The Communal Message Behind Roger Waters’ New Song ‘The Bar’
Roger Waters is playing plenty of Pink Floyd music during his ongoing This Is Not a Drill tour — including classics from The Wall ("Comfortably Numb"), Wish You Were Here ("Have a Cigar") and The Dark Side of the Moon ("Money"). He’s also performing a handful of solo songs, among them the newly debuted piano ballad "The Bar."
As of this writing, the singer-songwriter hasn’t released a full studio recording of the song, which he told Q1043 New York stretches out to 14 minutes. But since it appears to be a staple of his ongoing North American trek, it's worth taking a closer look at "The Bar" and its communal message.
The cut, which recalls the gentler moments from The Wall and The Final Cut, emerged during the early COVID-19 lockdown period. And Waters technically performed it live even before This Is Not a Drill, presenting a keys-and-vocal version during an October 2021 event supporting imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
"I’m going to sing a song and play the piano at the same time — something that [I] admit I’ve never, ever done in my life in public before," Waters says, introducing the lengthy piece. "Does everybody in the bar feel shame? / Lord knows I do," he sings on "The Bar." "I guess we all feel pretty much the same / Kind of worn out by this crazy fucking zoo."
Four months after playing that lengthy, stripped-down take, Waters appeared on the YouTube show Live on the Fly With Randy Credico, which introduced an "excerpt" of a recorded version, here fleshed out with drums and a mellotron-styled keys.
While Waters hasn’t discussed the song much in interviews, he’s made it a staple of This Is Not a Drill — performing it at every show since the July 6 launch at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena. (So far, it’s appeared during a block of solo cuts in the first set, with a reprise appearing late in the second, between "Two Suns in the Sunset" and "Outside the Wall.")
Hear Roger Waters Play a Portion of 'The Bar' Live in Pittsburgh
During his Aug. 10 show in Columbus, Ohio, Waters introduced "The Bar" by explaining the song’s title scenery. "The bar is a place in my head, an imaginary place, but it’s also a real place," he said. "There are bars all over the world. In my head, it’s a place where you can go maybe have a drink, certainly meet your friends, and hopefully meet strangers as well. And you can exchange opinions with strangers and friends with no fear or favor, and it’s somewhere where you are welcome and where you can exchange your love for your fellow man without fear whatsoever."
He also detailed the lyrics from the short segment he played live. "There are two characters towards the end of this little bit of this song, and they’re two women," he said. "One of them is a homeless Black lady who lives in a cardboard box somewhere, with a [chihuahua]. … [The other], younger lady ... is a Lakota Sioux from … North Dakota, who sees this lady and decides to cross over and help her. And she helps her by bringing her to the bar, where we all look after her."
Beyond the tour, Waters’ plans for the song remain unclear. But his band seems to love the full version: In a July interview with UCR, his guitarist Jonathan Wilson briefly teased "The Bar," saying, "That song, if you hear the whole thing, it’s got 10 verses or something and they’re incredible." (When our writer noted that it would be a "pretty good anchor for a new album," Wilson replied, "Yeah, I don’t know, but that would be fun.")
For now, "The Bar" serves a thematic purpose for This Is Not a Drill. "If my show encourages us all to nurture that feeling — our desire to feel that sense of community across the borders that are created by politics and international borders and nations and blah, blah, blah — then I will have done my job on this tour," Waters told Q1043. "That is the most important thing I will ever have done in my life: to nail my heart and my colors to that cross."