Roger Waters’ return with The Wall Concert provided more than just the anticipated attention from the media and/or Pink Floyd fans, not least myself, when we were convened at The Mandarin Hotel, Knightsbridge on Thursday 27th May.
The Wall Concert, earmarked to mark the30th anniversary since the release and subsequent success of this landmark double album and project, is supposedly going to be Roger Waters’ last tour in his very long career. Next September he will be turning 67 and on that bright Thursday morning, he was in a really good mood. I managed to grab the front seat in order to not just get better photographs but really grasp what he was going to say about this tour and any other musical projects he may have in mind.
Waters has indeed grown old gracefully and does not really look his age. Indeed, he looks more like Richard Gere’s older brother, and equally fine and erudite. He spoke about the joys of having breakfast late in the morning, before he delivered the news about the Wall Tour, (further details can be seen in the news section of this website) and then requested questions from the floor. After a few seconds of sheer silence, I decided to take the initiative since apparently no one was willing to start off what is supposed to be the most interesting phase in a press conference. I did indeed feel a little bit embarrassed to be the first one, not least because I am not even British, nor do I belong to some big league radio station or media company, as indeed were quite a few representatives. However, I was determined, and finally, I also got the opportunity to tell Mr. Waters what I really felt about The Wall. Then, at a time when there was so much tension between two super-powers, namely the USA and the USSR, The Wall stood out against the trappings of oppression. The Soviet Union had just invaded Afghanistan, and the situation in Eastern Europe was not exactly as it was a decade before, just after the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia and tightened its grip on its satellite states. Now, Solidarnosc was about to emerge and the whole setting of The Wall, with its implications on The Berlin Wall was all too alluring. To date, I firmly believe that The Wall provided an important undercurrent to many young people at the eastern side of The Berlin Wall to take up a stand against oppression and repression, to hit out at centralized, corrupt and inefficient governments, supposedly led by Marxist ideologies. Waters was quite gratified by this observation, however, he also went on to state that there are still many walls, real and virtual surrounding us. He hit out against the barrier separating Gaza from Israel (and would have probably been even more hard-hitting if this press conference took place during this week when the world was focused about Israel’s actions over the humanitarian aid ships heading for Gaza). He also mentioned the wall separating North and South Korea, a barrier which has like The Berlin Wall, has separated a nation, and which has actually endured far more than its German counterpart. Waters also referred to religious fanatics and extremism which can also provide more walls and obstacles to one’ s self development. Such was the theme of the wall. I was so pleased that he liked my comment, and, coming from Malta, I was all the more happy when he remarked about the excellent treatment he had when he performed in Malta back in July 2006. That concert drew the biggest ever audience for a rock concert held here, around 22,000 and sadly, it also coincided with the death of former colleague and Pink Floyd founder member Syd Barrett.
Roger Waters also made it amply clear that in this day and age, The Wall’s anti-war theme was again going to be given even more prominence. Waters, replying to another question from the floor, stated that only lately, had he finally managed to shake off the trauma that he passed through over the loss of his father, Eric Fletcher Waters, who died during the Second World War, aged just 31. Waters was barely a year old then. Roger Waters however stated that if World War II was a just war, because it sought to fight off a totalitarian regime and a very dangerous school of thought, the Iraq War was unwarranted. He also expressed his surprise at how former prime minister Tony Blair managed to get away with it, despite all the controversy that he created when he supported former President George Bush in this war. ‘It is significant that two million UK citizens marched to show their disapproval then. ‘ added Roger Waters. He also stated that this time around, there will be World War II footage included with the tour.
The legendary composer and musician is not really fond of gadgets. During the press conference, he also stated that he only acquired a cellphone around five years ago. I also asked him about his views on British politics now that there is a coalition government, the first in decades. I also asked this question within the context of a general election analysis five years ago on BBC TV. Then, I recalled notable cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, who of course, is intimately connected with The Wall, as he had designed the front cover. On that evening, Mr. Scarfe was also involved drawing caricatures of leading protagonists in that election, which Labour won by a much reduced majority. Waters stated that he is a little bit cut off from British politics since nowadays , he lives in Manhattan, NY, but he was all praises for Scarfe, not least because he kept on moving with the times. He is also a cartoonist for the New York Times, and Waters also quipped about a couple of cartoons, one of which was also deemed as being too risqué for publication. Waters and Scarfe have long remained good friends. Waters has remained a rock and roll rebel, albeit a humanitarian one. His remarks about left-leaning societies in the UK and moreover, in Scandinavia, may not please the prevailing conservative governments in most of Western Europe. However, they do at least say a lot about an ideal for living, away from prejudice, bigotry, nepotism, discrimination and racism.
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