Saturday, November 20, 2010

Roger Waters: The Wall Tour 11/18/10-Atlanta, GA Phillips Arena

***WARNING:  The Following will contain SPOILERS for those that want to attend the tour for The Wall by Roger Waters***

On November 30, 1979, Pink Floyd released their double album entitled The Wall.  A rock opera about a rock star named Pink whose life begins to unravel.  Haunted by the death of his father in World War II, his over-protective mother, the abuse he suffered at school, and a cheating wife.  He responds by building a mental wall that would turn him into a Fascist hell-bent on destroying his demons.  The concept was created by the band’s bassist/vocalist/lyricist Roger Waters as he wrote nearly every song on the album.  Though it would be one of Floyd’s finest albums of its career.  It also marked the beginning of the end for the band.

The album was followed by a tour that only played four cities from 1980 to 1981.  Largely due to the fact that the band played to an elaborate stage show where during the performance.  A wall was being built between the band and its audience.  Along with inflatable figures for characters in the story, it was one of the most groundbreaking tours that anyone had ever seen.  While footage of the tour has never been officially released, it has been seen on the Internet.  Following Roger Waters’ departure from Pink Floyd in 1985, Waters played The Wall once again in 1990 in Berlin with an array of special guests.

In 2009, The Wall celebrated its 30th Anniversary where Roger Waters made the announcement of doing a full-scale tour behind Pink Floyd’s classic album.  For the world tour behind The Wall, Waters made updates to the characters and message for the album adding political commentary to the images.  Joining Waters for the tour are some of his longtime touring musicians including Waters’ son/keyboardist Harry Waters, drummer Graham Broad, keyboardist/guitarist Jon Carin, guitarists Snowy White (who also played in the 1980 tour for The Wall) and Dave Kilminster.  Also included on the tour is former Hall & Oates guitarist G.E. Smith (also on bass), vocalist Robbie Wyckoff, and as a backing vocalist Jon Joyce, who was one of the original backing vocalists from the original tour.  Also joining Joyce on vocals are Kipp, Mark, and Pat Lennon from the group Venice.

One of the big surprises of the tour is a possible guest appearance from Waters’ former Pink Floyd bandmate in vocalist/guitarist David Gilmour.  Gilmour’s appearance is more of a favor to Waters after Waters made a guest appearance at a charity show singing a few songs with Gilmour.  While Waters stated that this will probably his last tour.  What a way to go out for the art-rock legend.

At the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, I was able to get a ticket for $130 (thanks Mom and Dad) and sit in front near of the right corner of the Wall itself.  I didn’t notice until intermission that sitting rows above me was my dad’s old friend Josie with a friend of his.  We later talked after the show was over.

The show began with a man pretending to be homeless was rambling incoherently while throwing a life-like figure of Pink onto the stage as pyro began to hit for In the Flesh?  Fireworks were shooting up in the air as the band was playing the song while a group of men wearing uniform are holding flags as Roger Waters appear singing the song in front of the Wall staging.  With fireworks and pyrotechnics blasting up above to the arena’s ceiling, a model plane flies from the ceiling to the left corner of the wall where it perished in flames.  For The Thin Ice, images of those killed from war including Roger Waters’ own father appears through the circular screen above the stage as the faces would appear on the bricks of the wall.

Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 1 was presented with red images flowing across the wall as bricks start to appear stacking up.  I was able to see how it was done through projectors shooting the images at the wall itself.  The Happiest Days of Our Lives appear with lights above the arena finding a person as Roger says, “You… yes you!  Stand still laddie” as the school teacher appears as a combination of puppetry and inflatable balloons.  The song gets things going as it builds up to the classic Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2 as the children choir chorus features young kids dancing to the song wearing black t-shirts.  Solos by Dave Kilminster, Snowy White, and G.E. Smith were played throughout as they play fantastic notes to the song.

For Mother, it’s Roger Waters sort of doing a duet with himself as he sings with a 1980 video footage of himself at Earl’s Court in London.  The video image is animated in a rotoscope presentation that is projected on the wall and circular screen.  When Robbie Wyckoff sings Gilmour’s part, he’s behind the wall as other images appear while the inflatable mother looks on at the right corner of the stage towards the people sitting on the floor.  Even as White and Smith both do solos for the song.  Goodbye Blue Sky was given an updated image of sorts with birds flying throughout the wall and screen as it gave way to dark images of planes dropping symbols to signify the new political tone of the show.

Empty Spaces featured the famous fucking flowers scene where on the wall, stems appeared expand the imagery from Gerald Scarfe’s original animation as it segued to What Shall We Do Now? with the original images from Scarfe’s animation that appeared in the original show and 1982 film by Alan Parker.  The images on the wall is much broader as it goes into Young Lust.  With Wyckoff singing the song as it featured solos from Kilminster and Smith, the images of the wall show sexy women prancing around as it became a more adult show.  Even as the wall started to be nearly completed with the phone call is projected on the wall segueing into One of My Turns with images of a woman walking around a hotel room.  Even as Waters sing through people all over the stage looking up all over the arena.

In Don’t Leave Me Now, Waters continue to sing to the song with an array of images as he sings to a woman shown on the left side of the screen.  For the song’s climatic solo, the inflatable puppet of the wife appears on the right side of the stage.  With images of an array of things displaying as if it’s a TV.  It starts to break for Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3 as the show intensify with more dark images as it goes into The Last Few Bricks where the wall is nearly complete.  With one spot left inside, Goodbye Cruel World is sung with Waters singing to the audience as the last brick is filled and the wall is complete.

After a 20-30 minute intermission, the second half of the show begins with Hey You.  With Wyckoff singing the first and second verse, there aren’t any images of the wall except when it breaks apart through a series of visuals.  Is There Anybody Out There? has very little images except a spot where a light is shown from an open spot of the left corner of the wall during the acoustic guitar solo.  A section of the wall folded down for a set featuring a chair, a lamp, and a TV as Waters appears to sing Nobody’s Home.  Images of World War II movies appear on the TV and throughout the Wall as I got a very good look at what he was watching.  The set folds back into the wall as Waters leave to sing Vera Lynn with images of a young Vera Lynn shown throughout.

This would segue to an extended version of Bring the Boys Back Home with an array of horrifying images of war and poverty plus a quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower about war.  With the images dying down as it leads to the very popular Comfortably Numb.  Waters sings on the stage with the wall behind him as Robbie Wyckoff appears above the stage to sing Gilmour’s part while Kilminster does the blazing guitar solos.  Even as Waters parts the images on the wall as it then goes to black where the stage in front of the wall show instruments popping up from under.  With the band coming up on the stage for The Show Must Go On (w/ an extended opening verse), the images projected on the wall set the stage for what is to come.

In The Flesh arrives with the whole band wearing the hammer uniform and arm bands while flags appear on top of the wall.  A black flying pig also appears flying above the audience as Waters appears to sing the song as people are pointed throughout the show.  Even as audience members do the hammer signal where Waters dedicate the next song to the paranoid people of Atlanta.  Run Like Hell with its array of blasting visuals and text relating to chaos as Waters and Wyckoff traded verses throughout the song.  The pig disappeared back to the right corner of the stage as the song segues to Waiting For the Worms with images of worms slithering through on screen.  Even as it gives way to the walking hammers from Gerald Scarfe’s animation while Waters talks through a megaphone during the song.

Stop abruptly appears as the lights go down with the band getting off the stage as Water sings with a single light on him.  Even as the instruments go down to under the stage as it closes for The Trial.  Featuring the animation from the film and original concert by Scarfe, it also features some 3-D images of Pink popping up and giving the finger to the audience along with some new text.  Including the line “Shit on him” after the judge sang the line “the urge to defecate”.  The show reaches its climax as the bricks on the wall falls off the stage through an array of loud cheers.  The bricks are cleared as the band returns on stage with acoustic instruments as they all sing Outside the Wall with Waters playing a trumpet to end the show.

From the concert experiences I’ve been to that I recall going back as far as seeing Marilyn Manson back in late 1996.  I’ve seen my share of great theatrical shows.  Probably the most elaborate up to that point was the Nine Inch Nails concert for the Lights in the Sky tour back in August of 2008.  The only negatives I had with that show was that I was sitting on the side of the stage and not getting very much action of the visuals.  The other was the arena itself which I found to be foggy inside and not having a great presentation when it came to sounds.

While I ended up sitting on the side of the stage again and near the wall.  I didn’t have the same issues I had with the NIN show.  Though it was my third time at Phillips Arena, the venue is a much better place while I was able to see a lot of the visual aspects of the show from the side of the stage.  Even as I got very close looks at the Mother, the Wife, the Pig, and even the TV side stage set.  For that, it was more than enough to enjoy the show.

The audience response was truly overwhelming as nearly everyone knew the words to the songs that were going on as Waters himself definitely had a great time.  His interaction with the audience was truly spectacular with everyone just cheering and such.  Even as he sounded great with his vocals with the audience helping along in some parts.  Waters’ band also did a fantastic job.  Notably Dave Kilminster whose guitar work is phenomenal.  He may not be David Gilmour in the guitar department but was superb.  As was Snowy White and G.E. Smith.  Robbie Wyckoff didn’t sound like Gilmour vocally but he hit all the right notes the song was needed.  It didn’t even sound like a cover or tribute band doing the show as Waters and company got it right.  Though there was a bit of technical mishap during the opening notes of Young Lust, the band was able to get through it quickly.

A show like The Wall is never going to be seen ever again and I was fortunate to be able to attend.  Especially in an age of shows that try to be visually amazing but the music doesn’t translate well to its audience.  While The Wall was originally meant to display feelings of disconnection by literally building a wall between band and audience.  Waters’ new approach makes it far more interactive as the political message he adds are presented with dignity.  Even as it adds more emotional punch to the story of The Wall.  At the same time, there’s a bit of joy and excitement to the show where the audience is able to really be amazed by the visuals which are truly amazing.  Credit must go to Gerald Scarfe and the staging team behind this amazing show.

If there’s one show that people must see that is the closest thing to what Pink Floyd has done in the past.  It’s this one.  While it’s obvious that Floyd will never tour again (though the remaining members aren’t opposed to doing occasional one-off shows), Roger Waters does however keep the spirit of Floyd alive.  Even with playing one of the band’s greatest albums to keep more than 20,000 people entertained.  There will never be anything the likes of it to come.  This is theatrical rock at its finest and who better to present it than Roger Waters himself.  It’s a must-see and not to be missed.  This is a show that truly blows away everything else in presentation and audience interaction.  The bottom line is go see Roger Waters do The Wall or you will be one sorry son of a bitch in missing the greatest show ever.

Set List:  Act 1:  In the Flesh?/The Thin Ice/Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 1/The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 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 Pt. 3/The Last Few Bricks/Goodbye Cruel World


Act 2:  Hey You/Is There Anybody Out There?/Nobody’s Home/Vera Lynn/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

© thevoid99 2010

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