There was a time…a time before the Internet, a time before I moved to a city with live shows and real record stores and before I discovered Tom Waits…there was a time when Roger Waters was by far my favorite living artist. Pink Floyd had a sound that was larger than life to this small town kid and Roger Waters had a style of singing and songwriting that let me travel to places so far beyond the confines of Placer County. Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall, even the underrated The Final Cut served as my passport to adventure.
When I was 16 my friends and I camped out in front of Nancy’s Records to buy tickets to see Pink Floyd‘s Division Bell Tour. It was my first concert without parental chaperonage and we drove all the way to Oakland for the show. It was one of those life changing experiences, and even though Roger Waters was no longer in the band, it was still Pink Floyd, and almost every show I’ve been to since then has been lacking in comparison.
It wasn’t until 2000 that I got to see Roger Waters. I was living in San Diego by the time the In The Flesh Tour came around and I went to the show alone. It was amazing to see one of my childhood icons and the show exceeded my expectations. He performed songs from most of the Floyd albums as well as his solo material. It was another night I will never forget.
Unfortunately, the next time I saw Roger, years later at Shoreline in Mountain View, was a night I will never remember. I made the classic mistake of getting way to intoxicated for that show and the night is a blur. But I made up for it in 2005 when I flew to London to attend the Live 8 concert curated by Bob Geldof (Pink himself). This event was held to end world debt for African nations and Roger Waters and David Gilmore put aside their animosity and took the stage with the Richard Wright and Nick Mason for the first time in 24 years. This would be the one and only true Pink Floyd reunion due to Richard Wright‘s death in 2008. I was there and I will never forget it.
History has taught me that a Pink Floyd or even a Pink Floyd-related show is always a production, but it didn’t prepare me for Roger Waters‘ 2010 production of The Wall. When I first heard about this tour I knew I had to go, but I already had vacation plans with my family for the week he is coming through Denver. I almost decided to skip it and just be happy that I was lucky enough to see him a few times throughout the years. But I couldn’t get the thought of seeing The Wall out of my head and a buddy and I decided we would go to Kansas City to catch the show. We got 30th row center tickets, booked a Southwest flight and a hotel on Priceline. All Hallows Eve in KC!
The show was scheduled to start at 8:00 PROMPT. But it was 8:15 before the announcement that photography was allowed as long as no flash was used. We were informed that a flash would only capture bricks and would ruin the visuals that would be provided throughout the night.
The show started with In The Flesh?…the hammers on the big circular screen above the stage, a platform with soldiers carrying flags marching across, the wall only partially built and Roger Waters as the neo-Nazi Pink in full leather trench coat. ‘Saw ya, thought ya, might like to go to the show…’ And we were off, a complete rendition of The Wall with scene, costume and prop changes with every song.
I won’t go through a play-by-play because I don’t want to ruin it for you who are planning to attend in Denver, California or wherever else. But I will say it’s a performance like nothing I have ever seen before. In the first half alone we had a plane crash, mock helicopters, kids, teachers, mothers, soldiers, hammers and of course, the building of the wall. Track by track, scene by scene, brick by brick, we witnessed the building of a wall and the breaking of a man…the destruction of Pink.
By intermission, marked by the end of Goodbye Cruel World (sang by Roger through the last remaining hole), the wall had been built. The alienation complete. And Pink wasn’t the only one. We met a kid in the restroom who had pretty much alienated himself from anyone who hadn’t taken 5 doses of LCD. He was dressed as a ghoul for Halloween…grey face-paint, black cape and hood, pacing back and forth, chain smoking cigarettes and repeating the same sentences to himself over and over again…‘I paid $200 a ticket, that’s for one ticket, not for both of us. $200 for just me. I will do whatever I want! I have been waiting for this my whole life!’ It’s too bad too, because I doubt he remembers anything and essentially spent $200 to smoke cigarettes in the men’s room of the Sprint Center.
During intermission, there was a message thanking the fans for photos of fallen loved ones. These photos were projected on the wall throughout the show. Images from Iraq, Afghanistan, various military hospitals and even in the soldiers homes. Most of the WWII footage and themes from the original The Wall were replaced with modern horrors.
The second half of the show started just like the second half of the album, with Hey You. Now that the wall was complete, it acted as a 30 ft. tall, 200 ft. wide (guessing) multimedia screen. I can’t really explain how this worked, or how sometimes it felt like the bricks were flying out at you, or the worms were crawling on you, or the hammers smashing you. I jumped and ducked a few times and I wasn’t even on hallucinogenics. The 3D aspect of it looked like something build by Pixar or Disney. During the second half I understood why tickets were $200…this had to have cost of fortune to produce.
No Floyd-influence show would be complete without the floating pig and the remote controlled pig on this particular night was as impressive as any I’ve seen. The size of a small house, the pig floated around the arena and over all of our heads…
By the time we got the The Trial, Roger brought us back to 1980 with the original animation from The Wall. It was a great reminder of the album and movie that started the whole thing. Seeing the images on the huge screen make all those Pink Floyd laser shows you’ve been to look like child’s play. This was the real deal and there arn’t really words to explain how the images, the songs and energy came together to create an environment that was pure entertainment.
‘Tear Down The Wall!” “Tear Down The Wall!” “Tear Down The Wall!” The audience chants along with Roger as the wall that took over an hour to build comes crumbling down in seconds. The judge ordered The Wall to be torn down and torn down it was…
It’s actually taken me a few days to reflect on how amazing this show was. I could talk for days about every set and image and song…but it wouldn’t be doing it justice. It’s something you have to experience yourself.
The only negative thing I can say is that this is Roger Waters‘ The Wall…not Pink Floyd‘s The Wall. The fill-in for David Gilmore could not do the Comfortably Numb bridge justice…it was actually almost painful. Roger can’t quite hit the notes like he used to and his backing band is not Pink Floyd. But with everything else going on, those are minor things. And why sit around wishing for something that can never happen again. Just appreciate that this material was written, that Waters still enjoys performing it and that he has the means to put on a show that is out of this world.
Another Brick in The Wall Pt.2 w/kids