Monday, February 19, 2007

Waters still runs deep (kind of)

Image: Premshree Pillai on Flickr

Got back a couple of hours ago from the Roger Waters concert at the MMRDA grounds. Complete with flying pig and all. Said pig sported the slogans I expected -- habeas corpus is important, impeach Bush now, cut along dotted line, etc. -- and also an anti-caste slogan in English and Hindi.

India was the third stop, I think, on the tour that began in ANZ. Waters will then "flow into China, India, the Middle East and South America before heading again to Europe and the United States for the tour's last concerts in July."

He was joined by son Harry Waters on keyboards, Andy Fairweather-Low (guitars and vocals), Snowy White (guitars), Dave Kilminster (guitars and vocals), Jon Carin (keyboards), Graham Broad (drums), Ian Ritchie (saxophone), and backing vocalists Katie Kissoon, P. P. Arnold and Carol Kenyon.

They performed songs from Wish You Were Here, The Wall, Final Cut, Saucerful of Secrets, Animals, and of course the entire Dark Side. Waters apparently forgot to introduce the band, and made up for it at the encore. For the encore, they performed a whole set, mostly from The Wall, including "Bring the Boys Back Home".

Yes, there was much Bush- and Blair-bashing, visually, lyrically, and pig-wise. My friends said the white Americans on the other side of them left promptly when the Bush-bashing started. Can't imagine what they expected from Waters or why they bothered to come.

Levis was selling tour t-shirts for the outrageous sum of Rs. 1400!! I wonder if Waters knows that he was selling $67 tickets, and $31 t-shirts in India last night. These prices are high even by US standards, but in India they just seem criminal. They require an Indian audience to be many things that Waters would hate, if he thought about it. But he made 'em pay, made 'em stay, made 'em feel O.K. I do love the man's music, but someone needs to tell him what the prices mean in a poor country where kids express generations of inherited self-hatred by trying their darnedest to be "cool".

I've heard Waters donates a portion of his proceeds to water harvesting. I can't find conformation on his official website (you'd think he would be up-front about the causes/charities he supports). Well, if it's true, it's ironical. Waters, like hundreds of other artists, contributes hugely to the market for bottled water, which is the only way to ingest any at the MMRDA grounds (and many other concert venues). By now it's an old story that I'm sure even Waters knows: bottling industry (soft drinks and water) depriving third-world communities of clean water, promoting model of "development" in which poor people start paying for water, etc., etc.

I prefer it when Waters stands on the fringe of establishment and reflects its irony. I don't like it when he creates irony. He should encourage the local production of bootleg tour t-shirts that sell for Rs. 150 ($3.30). Instead, sadly, he sells establishment t-shirts for Rs. 1400.

Many times I couldn't help wondering how much of the history in his songs was lost on the crowd. Who knows what Lebanon was like in 1961? More than anything else, the kids were there to be cool. Even my own friends wanted those ridiculous tees, and were worried that autographed posters might be available somewhere and they were missing out on them. They enthusiastically discussed the other Pink Floyd tees they had from previous concerts. These are not silly teenagers, but professionals over the age of forty.

Apart from the music itself moving me to tears, I felt really, really sad and afraid that the irony and raw pain of Waters' lyrics seemed largely lost on much of the crowd.

The crowd roared supportively when Waters railed against the war, against Bush and his poodle Blair. That included the skinny kid in his ghastly, gaudy red shirt that shouted "Carslberg" (Where did he get it? Who the hell drinks Carlsberg? Does he even know it's a beer? It's not even available in India!) , and thousands others like them. To them, being cool is about somehow being American (or at least declaring it, or wishing it, or something). All this business about being "cool" ... more about Indians and our self-hatred some other time.

But tonight, the music, lights, effects, everything was just fabulous!

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