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Roger Waters’ “The Wall” tour continues to stun

The smoke and fire were mere background compared to the rest of the toys in "The Wall" tour, shown here from a February show in Australia. Photo credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The smoke and fire were mere background compared to the rest of the toys in "The Wall" tour, shown here from a February show in Australia. All photos: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Those who saw “The Wall” tour in 2010 left the venue with their jaws scraping the parking garage floor.

How not to be impressed by the technical masterpiece that Waters re-invigorated for the 30th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s seminal album?

How could fans do anything but bow at Waters’ feet for revisiting the 1980 tour, but this time with a 240-foot-wide “wall” doing double duty as a video screen and updated illustrations by the legendary Gerald Scarfe?

The 2010 tour was such a success – it grossed almost $90 million from 56 concerts in North America on its first leg – that Waters decided to trek overseas in January and head back to the U.S. for this current run through July.

On Wednesday night, “The Wall” returned to Philips Arena. And it was no less stunning.

The opening “In the Flesh?”, with its criss-crossing red flares, curtains of pyro and dive bomber plane tearing across the arena ceiling to crash into the wall in a fireball, was more exciting than most concerts in their entirety.

What makes “The Wall” such a marvel, though, is that all of the mechanical awesomeness isn’t an empty façade designed to distract from an otherwise hollow show.

Waters isn't shy about taking an anti-authoritarianism stance.

Waters isn't shy about taking an anti-authoritarianism stance.

These songs hold up both in meaning and musicality, and their retelling in this format is a stark, sad reminder of the potency of a well-crafted concept album – a dying, if not already dead, art.

Regardless of your opinion of his politics, Waters proudly declares an anti-authoritarianism stance (he even pokes a little fun at Apple’s Kool-Aid-drinking methods) and dedication to peace.

 Those values are smeared all over this live version of Floyd’s rock opera, notably in an addition to the show – an acoustic coda to “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2),” that he dedicates to Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian man mistakenly shot eight times by London police after the 2005 subway bombings – and later during a heartfelt “Bring the Boys Back Home.”

There is little difference between this version of “The Wall” and its predecessor, including his intro of “Mother,” when he told the sold-out crowd of his plan to sing along with a black and white video of himself when he was “miserable, f-ing Roger” from years ago.

But Waters did break character, if you will, to greet the audience and thank the group of local children who joined him onstage for “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2).”

Those kids, donning black T-shirts reading “Fear Builds Walls,” came from the Atlanta Music Project, and followed Waters’ minimal direction to sing, clap and defiantly shake their fingers at the hideous schoolmaster puppet, a leering tower of bulging eyes and scaly fingers, hovering onstage.

Throughout the show, a group of stagehands unobtrusively stacked the “bricks,” made of corrugated cardboard, to build the symbolic wall, a stately monster that completely obscured the stage by the end of the first set and remained that way through its implosion during “The Trial.”

But Waters and his band, an impeccable team who played so clean and crisp that every thump of the bass resounded during “Young Lust” and each smack of the snare drum could be heard during the various parts of “Another Brick,” found ways to circumvent the wall.

The hazy “Hey You” was performed with the band and Waters completely obstructed (anyone else wonder if they were really playing and singing back there?), but for “Nobody Home,” Waters, sounding pleasantly gravelly all night, appeared in a small living room setting in a space that folded out of the wall.

What Pink Floyd fan doesn't love this image?

What Pink Floyd fan doesn't love this image?

For the aching “Comfortably Numb,” a song that causes involuntary body swaying, Robbie Wyckoff, a tremendous singer who handled David Gilmour’s parts throughout the show, and guitarist Dave Kilminster, stood atop the wall to perform. The way that Waters, parading the stage below, thrust his arms in the air to lead the crowd through the soaring chorus made you feel as if these songs are more than a continuous cash machine to him; he actually seems to feel the material.

The appearance of the black floating pig – a remote controlled fellow with sayings such as “Trust Us” and “Them Not Us” painted on his side – floated above the crowd (via remote control) as Waters and the band, donning their black fascist attire with marching hammer armbands, tore through “Run Like Hell.”

All these years later, it remains a tense, thrilling piece of music – and automatic air guitar song – and its relevance hasn’t diminished with age.

By the end of “The Wall” live, it becomes obvious that while Waters is the ringleader and messenger, the real heavy lifting in the show comes from the superior technology and array of props.

At 68, Waters is still a vibrant presence. Let’s hope he has the stamina to keep this beautiful beast of a show on the road indefinitely.

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

23 comments Add your comment

FloydFan

June 14th, 2012
7:33 am

Spot on review, Melissa. The show was “stunning” in both style and substance. “The Wall” is a tour de force that doesn’t come around very often, particularly in these days of one-song digital downloads. What a great ALBUM and show!

john mitchell

June 14th, 2012
8:20 am

Enter your comments here

john mitchell

June 14th, 2012
8:34 am

A show that stands with the great ones of the Seventies: Who, Stones, Zeppelin, of course Waters’ Floyd. Stunning musicianship and production; big show guitar-work that sets the standard.
G.E. Smith: an absolute thrill; his Tele-cohort reached the stratosphere. Mr. Waters conducting the house and the band. Hard to hold the tears; just beautiful.

Another brick

June 14th, 2012
9:37 am

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to see many incredible bands showcase their acts live. This just topped them all. I am still comfortably numb from the entire experience. Just mind blowing.

Dantes Rameau

June 14th, 2012
9:40 am

Thanks for the mention of the kids that performed with Roger on Another Brick In the Wall! They had a fantastic time! Please note that theses students are from the Atlanta Music Project, not the Atlanta Music Center. Check us out online at http://www.atlantamusicproject.org.

Dantes Rameau
Executive Director,
Atlanta Music Project

mark draper

June 14th, 2012
9:45 am

I’ve attended many concerts before, this was an astounding work of brilliance. Both sonically and visually unequalled in my eyes. Thank you Mr. Waters for coming to Atlanta. This was a multimedia event that transcends generations, more relevant now, perhaps, than when it was first written. I would love to see the show again, and again. I only wish I had the words to describe adequately the magnitude of the all encompassing presentation to those not in attendance. WOW!

Melissa Ruggieri

June 14th, 2012
10:11 am

Dantes – so sorry! I misheard Roger (his wonderful accent is a little thick sometimes!), but it has been fixed.

Thanks,
Melissa

Dantes Rameau

June 14th, 2012
10:21 am

Thanks for the fix Melissa! We gave Roger an Atlanta Music Project t-shirt so he’ll always say it the right way!

david c

June 14th, 2012
10:25 am

One of these days…

TOMJ

June 14th, 2012
10:41 am

Saw the show when he was here in November 2010 and was blown away.
Even though I knew what to expect last night, I was blown away again.
You have to set aside Roger’s political views and just enjoy the show.
Attended the Dark side of Moon tour a few years ago and more than a few people left when the pig flew around with all of the “messages” on it.
I still can’t get over the sound quality, it was amazing.
Roger has put together a group of very talented musicians, every note was performed flawlessly.
Of course, my favorite was the guitar solo in Comfortably Numb.
Can’t wait for the Bluray DVD to come out.
This was more than likely the last time we’ll ever get to Roger live.

Batmancw

June 14th, 2012
10:54 am

STILL one of, if not THE most AMAZING shows I’ve EVER seen & even BETTER than the last time it was here.

The ONE thing i absolutely could NOT belive was how many idiots arrived 30 minutes or MORE into the show & disrupted our view by having to find their seats in the dark. WHO pays over $200 for a ticket, but cant be bothered to arrive on time? Just unbelievable.

That irritation aside–cannot wait for the DVD & a BIG THANK YOU to Roger & Co for coming back to Atlanta!!!!!!!!!!! Please come again–3 times would be even better than 2

Batmancw

June 14th, 2012
10:57 am

Speaking of the PIG–it was directly above us for quite a bit & I laughed my ass off when I read the “Everything will be all right as long as you continue to consume” slogan.

Jay Maurice

June 14th, 2012
11:27 am

Hey Melissa, I’m a local music teacher and classically trained musician. As i listen to Waters (first time i had seen him) I thought back earning my music degree. During a piano lesson beside a collection of Beethoven Sonata’s in my piano teachers studio at Loyola University I saw a CD of “the wall”. I asked my professor “hey Doc, you like Floyd too?”. He said “Jay, Beethoven’s cool but this is the sh**”!

Great show.

LaLa

June 14th, 2012
11:34 am

I have to admit – I was blown away as well. A casual fan (don’t hate) became a huge fan last night. Creative, intelligent and meaningful. I was tearful many times as Roger and the illustrations on “the wall” referenced those who perished for so many reasons of war (politics aside – someone lost a loved one). The kids were amazing – on cue and in rhythm the whole time – a few of them looked a little frightened or maybe amazed at the balloon teacher – I was afraid :) . Well done all around – sound, staging, performances and Melissa – you captured it all as usual.

Gary

June 14th, 2012
11:51 am

It’s a shame Water’s ego got in the way of keeping one of the most innovative and musically talented bands together. To me, without David Gilmour’s soaring guitar solos, and Nick Mason’s drum work, the music falls a little flat and relies too heavily on the special effects to tell the story. It may have been Roger’s idea and lyrics, but it was that incredible group of musicians known as Pink Floyd that elevated the songs to “classic” status and no Roger, you were never “Pink”

downsouth

June 14th, 2012
12:03 pm

There’s nothing quite like The Pink Floyd, visually, and sonically. The sound is so amazing due their the use of Quadraphonic sound systems all these years. That’s how they get such a swirl & whirl to everything, and it’s something to behold in person. A dvd will never duplicate the live effect of everything that is going on around you in the venue. They have always strived to have the most cutting edge sound & visuals, from the beginning they had a hard time loading the gear in their old car.

My fist Floydian live event was Roger solo for Pro’s & Con’s of Hitchhiking back in the Omni in 85(?), the sound system even then was amazing. Huge stacks of speakers in the upper left, right, and rear reaches of the seats, and man, what a show! From the 4th row, it was more than this tenth grader could have imagined. Thank you Roger!! Me mind’s been warped ever since!

“This one’s for Sid, lest we forget…” Roger Waters – Pro’s & Con’s, before launching into Arnold Layne

Run like He*L

June 14th, 2012
1:05 pm

Had to be the best concert I have ever seen, Ive seen The Stones, The original Grateful Dead, and a slew of other bands, this hands down blew them all away. It wasn’t a concert, it was a experience. When you left, you are comfrotably numb, because your not just sure of what you just saw. lol. It was a fantastic show and I would go again. Why 60 minutes did a piece on the Roger Waters tour, Its the higest grossing tour in America blowing out , Bieber and everyone else. Not so bad for a 68 year old guy. If you get a chance watch the 60 minute piece.

Roger Waters

June 14th, 2012
1:13 pm

I have followed RW and Floyd’s music for 42 years…each time I saw them live I thought that show couldn’t be topped. 1st show 1973 PF Dark Side…OMG. The standard was set!
Combined I have see at least 10 concerts of theirs and each one better than before…talk about continuous improvement…

Can it get better? If it does I want to know when and where. I won’t risk missing a better show than I saw last night.

Laurie

June 14th, 2012
3:46 pm

Spot on review, Melissa. Having been a Pink Floyd fan since the late 70’s, I was once again blown away by the music, visuals, and Roger’s pure brilliance to keep this show moving, even into today’s current issues. It was interesting to see the presence of the younger generation in attendence, also a very well-behaved crowd. I knew ahead of time there was going to be the plane crashing into the wall. I looked forward to that, and it still caught me by surprise, though I even saw the plane above us in the ceiling rafters (before the show began) waiting for its cue to launch. I loved seeing the schoolmaster, the pig, mother, etc. larger than life size. I saw The Wall exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio in ther early 2000’s and have a picture I snapped of the schoolmaster (then the security made me go turn in my camera, but I still got the picture). Roger Waters makes sure that everyone can see the fantastic special effects and visual effects no matter where they sit in the arena. And what a great venue is Philips Arena – the sound was fantastic – loud and not distorted. I have seen Pink Floyd twice before and this was my first Roger Waters effort. It reminded me of both Floyd shows I saw, one in The Ohio State University football stadium about 1984, and the second in the Cleveland, OH stadium. I cannot say I liked one show over the other as all three I enjoyed immensely. I have told friends that I rarely go to concerts any more due to the exhorbitant ticket prices, however, this is one show and band I will pay good money to see. It is well worth the money. I am still blown away today from last night’s show. We even went home and put in the Berlin show of The Wall DVD we have, just to see it all over again (although the Berlin show had Cyndi Lauper, Sinead O’Connor, and a slew of other 80’s singers participating). I just want to thank Roger Waters and everyone who participated in this show and its production. Roger can be retired now, but he continues to share his outstanding talents with us, and for that I am so very grateful. I also am thankful that he ioncluded local kids into the show, you can tell they had a geat time, and for only having been there since 5pm to rehearse, they were flawless. Thanks to Atlanta Music Project and to Mr. Waters for granting the kids this unique opportunity.

John

June 14th, 2012
8:49 pm

I missed it. I missed the show. I had my head so far up my behind there will be a sonic boom when I have it removed. I hate I missed it.
The reviews are great, but I missed it,

Floyd Freak

June 14th, 2012
9:33 pm

First off, a very well Deserved Thank You to Melissa for such astute Coverage of this historic musical event… Granted Roger Waters is showing off his talents as showman extraordinaire. When i first saw FLoyd “Live” at the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, possibly 1973, they were beyond anything i had ever seen. Although “Dark Side of the Moon” had only been released a short time maybe a year, the video footage seen through binoculars, in a stadium format we came prepared, the video was quite remarkable, Musically, Rick Wright’s Keyboards, Nick Mason on Drums and David Gilmore’s guitar were impeccable. The Expertise of Waters would dnot be showcased until after the “Wall” was released 10 yrs later… Only a Couple years later Floyd released “Animals” another Sucuccesful Musical Intellectual trip into the Literary world of gandeur, put to Music in only the Style capable of FLoyd, this time though the venue was at the Omni, a limited arena in which to work some more showman Sophistication, but even though Visually it lacked somewhat of Floyd’s expectations at the time, Musically it was superb.. again, it would never get better than with the original members of Wright, Mason, Waters, and David Gilmour, mius of course the passed on talents of Sid Barrett. It would be Water’s genius that propelled Floyd’s Theatrics at the price of their Cohesiveness, alas the group split up over ideaolgical creativeness as much as any other dividing Factor, they were indeed an enigma, much similarly as The Beat’les became from their Quarryman roots, they literally outgrew the Groups capacity to survive both Creative Expression adn the unity that wove them together originally and beyond… Indeed, “The Dark Side of the Moon” is an uneasy place, a land beyond limits, darkness engulfs the soul… Waters does his Best to keep himself and possibly FLoyd Fans, Young and old in the same arena, yet his productions are increasingly “his”, which is possibly his main prerogative and incentive all woven together. we keep hoping for “one of these days”, yet it will never be, we must as the Fab Four sang “Let it Be”.

Run Like He*L

June 14th, 2012
11:44 pm

Melissa, I also want to thank you for article, for such a spot on article. I have not liked the AJC articles alot since, I saw Paul McCartney at Piedmont park and the person was so out of it, basically put down Sir Paul and every blogger ended up ragging the authoe than saying how great of a concert it was. So I thank you and I hope the AJC has you do all the reviews for concerts because your article was great. :) Thanks

Melissa Ruggieri

June 15th, 2012
3:00 pm

Hey Run – thanks for the kind words. As it turns out, you’ll be hearing more about me next week since yep, I’ll be reviewing most of the shows that come through town.
I can tell you that I’ve seen McCartney about a dozen times – most recently last summer at Wrigley Field – and loved every show!

Cheers,
Melissa