Rocker Roger Waters hits out at Trump and Israel at Desert Trip concert

Roger Waters, famously of Pink Floyd, at Desert Trip, a rock music festival over two weekends at the Coachella site in Indio, California.
Roger Waters, famously of Pink Floyd, at Desert Trip, a rock music festival over two weekends at the Coachella site in Indio, California. PHOTO: NYT

INDIO, California (AFP) - Rocker Roger Waters savaged Mr Donald Trump with a pig balloon caricature as he vowed to make the most of his platform on Sunday at a first-of-a-kind festival of rock elders.

The former Pink Floyd songwriter, who also renewed his longstanding criticism of Israel, closed out the first three-day weekend of Desert Trip which earlier brought the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney to the vast stage in the Southern California desert.

As Waters played Pigs (Three Different Ones), Pink Floyd's 1977 assault on power mongers, an oversize swine-like balloon floated into the crowd with a sketch on it of the Republican presidential candidate.

"Ignorant, lying, racist, sexist," ran the words on the balloon's side, as overhead screens flashed inflammatory quotes by Mr Trump including his boasts of groping women that were recently aired in an explosive video.


An inflatable pig floats over the crowd during a performance by Roger Waters at Desert Trip music festival at Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. PHOTO: REUTERS

Unflattering drawings of Mr Trump - in one he is naked with a miniscule member and in another he androgynously has developed breasts - also appeared on screens before the message in bold letters: "Donald Trump is a Pig." Waters drove home the point with a notch more subtlety as he performed Pink Floyd's classic Another Brick In The Wall, bringing to stage a troupe of singing teenagers, mostly ethnic minorities, who wore T-shirts that read "Derriba El Muro" - Spanish for "tear down the wall."

Mr Trump, who is running against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov 8 election, launched his campaign on promises to build a wall on the Mexican border as he alleged that undocumented immigrants were rapists.

The Wall, Pink Floyd's rock opera, takes the barrier as a symbol of personal isolation but it has since frequently become a political metaphor, with Waters proudly an activist.

Speaking to the 75,000-strong crowd, he hailed California students at the forefront of the so-called Boycott, Divestment And Sanctions campaign that aims to exert economic and cultural pressure on Israel.

"It's rare that somebody like me gets a platform like this, so I'm going to use this platform," said the 73-year-old British rocker.

"I'm going to send out all my most heartfelt love and support to all those young people on the campuses of the universities of California who are standing up for their brothers and sisters in Palestine," he said, hoping the boycott movement would "encourage the government of Israel to end the occupation." Israel and a number of United States Jewish groups strongly oppose the movement and recently won a victory when California barred companies that do business with the state from shunning individual countries.

While Waters' anti-Trump stance elicited cheers, albeit not universally, his statement on Israel drew a more muted response with some fans clapping but others booing and at least one proudly waving an Israeli flag as a counter-protest.

Waters is well known for his criticism of Israeli policy and in 2013 came under fire from Israel supporters for putting a Star of David on the inflatable pig.

Politics aside, he crafted the festival's most intricate presentation with the stage transformed into a "dark side of the Moon" and echoing voices reinforcing the music's sense of dislocation.

Desert Trip, which will take place again next weekend with an identical lineup, is forecast to be the most lucrative festival ever with ageing baby-boomers paying premium prices for the so-called Oldchella. Other performers were Bob Dylan, Neil Young and, on Sunday, The Who, the other pioneers alongside Pink Floyd of the rock opera.

The Who offered an ultra-abridged tour through the baby-boomers' world with news clips showing events from the Vietnam War to last year's Paris attacks as the group played a blistering The Rock from its Quadrophenia opera.

Singer Roger Daltrey still managed his intense, gritty screams and Pete Townshend his 360-degree arm-swings of his guitar - but the septuagenarians showed no reserve in joking about their age.

Introducing I Can See For Miles as their first hit in the United States, Townshend quipped: "We were sort of 1967's version of Adele or Lady Gaga or Rihanna or Justin Bieber." And Townshend remembered that the weekend would have been the birthday of bassist John Entwistle - found dead by a Las Vegas stripper after a cocaine overdose in 2002. Wherever he is, Townshend said, "Have a line for me, John."