It’s been over 30 years since Roger Waters, the former bassist and creative force behind Pink Floyd, came up with the idea of erecting a massive wall between the audience and himself. What followed was perhaps one of the most ambitious concepts to come from any rock band ever.
The Wall has since thrived as an album; going platinum 23 times over, and the film has produced some of the most recognizable psychedelic animation and imagery that has ever been attached to music. The live show that was devised to accompany this 1979 classic, on the other hand has not been able to be seen by the masses; or at least not until recently (the original 1981 tour only stopped through four cities).
Every night on a stop of this tour, the story of Pink is told. Early events in Pink’s life such as the death of his father in World War II, abusive schoolteachers, and an overbearing mother contribute to the building of a wall (both metaphorically and physically) leading to isolation. Brick by brick, this wall is built up on stage completely separating the band from the audience. Massive puppets, a giant pig, and very elaborate visual projections help continue the story of Pink’s spiral through addiction, alienation and delirium, ultimately concluding in the (spoiler alert) destruction of the wall. Then on to the next stop.
It’s easy to see why it was so impractical for this production to continuously tour; especially when first conceived. Even by today’s standards; this tour is far more elaborate and complex than any concert you will see. Earlier this year Roger Waters announced that The Wall would tour again; this time reaching a far greater number of cities across North America and Europe; and it is in the best interest of any music fan to see this spectacle.
Having the fortune of being able to see The Wall’s last stop at New York’s Madison Square Garden this past weekend, even with a good knowledge of the story and the production, was still mind blowing. Musically, not much has changed. Of course, it’s not the classic line-up of Pink Floyd on stage, and it did take two musicians to try and fill in guitarist David Gilmour’s void, but remember – the entire premise of this show existed around the concept of separating the band from the audience after all.
The music sounded great in the arena and the sound effects were dazzling in the great open space. It’s really difficult to imagine this album without all of the airplanes, phone conversations, and schoolmasters chattering throughout the album and the sound system definitely helped add to the mystique of this show.
No tricks are spared in order to reinforce the story of the show; which opens up with a scaled bomber plane crashing into the partially complete wall. It was quite the sight to see the massive puppet school master come on stage for “Another Brick In The Wall (Part II),” which also featured the Boys’ Club of New York as the classmates. “Mother” saw Waters, now 67, step in front of the stage to play alongside projections of a younger Roger Waters in as intimate a moment as you can get alongside 20,000 other fans.
The wall continues to go up as Pink slips deeper into his isolation; culminating in “Goodbye Cruel World,” which has Waters poking his head through the final brick just before intermission. Isolation is a major theme for the first part of the second set; which relies heavily on the Wall as the major focal point. Projections are used to allow the audience to dive inside of the head of Pink. “Comfortably Numb” represents the tipping point of this isolation and features visuals with the walls expanding and contorting until they ultimately explode; revealing a militaristic setting that will be the setting for Pink’s fascist rants.
Finally; after being put on trial and revisited by all of those who have caused this wall to be erected; Pink is urged to “Tear Down The Wall.” Guess what happens next?
The Wall is simply unlike any other concert I have ever seen; in fact it’s unfair to call this just a concert. This may be the last chance to see this production led by Roger Waters and those who still have this chance to go out and see it must do so. The amount of energy that was poured into every little detail of this is tremendous; and Waters made sure to get every aspect of it just right.
Words and Photos from Jesse Zryb