd catalogue, particularly when it was played on a superb sound system and performed by a crack band that included the look-alike backup singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, the show-stealing sirens from the indie band Lucius.
Highlights in that vein included the weird psychedelia of Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun (complete with lysergic visuals) and the languid, spacey pleasures associated with Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon album from 1973.
Opening for Waters was the Who, led by British rock’s other great conceptualist, Pete Townshend, who now is, quite clearly, the front man of the band. Mic-swinging lead bellower Roger Daltrey stuck to singing, while sometime-vocalist Townshend proved his guitar game was as strong as his aptitude and willingness for pithy, insolent commentary.
It was twilight in the Coachella Valley when he audaciously announced his band’s arrival with some choice language. A career-spanning parade of hits followed, with focus on the brash, grand-scale rock the band is associated with: Who Are You?, 5:15, Love Reign O’er Me, Baba O’Riley, selections from the rock opera Tommy, and the show-closing encore Won’t Get Fooled Again.
After Eminence Front (with the line “It’s a put on”), Townshend quipped, “Good luck with the election, folks.”
While introducing the band’s first radio hit, I Can See For Miles, he explained that the Who were sort of 1967’s version of Adele or Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber. He then reconsidered. “We were a bunch of reprobates, actually.”
As it turns out, I Can See For Miles should not be taken literally. “We can’t see you all in the back there,” Townshend admitted, looking upon the acres of people stretched out in front of him, “but we can reach you. We think we can reach you.”
After a roaring version of My Generation, Townshend asked, “And did we reach you?” They had. In fact, just like the colossal engagement’s other five acts (Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney and Roger Waters), with their music they had reached a generation.
For those who missed the Indio fandango, the once in a lifetime experience happens all over again next weekend.
The Who set list:
I Can't Explain
Who Are You
The Kids Are Alright
I Can See for Miles
Behind Blue Eyes
You Better You Bet
Love, Reign O'er Me
The Acid Queen
See Me, Feel Me
Won't Get Fooled Again
Roger Waters set list:
Speak to Me
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
One of These Days
The Great Gig in the Sky
Us and Them
You'll Never Walk Alone
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)
Welcome to the Machine
Have a Cigar
Wish You Were Here
Pigs on the Wing 1
Pigs on the Wing 2
Pigs (Three Different Ones)
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)
Why Cannot the Good Prevail
Bring the Boys Back Home
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