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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Money talked as Pink Floyd fans dumped tickets

Controversial rock star Roger Waters played two shows in Oslo this week amidst boycott calls, plunging ticket prices and public outrage over his remarks on Russia’s war against Ukraine. Fans of his old band, Pink Floyd, were clearly seeing red.

Any colour you like: Roger Waters (bottom left) performing with huge video screens during his Oslo shows. PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Morten Møst

Waters, a founding member of Pink Floyd, has made several public comments on Ukraine over the last year, appearing to side with Putin’s war and criticizing Western efforts to support the Ukrainians with arms. The resulting international controversy has cast a dark shadow over the 79-year-old star’s “first ever” farewell tour This is not a drill.

The tour initially included 40 shows in 14 European countries. Waters’ remarks on Ukraine disappointed many fans and sparked widespread outrage, however, including cancellation of planned concerts in Poland.

There were blocks of empty high-priced seats at Roger Waters’ concert in Oslo just before showtime. PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Morten Møst

News of those cancellations broke last September, just after tickets went on sale for Waters’ two gigs in Norway. The two shows, at Telenor Arena just outside Oslo, never sold out. Instead, ads for discounted second-hand tickets were plentiful for months on Finn.no, a popular online marketplace owned by media conglomerate Schibsted. There were blocks of empty high-priced seats just before showtime.

By midday on Wednesday, just hours before the final show, a search on Finn returned well over 100 ads offering one or more tickets, many at half or “negotiable” prices. One ad even said that the proceeds from tickets, if sold, would be donated to a local charity shipping second-hand fire trucks, ambulances and other emergency equipment to Ukraine, with the buyer being promised a receipt.

Waters had clearly upset more than a few fans, despite being generally known (and forgiven) for tough politicical views and expressing them through his art and in other ways. His latest visit to Oslo was in stark contrast to one in 2018, when he was also invited to speak at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo. This time, there’s more talk about his recent video appearance at the UN Security Council, where he spoke on invitation from the Russian delegation.

While some disappointed and confused ticket-holders spent recent weeks agonizing over what to do on concert day, they were also encouraged to boycott it. “Any human with a moral compass should put (his or her) consumer power to work,” argued Bård Larsen, a historian with Civita, a liberal-conservative think-tank. Writing in newspaper VG in February, Larsen urged fans and readers not to show up for Waters’ shows.

“By going to a Roger Waters concert, you will participate in a grotesque, grandiose political statement,” Larsen wrote. “You should know that this is what you’re spending time, money and attention on, while the bombs are raining over Ukrainian cities where no rock stars can play concerts anymore.”

Newspaper Dagbladet contacted seven of those trying to sell their tickets online, independently of each other. “It’s because of his statements. He’s promoting the narrative than the West and NATO are partly to blame and forced Russia to go to war,” one seller told Dagbladet. Another seller, Nikolai Myrvoll-Larsen, said he and his group of friends said they’d not go to the show if their tickets didn’t sell.

Pink Floyd’s trademark flying animals hovered over the audience and some empty seats during Roger Waters’ show at the Telenor Arena.

A spokesperson for the organizer of both shows, Live Nation Norway, declined to comment on ticket sales. As the second concert was underway on Wednesday several seats remained empty as Pink Floyd’s trademark giant inflatable sheep and pig hovered over the audience.

At showtime, the audience was told to not just turn off telephones, but also that “if you’re the type who likes Pink Floyd, but not Roger Waters and his politics, you can **** off to the bar.” The “bar” is apparently a metaphoric place where Waters would like to have conversation with both fans and foes. It’s also a song title from his substantial solo production, some of which was included in the show along with Pink Floyd classics such as Money from Dark side of the moon, one of the best-selling music albums ever. It was released in 1973. Most major newspapers carried lengthy articles on its recent 50th anniversary, knowing that Pink Floyd still has a huge following in Norway.

“Quarreling among band members has been an ongoing soap opera since they recorded The Final Cut in 1983, but it’s getting harder and harder to avoid Waters’ pushy personality and political views,” columnist Audun Vinger wrote in newspaper DN at the time. “Is it possible to listen to Pink Floyd witout thinking about all this, both the success and the problems? It’s worth a try.”

Roger Waters is the only original Pink Floyd member in his 10-person tour band, which comes across more like a competent tribute band than the real thing. The advertising portrays Waters as “the creator of the golden years of Pink Floyd,” although those years and their string of brilliant albums are remembered by most other people as a genuine group effort. “The only Pink Floyd album where Waters decided everything, The Final Cut, isn’t exactly a high point of the band’s catalogue,” commentator Espen Hauglid wrote in weekly Morgenbladet.

Most major media covered the Waters shows in Oslo, with newspaper VG calling it “surprisingly dull, despite spectacular effects, theatrical gestures and a political passion that we just have to assume is heartfelt.” It called Waters a “troublemaker in free fall.”

Newspaper Aftenposten labeled the two-and-a-half-hour-long show an “Orwellian rock opera,” with dystopian video art, written slogans, and special effects distracting from the music, adding that “it’s challenging to separate music from musician when Waters’ songs are so dominated by both his personality and political position.”

NewsinEnglish.no/Morten Møst

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