When Pink Floyd mastermind Roger Waters announced that he was re-staging “The Wall” on his concert tour, I was intrigued. Having seen the show at the XL Center in Hartford Friday night, I’m blown away.
I’ve been attending concerts for more than 25 years, the last nine or so as a music writer for the Connecticut Post, so it’s safe to say I’ve seen more than my fair share. It’s also safe to say that Waters’ “Wall” is easily the most extraordinary event I’ve witnessed in my years of concert-going.
I was too young to see the original Wall tour in 1980, and the footage filmed at the concerts in Uniondale, N.Y., Los Angeles and England didn’t turn out to the band’s liking, apparently, as it has never been commercially released. Waters also staged The Wall in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall with a cast of guest stars (Van Morrison, Cyndi Lauper, Bryan Adams, Joni Mitchell). But that was different and didn’t have the feel of Pink Floyd’s 1979 masterpiece.
Friday night’s concert had all of the angst, fear and paranoia of the album, with Waters front and center, leading us through the piece, a quasi-autobiographical look at his own life and growing feelings of alienation.
Waters’ early life was shaped by the death of his father in World War II, and that also was depicted as the night’s protagonist, Pink, had his father die when his fighter plane crashed into the stage. The first brick.
His school years are personified in the bullying schoolmaster, which comes to life in the form of a giant puppet. For “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2,” Waters and his crew were joined by about 20 local youngsters, who added to the chorus and eventually chased the diabolical teacher back into the rafters.
It was at this point that workers started adding bricks to the framework of The Wall, slowly creating what would become a 240-foot-wide, 35-foot-tall character in the drama.
In what he jokingly called a “narcissistic” moment, Waters sang “Mother” as a duet with himself, circa 1981. As he played live, he sang along to footage of him performing the song at Earl’s Court in London from that year.
Interesting note on “Goodbye Blue Sky,” which I just learned. The child’s voice at the beginning, saying “Look mommy. There’s an aeroplane up in the sky,” is actually Waters’ son, Harry. Thirty years later, Harry Waters is the keyboard player in his father’s band.
The visuals on “Goodbye Blue Sky” pointed to the new direction Waters has taken “The Wall.” It’s more universal in scope, as documented by the bombers projected on the large, circular screen and on The Wall itself. Instead of bombs, however, the deadly cargo being dropped on the world below were symbols of the major religions, nations and corporations.
Very soon, the formidable wife would come onto the scene, another huge puppet that seemed to be half woman-half praying mantis. With her green skin, flaming red hair and lips made of pink neon, she was truly a horrific sight to behold.
The breakdown of Waters’ marriage would lead to the final brick in his wall and closed the curtain on the first act.
With The Wall now completed, the concert actually took on a new feel. The band may have been completely hidden, for the most part, but Waters and his co-conspirators had plenty of ways to keep the story moving along.
In pre-tour interviews, Waters spoke of the new technology at his disposal to make “The Wall” even better as a live event. He wasn’t kidding.
The computer graphics could make The Wall fade away, split down the middle and portions could flip over to reveal the next grotesquerie. Using the animation of Gerald Scarfe from the 1982 film based on the album, the second act played out on The Wall as if it were just another IMAX screen.
And the effects were tremendous. There were a few parts that had me flinching, as creatures hidden in, and behind, The Wall seemed to jump out at the crowd.
Waters was the only band member seen for much of the second act, emerging to help move the story along. He was joined by an old Pink Floyd friend, the flying pig used since the group’s “Animals” tour.
For this tour, however, the pig is now a flying black wild boar, with red lights for eyes and big black tusks.
If you’ve seen “The Wall” movie, then you will know pretty much the last 20 minutes of the show, as Scarfe’s animation was used almost exclusively as Waters sang along.
All that was left was for Waters and Co. was to carry out the orders of “The Judge” and to tear down his Wall. It was quite stunning watching it fall, coming apart in sections, much like an actual building implosion.
When The Wall was finally down, Waters and his bandmates played the coda, “Outside the Wall,” and that was that.
The concert was so epic in scope, it almost seemed like too much, if that can be said of a rock concert. Trying to take it all in almost seemed impossible, as there was always something going on with The Wall.
Actually, I see that Waters is bringing “The Wall Live” to the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., Nov. 3-4 and at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Nov. 6.
I am so tempted to see it again, just to catch a few of the things I might have missed. It was that amazing a concert experience.
The set list
Part 1: In the Flesh?/The Thin Ice/Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1/The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2/Mother/Goodbye Blue Sky/Empty Spaces/What Shall We Do Now?/Young Lust/One of My Turns/Don’t Leave Me Now/Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3/Goodbye Cruel World
Part 2: Hey You/Is There Anybody Out There?/Nobody Home/Vera/Bring the Boys Back Home/Comfortably Numb/The Show Must Go On/In the Flesh/Run Like Hell/Waiting for the Worms/Stop/The Trial/Outside the Wall