A Pink Floyd cover band ultimately defied pressure from the frontman of the original band, Roger Waters, to boycott the Jewish state, playing to a packed crowd in Tel Aviv on Saturday night… but didn’t hit all the right notes.
The on-again, off-again UK Pink Floyd Experience concert took place following an intense campaign by the notorious anti-Israel activist against the group. In the end, the tribute band went ahead with the gig, but appeared without its usual singer, drummer and saxophone player, and performed without actually playing any of the Pink Floyd tunes written by Waters.
Since Waters’ songs are central to the Pink Floyd canon, they enlisted an Israeli Pink Floyd tribute band, “Echoes,” that played all the Waters’ songs — 10 of the 19 tracks performed at the concert.
While the crowd realized fairly quickly that something was off-key as the visiting band opened with relatively obscure, pre-Waters Pink Floyd tunes, some reviewers said the addition of “Echoes” actually wound up improving the concert, with one critic describing the local group as “fresher.”
“To the delight of the crowd they were even better than the English group,” said a review by Gal Uchovsky on the Mako entertainment site.
Posted by Echoes – Pink Floyd Tribute Show Israel on Sunday, January 6, 2019
While “Echoes” (itself named for a Pink Floyd album) played popular Waters-penned Pink Floyd songs from the “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here,” and “The Wall” albums, UK Pink Floyd Experience was left to play the songs from the albums recorded either side of the Waters-dominated Pink Floyd era.
The musical contortions came after the UK group scrapped three planned performances in Israel following heavy boycott pressure from Waters — who is a vocal and relentless proponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — only to be persuaded by the promoter to reinstate the visit.
“I used this thing called words,” said Ziv Rubinstein, a musician and promoter at EGOEast Productions, who salvaged the show. “I used the ammunition that Mr. Waters uses, which is his words.”
Waters set his protest in motion last month, writing a viciously anti-Israel post on Facebook and publicizing the personal phone numbers of members of the tribute band. After that, the band members of UK Pink Floyd Experience took down their Facebook page and canceled their performances.
Rubinstein and other members of the EGOEast team later met with each of the tribute band members, he said.
“We convinced them,” he said. “I found myself doing diplomacy for Israel, but it wasn’t political. This isn’t politics. We’re musicians and you have to separate music and politics. I told them that the audiences come out because they love the music, and not because of any one person’s politics.”
Rubinstein said he spent an entire week with the band, working to convince them to reinstate their performances in Israel.
“They wanted to come,” he said. “They’ve been here before, but they were scared. They were threatened by Mr. Waters.”
“We are obliged to fulfill our contractual obligation to perform in Israel in January 2019. However, we have changed our set and will perform a one-off special concert together with Israeli Pink Floyd Tribute Band ‘Echoes,’” the band said in a statement on its website.
“We deeply regret the upset caused by all of this, it was far from our intention to stir up all this anger and hatred, when the opposite was what was intended. In hindsight, it was very naive to think our motives would not be misunderstood and misrepresented. Profits from this trip will go to the charity UNICEF.”
The music of Pink Floyd, Rubinstein said, is beloved in Israel, despite the machinations of its creator Waters.
“It’s the music and the love of music, and that’s much bigger than the man himself. The creation is bigger than him. For the meantime, we’re the winners.”
Lambasting the group’s planned visit, Waters had written: “To sing my songs in front of segregated audiences in Israel, and contribute to the cultural whitewashing of the racist and apartheid government of that country, would be an act of unconscionable malice and disrespect.”
He added: “The people you intend to entertain are executing their neighbor’s children, shooting them down in cold blood every day.”
A note from Roger to UK Pink Floyd Experience:I am aghast to see you have plans to perform in Tel Aviv, Haifa and…
When it became clear that the band was going ahead with its Israel visit, but wouldn’t play his songs, Waters wrote a followup post: “You have told my management that you’ll be doing a set in Israel without performing any of my songs. Well, thank you for that small concession, it won’t bring back the dead or help end the occupation, but please post the set list. I’ll be most interested. I assume it will comprise Syd’s songs, Great Gig, Fat Old Sun, and post-1985 material? Please ask the Israeli tribute band who share the bill with you to denounce their country’s apartheid policies during their set. I hope they, like you, are not playing any of my songs. I bear you no ill will.”
As of Monday, the band’s website did not mention the Israel gig in its list of past shows.
Waters is known for publicly harassing artists scheduled to visit Israel or perform there as part of a campaign by the BDS movement which calls on musicians to shun Israel.
In September some 140 artists, including Waters, called for a boycott of the Eurovision Song Contest, which is to be held in Israel this year.
Having previously defended Waters from accusations of anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League in 2013 said “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories” have “seeped into the totality” of the former Pink Floyd frontman’s views.
The ADL was responding to comments Water made in an interview with Counterpunch magazine comparing Israeli treatment of the Palestinians to Nazi Germany. “Judging by his remarks, Roger Waters has absorbed classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and these have now seeped into the totality of his views,” Abraham H. Foxman, then national director of the ADL, told The Times of Israel at the time. “His comments about Jews and Israel have gotten progressively worse over time. It started with anti-Israel invective, and has now morphed into conspiratorial anti-Semitism.” Added Foxman: “How sad that a creative genius could become so perverted by his own narrow-minded bigotry.”
In the interview, Waters remarked, regarding the Palestinians, that the “parallels with what went on in the ’30s in Germany are so crushingly obvious.”