Monday, November 22, 2010

Concert Review: Roger Waters: The Wall 11/11/10

So ya, thought ya, might like to...go to the show.

Well I certainly did. I have never made it a secret how huge of a Pink Floyd fan I am, so once I found out that Roger Waters was coming back to Philly (I missed him due to illness in '07) to perform The Wall, I bought tickets as fast as my fingers could type the credit card number into the Wells Fargo Center's website. Now I have been to a lot of concerts in my life (yet only reviewed one so far, Safetysuit earlier this year) with some high budget effects, but let me tell you that NOTHING compared to the creative output of what I saw close to two weeks ago.

For the uninitiated, Roger Waters left Pink Floyd close to 20 years ago after drama between him and lead guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour. The band and Waters made an agreement that the band can play a few songs from The Wall, but Waters owns The Wall, as it is his opus. He has been playing live shows internationally for I don't know how long and now he is back on tour with a major spin on the show's original format.

Now on to the "show"...

A half-built wall surrounded each side of the stage with Waters and accompanying band members performing in the center. He took the stage to perform In the Flesh 1 which caused the crowd to erupt, but I knew that the audience was in for a real treat when an airplane flew down from the top of the arena and crashed into part of the standing Wall. And that is just how the show started!! From a special effects aspect, it only got better from there, if you can believe that.

As Waters continued to play the songs from the album in chronological order, the Wall started to be built brick by brick. There was a video monitor hanging high above center stage showing many images (my view of that was obstrcuted by the large center stage hanging speaker), while even more images were being projected onto the Wall driving home some relevant meaning to the songs' lyrics.

Early on, Waters treated the fans by playing Mother, while an old video of him playing the same song at a show in London played simultaneously on a video projection. Before he started the song, he jokingly stated, "Wish us both luck". When he sang the lyrics "Mother, should I trust the government?", the crowd yelled "NOOO!!". But a greater reaction ensued when the words "NO...FUCKING...WAY!!" spelled out on the Wall after the crowd's initial reaction. At this point, it was defeaning!

For Another Brick in the Wall, Waters was joined on a stage by a children's choir, who sang the appropriate sections of the song. It was great to hear the kids join him in song due to it being funny how this music continues to spread from generation to generation. A big highlight from this part of the show was the giant animatronic evil schoolteacher, who delivered abusive lines to the children, who in turn retaliated to beat him in the end.

Another use of political imagery transpired during the song Goodbye Blue Sky. An animated video began with bombers flying over a white-colored depiction of our planet. The bombers open their drop doors which were filled with religious icons as well as Shell and Mercedes insignias that dropped them onto various continents, making it all blood red. It is a shame how much innocent has been spread due to industry and non-acceptance of different religious views.

Empty Spaces played while the same video from the 1982 film projected on the video screen. This imagery is my favorite part of the film and I was totally shocked to hear What Do We Do Now? play immediately after. This is my second favorite song from The Wall, which unfortunately is not included on the original album.

By intermission, the Wall had been completely built thus completely blocking Waters from the audience. A three-dimensional image of wall bricks were projected onto the now-completed Wall, creating an illusion of a dirty brick wall for the half-hour break.

The second half of the show contained a heavier emphasis on the imagery used from the film projected onto the Wall, including the hammer marching sequence from Waiting for the Worms. That got the crowd going crazy!

The show's most powerful moment was definitely during Bring the Boys Back Home. That song is just as relevant and means as much now as it did for the originally intended WWII soldiers of Waters' past. It was also Veterans' Day and there was not a dry eye in the house as real images of soldiers coming back to embrace their children were played. Again, it was so powerful that I still feel the energy and drama of that moment as I type these lines.

What can I say about Comfortably Numb, except that it is one of my favorite songs and of course it was such an awesome experience to hear it live again (heard it live at Pink Floyd shows in '04 and '05). Sorely missed was David Gilmour's vocals and guitar work during the song's long solo, but the replacement guitarist did Gilmour right. Again, it wasn't Dave but it is what he have to settle for due to the band's divorce. It was also a bit odd to see Waters dancing around during this part and playing air guitar for the solo.

The courtroom/trial scene from the film played during the song Trial. Not only was that entertaining in and of itself but the new 3D effects used during the "Crazy" lyrics literally blew my mind and made me feel like I was on another planet. I don't really know how to describe it except for that the visuals were unreal. And I swear I only had two beers all night.

As usual with all of his live Wall performances in the past, the show ended with the "judge's" verdict to "tear down the wall". The Wall exploded, bricks flew everywhere and Waters received a well-deserved standing ovation for over 5 minutes.

I need to mention that the only drawback and disappointment of the show was Dave Gilmour being M.I.A. There were strong rumors flying around since I bought the tickets in May that Gilmour was going to show up at either one of the New York or Philadelphia shows. I went to the last show in Philly and figured he would show up since he did not at the previous NY or Philly performances. Of course I was bummed because I would do anything to see them perform live on stage together, especially The Wall. The vocalist who imitated Gilmour was very good, but nothing can beat the original.

But I don't want to end things on a down note because the show's quality was amazing. One thing that I want to touch is my appreciation of the use of footage from the film. I know that Waters and director Alan Parker clashed many times during the film's production and that he has openly displayed his somewhat displeasure with the end product, but I, as well as Floyd fans and film enthusiasts in general, absolutely adore the movie and think that it matches the tone of the album perfectly. So to see him embrace the high points of the film and implement them into this show was nirvana.

In an age where youngins like Lady Gaga (no offense to her is intended here) put on high tech, mega budget shows filled with stage effects and animatronics, Roger Waters surpasses them all with his new Wall tour. He created a show based on an album recorded 30 years ago and took it to a whole new level with a technological 3D concept that I think more performers are going to borrow in the near future. The videos in this post, taken from with my still camera, don't really do the visualizations of the show any justice, but trust me when I tell you how cool they appear in person.

If you are a fan of Roger Waters and/or Pink Floyd, you absoutely MUST see this show. Heck, even if you have never been initiated into the Pink Floyd universe or have never heard one song off The Wall, I implore you to see this show before Waters calls it quits for good. Believe me that you have never and will never see a show like this again.

Photos courtesy of ; No copyright infringement is intended with the display of minimal second clips...I'm just a mega fan.


B-Movie Becky said...

Looks like you got this post up after all!

I can't wait. In less than a month, I'll be experiencing such awesomeness. I had to skip over the middle, not because I'm lazy, but because I don't want to "spoil" anything. I'll be back to comment after I go to the concert.

Copyboy said...

That sounds like some trip...I mean show. My friend saw Floyd back in the early 90s. He said they were awesome, even though they were roger-less.

Chuck said...

I am so envious, jealous, etc. When The Wall album first came out, I bought it and locked myself in the apartment for 2 days with mood enhancers, headphones, and excitment. I learned all the lyrics to every song on the album. Yesterday I was listening to the Sirius radio on the TV while sitting in the kitchen with my wife. A Wall song came on and I just fell into the lyrics. She looked at me and asked me how in the hell I knew every lyric to that song. I said, "honey, you just wouldn't understand." Long-term memory...still intact. Thanks for the review, and did I mention I am jealous?

FilmFather said...

Great review of the show. As you know, I was there two nights before you, and yeah, it was pretty awesome yet surreal to actually be a part of it. When that plane flew across the arena and crashed into the wall at the end of "In The Flesh," I knew we were in for one hell of a performance.

You hit on all the high points I remember, but I'll add that when he kicked into "Run Like Hell," the crowd went nuts.

And I'm not ashamed to admit that I had to blink away a tear or two when he showed the kids reuniting with their soldier parents during "Bring the Boys Back Home" -- especially that last girl, the tweener who didn't realize it was going to be her daddy walking into her classroom.

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