Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Waters' 'Wall' still dazzling, evocative

For Pink Floyd fans that were too young or geographically challenged to ever witness the band live, Roger Waters’ “The Wall Live” (or his “Dark Side of the Moon” performance from a few years ago) is likely the closest you can get. But even for non-fans experiencing “The Wall Live” is remarkable, sometimes chilling, though occasionally thematically inconsistent (the juxtaposition of war crimes with Waters leading the crowd in feel-good/we’re-all-in-this-together handclaps during a roof raiser like “Run Like Hell” is a bit odd).

Water’s show Tuesday night at Time Warner Cable Arena began with goosebump-inducing fireworks from above and below the stage as Waters appeared in black with white low top Converse Chuck Taylors before quickly stepping into a long leather military style jacket for the opening of “In the Flesh.”

During “Thin Ice” faces of those killed during wars and by terrorists - from World War II to 9-11 to Iraq and Afghanistan - were projected on “the wall” that was half erected at the start of the show as well as on the giant circular screen above the stage. It was through these faces that Waters began to draw parallels between the original concept of the film and the current state of the world.  In fact the appearance of those photographs as well as birth and death information about each on the fully erected wall during intermission served as one of the most stirring parts of the show (as did footage of children greeting deployed parents later during “Vera”). I could hear the fans around me reading the dead’s short biographies out loud.

There were also parts of the show that were joyful. Early on, Waters beamed when a local children’s choir wearing “Fear Builds Walls” t-shirts marched on stage to sing the famous lines from “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” while an inflatable two-story version of the monster/teacher figure from the film sort of danced on the side of the stage. Those children were more animated in their choreography than some others I’d watched on YouTube. Waters later said the students only had a 20-minute rehearsal a few hours earlier.

A few more inflatable figures from the film found their way on stage during the set, but the actual wall was slowly pieced together by stage hands as Waters and his 10-piece band recreated the songs from the double album. Eventually the band was hidden entirely.

The towering wall created a sort of claustrophobic feeling for those closest to the stage, while it served as a stage-wide projection screen for those toward the back during “Hey You,” which opened the second portion of the show.

Waters was soon back at center stage trading verses with Robbie Wyckoff, who sang David Gilmour’s parts. Wyckoff and the band eventually joined Waters dressed in military wear in front of the wall where they performed the last few songs of the set with Waters in similar garb firing a fake machine gun at the audience (yes, that was a bit disturbing) and maniacally singing songs like “Run.”

With the audience chanting “Tear Down the Wall” it finally fell in a quick crumble with blocks cluttering the front of the stage. That made way for one of the most interesting performances of the night as Waters and the band reappeared in street clothes armed with acoustic instruments like mandolin, banjo, and accordion (with Waters on trumpet) for “Outside the Wall.” As he introduced the stellar band - which included his son Harry, Snowy White (who performed on the original “Wall” shows with Pink Floyd in 1980), and G. E. Smith of “Saturday Night Live” fame - it was as if the wall of the lavish production had also crumbled.