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In an interview a few years ago in Melbourne newspaper The Age, Roger Waters, founder and former front man of the legendary band Pink Floyd, said: "My work flickers back and forth between introspective writing and general political comment on the way the world works."
The irony of his words and the political connotations of his music is not lost on Israel as June 22, the date for his first performance here, draws closer. Not only is Waters in the first batch of high profile international artists to perform in Israel this summer following a six year lull of foreign artists, he is the first of his caliber to stage a concert in the fields of Neve Shalom/ Wahat al-Salam, a cooperative village of Jews and Palestinian Arabs of Israeli citizenship situated equidistant from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
Waters chose this unusual venue following protests by pro-Palestinian groups over his scheduled performance in Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park.
"I moved the concert to Neve Shalom as a gesture of solidarity with the voices of reason - Israelis and Palestinians seeking a non-violent path to a just peace between the peoples," commented Waters in a press release.
"Waters' has always been interested in humanitarian causes, coexistence, and the like," Shuki Weiss, one of the concert's promoters, explains on the Neve Shalom website. "So I had to find him something suitable. Neve Shalom is my one true example of coexistence, unfortunately, so I told him about it and he said that's where he wanted to appear. This was the original plan when we talked about the concert last year. But we thought it would be in 2007. Then, in January he decided to do a short tour this year instead, and said he could come to Israel in June. The problem was, the fields around Neve Shalom had already been planted, and it didn't seem practical to do it there at such short notice, so we decided on Hayarkon Park. Instead of doing the performance in Neve Shalom, he said he would just give his press conference there. Then he looked at the matter more deeply and decided to move the concert to Neve Shalom after all."
Transferring the concert to Neve Shalom is not the singer's first political commentary on the situation in the Middle East. In 2004, the singer lent his name to a campaign against the building of the security fence launched by War on Want, an organization that "fights poverty in developing countries in partnership and solidarity with people affected by globalization."
At the time Waters stated, "The poverty inflicted by the wall has been devastating for Palestinians. It has kept children from their schools; the sick from proper medical care and continues to destroy the Palestinian economy. I fully support War on Want's campaign, and hope that as many people as possible sign the wall - as a strong message to the UK government that immediate action is essential."
Still Water's political messages regarding Israel do not seem to have deterred the enormous Pink Floyd fan base here from planning to attend Thursday's concert, or from listening to it live on radio's Reshet Bet. More than 42,000 tickets, costing upwards of NIS 375 each, have been sold so far.
The three-hour show, which is being designed by Mark Fisher (who was responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies at the Turin Winter Olympics in Italy), will include much of Water's classic repertoire. Scheduled for the musical line up is the entire album The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), which as of May 5, 2006 had spent 1,500 weeks on the Billboard charts, as well as hits from albums Animals, The Wall, Wish You Were Here and his solo material.
Waters started Pink Floyd in the late 1960s with schoolmate Syd Barret, drummer Nick Mason and keyboardist Rick Wright. Following the band's first two albums, Barrett was replaced with David Gilmour. The foursome had moderate success until the early 1970s, but it was The Dark Side of the Moon, for which Waters wrote all the lyrics and some of the music, which secured the band a place in rock history.
Waters was also responsible for penning the lyrics and musical collaborations on Wish You Were Here, The Wall and The Final Cut and was the sole author of the multi-selling hit single "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2".
The band split in 1983 and Waters launched his solo career with The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking in April 1984. The other band members, however, reunited and began releasing material under the Pink Floyd name. Waters sued them but lost the case and the others went on tour and recorded successfully without him.
In 1990, to mark the fall of the Berlin wall in Germany, Waters organized an all-star performance of the album The Wall and last year he finally reunited with his old band mates for a one-off Pink Floyd concert at the Live 8 concert in London.
Water's most recent musical release was an opera Ca Ira, which came out in October 2005 and topped the Billboard magazine classical chart.