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Roger Waters’ “The Wall” a technical masterpiece

Visually jaw-dropping and acoustically flawless, “The Wall” anniversary tour might be the most technically phenomenal show ever staged in an arena.

The dive bomber careening over the audience and crashing in a fiery explosion. Those menacing, mammoth blow-up marionettes associated with iconic characters from the album (the schoolmaster, a wife, the pig). And of course, the wall, slowly being constructed, brick by cardboard brick, as the show progressed and used as a 240-foot-wide projection screen.

Click here for a gallery of images from the Roger Waters concert.

Roger Waters claims this will be his last-ever tour. And, really, it should be, because he could never top bringing “The Wall” to life.

He’s also managed to contemporize the semi-autobiographical Pink Floyd album, which, even after three decades, works as a complex study of politics and psychology.

Of course, there will always be the faction of fans who views “The Wall” as their best stoner companion, and hey, everyone finds meaning in their own way.

But even they likely were moved by the images of soldiers – including Waters’ father, killed during World War II when Waters was a baby – projected behind Waters and his airtight 11-piece band for “The Thin Ice.”

The rebellion and middle-finger defiance of “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1,” hasn’t disintegrated with age, either, and Thursday’s rendition – the red lights cascading like visual water, the googly-eyed schoolmaster puppet, the group of local children who burst on stage to play air guitar with the raspy-voiced Waters – made you forget those years of hearing the song endlessly drilled into your brain thanks to classic rock radio.

Interesting about the show is that while it’s presented as a theatrical production – and the gargantuan effects almost justify that top ticket price of $200-plus – Waters frequently broke “character,” to talk to the sold-out Philips Arena audience.

He joked before the gripping “Mother” that his decision to sing the song alongside video footage of himself from Earls Court in 1980 “might be narcissistic.” The boyish-Roger/67-year-old Roger moment was, actually, fascinating for its rock history significance.

But if Waters really is worried about how his ego is perceived – and who thinks that is a possibility? – he might instead want to tone down his Messiah movements during “Comfortably Numb.”

Throughout the first half of the show, roadies unobtrusively and methodically built the wall until it completely masked the band. But, while rife with symbolism, it was also a slightly jarring way to watch a concert – able to hear, but not see, the perfect harmonizing on “Goodbye Blue Sky” or watch Waters thump his bass during the nasty rock funk of “Young Lust.”

Amusingly, before the show began, several dozen attendees (including this one) had their seats automatically relocated by the venue because of visual obstructions.

A thoughtful gesture, yes, but also unnecessary. After all, for the last five songs of the first set, every seat was technically obstructed as the crowd waited for Waters to poke through a hole in the wall to sing the plaintive “One of My Turns.”

At the start of the second set, “Hey You” was performed with the band completely obscured. But that didn’t diminish the potency of Robbie Wyckoff’s eerily David Gilmour-esque vocals.

Wycoff and ace guitarist Dave Kilminster also helped turn the hazy, swaying “Comfortably Numb” into a highlight as they performed at the top of the wall while Waters paraded in front of it like an excited maestro.

In a blink, the “surrogate” band appeared around him, their instruments rising from the floor in the dark, and Waters donned the black leather overcoat and marching hammers armband to match the faux-fascist attire of the band.

“Enjoy yourselves!” he yelled at the start of the serrated riffing in “Run Like Hell,” as the words “you better run” crept across the wall in blood red.

By the time the two-hour plus show reached its inevitable finale – the wall being detonated in a cloud of smoke – it was obvious that this wouldn’t be a concert that merely gets the “It was good” treatment around the water cooler. This was one that will inspire references and arguments for years.

By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene blog

Follow me on Twitter at @ajclifestyle

26 comments Add your comment

Mick

November 19th, 2010
10:12 am

Question: What song was it when they had the effect of being surrounded by water? thanks

[...] Waters and The Wall Live. AJC staff writer Melissa Ruggieri also reviewed the show, saying the tour “tour might be the most technically phenomenal show ever staged” at Philips Arena. What did you [...]

Yaz

November 19th, 2010
11:21 am

MIck – I’m pretty sure it was “Another Brick in the Wall – Part 1″

Great show. Wish I could see it again. Definitely worth the money.

English Thatcherite Tory

November 19th, 2010
11:28 am

As a purely technologically driven multi-media show it was often close to flawless. The sound was pretty good, but at times very very loud. Waters’ U2/Bonio like narcissism and twisted leftist politics ruined much of the spectacle for me. The anti-war far left political preaching was unremitting. Clearly he still lives in a very dark place that was reflected in the very morose, aggressive, often violent (cartoon) imagery projected onto the wall. I am utterly sick and tired of musicians who revel in ramming their extreme politics down every one’s throats. The only truly positive, uplifting moment was the footage that appeared to be showing several armed arab terrorists getting wiped out – though I am sure liberals will see this in a very different light. Doubtless liberals will not like my comments, but free speech is still possible in some parts of the US … hopefully. $40 and up for a crappy “tour” t-shirt was outrageous gouging and highly ironic greed – especially given how Waters sneered at big business/corporate greed during the show.

Craig

November 19th, 2010
12:10 pm

This was the fifth, and BY FAR, the most impressive Roger Waters tour that I’ve had the pleasure of attending. As usual, the show was technically flawless, and combining that with the joy of seeing “The Wall” performed live, made it more than worth the price of admission. THANK YOU Roger, band & crew!! This was a show that I never expected to have the chance to see, and one that I’ll always remember, as it goes immediately into my “top 3″ concerts of ALL time!

Craig

November 19th, 2010
12:28 pm

Just an addendum–the other 2 of my top 3 concerts are Peter Gabriel’s “So” tour, and a late 70’s concert in which I saw BOTH Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles together–FM was the opening act, for UNDER $10.00. Wow, ticket prices have sure gone up!

Chuck

November 19th, 2010
12:28 pm

Mick were you to stoned or something? It was The Happiest Days Of Our Lives.

Do you even know who Roger Waters is? Ever listen to “The Wall” before the show?
Idiot!

Mick

November 19th, 2010
12:44 pm

Hey you – up chuck, I saw the show last week in miami and couldn’t recall the tune…

Corbin Meyers

November 19th, 2010
1:37 pm

“The only truly positive, uplifting moment was the footage that appeared to be showing several armed arab terrorists getting wiped out” – English Thatcherite Tory

The two men were neither armed or terrorists. The infamous video shows two Arab journalists and several civilians being massacred, mistakenly, by an American helicopter gunship. The show was about the affects of war and violence. That’s why a number of pictures shown were of Americans killed in the 9/11 attacks, or of Iranians killed during peaceful demonstrations. Only a total doofus didn’t get it.

Kathy

November 19th, 2010
4:53 pm

A mind-blowing spectacle for sure. But it was marred by so many people around me who talked through almost the entire show. When the band got louder, they got louder. Why did they bother coming at all?

Bill

November 19th, 2010
6:02 pm

Kathy, my sentiments exactly. A fantastic show, but parts were definitely scarred for me by idi*ts who would not shut up. Is it just me or has the incidence of nonstop talking gone up in proportion to ticket prices – you’d think it’d be the opposite but alas no(and does that mean we can look forward to people yelling at the top of their lungs nonstop for 2 hours at a $500 show…probably..ugh) Anyway, incredible production despite the moron contingent being out in epic force…

FranklinTempleton

November 19th, 2010
6:36 pm

Well, the non-stop talkers could have plants/stooges/actors, in which case this truely would have been the most brilliant and ironic concert production of all times.

Lefty

November 19th, 2010
7:01 pm

Really????
“The anti-war far left political preaching was unremitting. Clearly he still lives in a very dark place that was reflected in the very morose, aggressive, often violent (cartoon) imagery projected onto the wall. I am utterly sick and tired of musicians who revel in ramming their extreme politics down every one’s throats”
English Thatcherite Tory

Really?
This album is 30 years old and the political message, extreme or otherwise, has not significantly changed since 1980. Apparently you are unfamiliar with Mr. Waters or Pink Floyd or the film “The Wall”, otherwise you would have known what to expect as this ideology is the essence of “The Wall”. To complain about left wing political preaching about a Roger Waters/The Wall production is a bit absurd, don’t you think?

ozzfest

November 19th, 2010
7:32 pm

I am 42 and have been to 250+ concerts…I have seen everybody…Ozzy to the Indigo Girls to the NY Philharmonic….THIS WAS THE EVENT I HOPED IT WOULD BE.

Stunning to experience, sentimental, intellectual, and revelant. Roger’s dad should be proud…I know I was.

RichardGRhodes

November 19th, 2010
8:40 pm

Pink Floyd forever

Jeff G.

November 20th, 2010
12:56 am

They hit it out of the park with this one. I knew it was an elaborate production but did not realize til talking to an events security guy in the parking lot afterwards how big (22 trucks, plus a plane for the band and crew) and then reading online later how much planning and customization went into it (check out stufish.com, great site with detailed info on the planning, setup, etc.)

TheManInTheCUBE

November 20th, 2010
2:42 pm

@English Thatcherite Tory

Thanks for PROVING you WAR MONGERS and Oppressors of Humanity are still out there.

but we;ll rid the world of you one day at the gallows of Human Justice.

Deb Ball

November 20th, 2010
3:17 pm

ABSOLUTELY AWESOME!!!

Deb Ball

November 20th, 2010
3:18 pm

ABSOLUTELY AWESOME!!! I have never seen anything like this and probably will never see anything like this again!! Thank you Roger for an unforgetable event! YOU ROCK!

Carl

November 20th, 2010
5:07 pm

I seen the show in Toronto Sept.15 & 18,it blew me away,I have been reading the reviews as the tour makes its way around the continent,this review is one of the best I have read,I agree that it a production like no other,any Floyd fan lucky enough to see it would likely agree,I hope to see it again,with any luck Manchester UK for the final two shows.It is the best show on the planet and I was fortunate enough to see along with many other fans.Thank you Roger,band & crew.

Judy

November 21st, 2010
1:59 pm

LOVED the show! What I could see of it, that is. Bought tickets through Roger’s website, and was assured great seats. Well, they would have been great if everyone did not stand up through the whole show! Seats were in the middle of the floor. Now I realize people do stand up at most concerts, but this is not most concerts! It would be really nice if people would sit during most of the show, realizing that others can not see if everyone is standing up! I am a huge Floyd fan, having seen “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Animals” back in the 70’s. Next time, I will hand pick my seats to assure I’m not on the floor.

Homanani

November 22nd, 2010
2:47 am

@English Thatcherite Tory

Why did you bother coming to the show then?

You should have saved your money for the next Kid Rock show.

Kris Ellis

November 22nd, 2010
11:15 am

Did I really just see someone write that their FLOOR SEATS were bad because people were standing? It’s time to retire the hoveround and never leave the house again old lady. There were a good 15,000 people in the stands who would’ve killed to have your amazing seats on the floor. Dear lord.

Karen Wilk

November 23rd, 2010
6:54 pm

There is no band out there and never has been since Pink Floyd. There will never be another band like them. The Wall is a masterpiece that should live on forever.
English Thatcherite Tory – You should have stayed home and listened to Rush Limbaugh.

bigdawg1

November 24th, 2010
3:15 pm

Meh! I saw the REAL Pink Floyd in 1975 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium!

That was THE SHOW! Set 1: “Wish You Were Here.” Set 2: “Dark Side of the Moon.” Encore: “Echoes”

Sorry, but the RW band doesn’t hold a candle to the four of them together!
P.S. Saw them again at the Omni in 1977!

bigdawg1

November 24th, 2010
3:18 pm

Also, maybe that Tory chooses to forget the 20 percent unemployment in Britain under “The Iron Maiden?” It was that unemployment, and the dissatifaction of the British youth that unleashed Punk Music. Margaret was as much a colassal failure as Ronnie Raygun!