LIVE: Roger Waters’ “The Wall” @ the Times Union Center, 6/28/12

Roger Waters

Review by Kirsten Ferguson
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Near the start of Roger Waters’ high-tech staging of Pink Floyd’s classic rock opera, “The Wall,” a group of cute and determined, if slightly creepy, kids chased down their evil teacher — a ghoulish puppet with bug-eyes and flailing limbs.

They held him at bay by chanting, “We don’t need no education” and “”Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone,” those classic lines from “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II,” Pink Floyd’s diatribe against the rigidity of British schooling — a number-one hit upon its release in 1979 by virtue of its ominous children’s chorus and bounding disco beat.

The kids’ chorus scene — played out next to the towering white-brick wall that served as both the evening’s main metaphor and as a massive video screen for projections of images and animated effects — was a highlight of the night. It was also one of the clearest expressions of the anti-authority message that ran throughout Waters’ new production of Pink Floyd’s classic concept album, “The Wall” and 1982 film of the same name.

From there, the performance got a little muddled thematically at times. But it was always cool to hear and look at — from the overwhelming surround-sound of chopping helicopter blades that preceded “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” to the “bombs” (in the form of religious icons and corporate logos) dropped by animated planes on the wall during “Goodbye Blue Sky.”

Waters — the Pink Floyd bassist and vocalist who conceived the original “The Wall” rock opera and reportedly modeled its central character, Pink, after himself — made a dramatic entry as the show began, coming onstage amid a volley of pyrotechnics. Dressed in black jeans and white sneakers, he looked a bit like a fit, well-tanned, graying New Age guru.

A projection on the wall read, “Capitalism. Trust Us,” as people on scaffolding behind the stage held flags decorated with crossed hammers (the symbol of a fictitious neo-Nazi group depicted in the 1982 film).

Overall, the message was about abuse of power and futility of war, as photos of dead U.S. Marines and 9/11 firefighters were projected on the wall alongside innocent Iraqis killed during the Iraq War.

“If we give our government, or specifically our police, too much power, it’s a very slippery slope to tyranny,” Waters said after dedicating a portion of the show to Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian student killed by British police who mistook him for a terrorist after the London Underground bombings of 2005.

If heavy-handed at times, Waters’ anti-state, anti-tyranny message never quite gelled with the personal story told in “The Wall” — that of a rock star (i.e. Waters as the character Pink) who descends into madness and fascism. By the end of the performance, when Waters is dressed as a fuehrer-like figure in jack boots, leather coat and red arm-band — who shoots off a machine gun and exhorts the crowd to follow his every move — you may be left wondering the point of it all.

The point would be some neat visual effects, of course, and the songs that stand out most from “The Wall”: the trilogy of “Another Brick in the Wall” tunes and the quieter and best-known numbers from the album, including the elegiac “Mother” (sung by Waters to a 1980 recording of himself), “Hey You” and “Comfortably Numb.”

With this production focused singularly on Waters as Pink, his backing musicians — including guitarists Dave Kilminster, Snowy White and former “Saturday Night Live” musical director G.E. Smith — were often nearly invisible but reproduced the original album quite well.

John Rodat’s review at Metroland
Derek Gentile’s review @ The Berkshire Eagle
Greg Haymes’ review and Dan Little’s photographs at The Times Union
Sara Foss’ review at Foss Forward
Brian McElhiney’s review at Walking the Margin
Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “As a visual spectacle, Roger Waters’ ‘The Wall’ tour succeeded, and then some, Thursday night at the Times Union Center. From the graphic projections and the blow-up pig in the second act to the actual wall itself, this was a totally immersive experience for 2 1⁄2 hours. And the nearly full house ate everything up, cheering from the moment soldiers marched on stage to signal the beginning of the first set, dragging a rag doll with them, to the final collapse of the huge set piece wall at the end of the second act… In the end, the show relied perhaps a bit too heavily on visuals, and if you were there to see a seasoned band perform, you didn’t really get much of that. Take that for what you will. Those who came wanting the visual experience of Waters’ ‘The Wall’ in all its glory left extremely happy.”

Roger Waters' "The Wall" @ the Times Union Center, 6/28/12
Roger Waters' "The Wall" @ the Times Union Center, 6/28/12
Roger Waters' "The Wall" @ the Times Union Center, 6/28/12
  1. Andy M. says

    I was fortunate enough to have witnessed in person the Roger Waters concert held at the Berlin Wall on 7/21/1990. It cost $22 per ticket and toward the second half of the show the authorities ended up letting people in for free because it was so crowded. While I’m sure this was an amazing spectacle it sounds like it was more theater than music. I will put money on the fact that the piece is most likely being groomed for a Broadway production along the likes of “Jersey Boys”. This was just a “trial” run. Get it?

    For those who may have forgotten about the 1990 concert, The Scorpions opened the show with “In The Flesh”. Thomas Dolby as the school teacher during “Another Brick” was epic. Joni Mitchell sang “Goodbye Blue Sky”. Members of The Band provided backing vocals and instrumentation on several songs. Hell, even 80s icons Sinead O’Connor, Bryan Adams and Cyndi Lauper were there. Van Morrison singing “Comfortably Numb” was a bonus. You probably watched it on TV because it was broadcast worldwide live as it happened. Hell, just watch it on Netflix and you might be fortunate enough to feel the sense of unity that was present that day. “The Tide Is Turning”…indeed.

  2. Rick Reuben says

    I’m amused by the reviews that say this was a “spectacle” and “relied on visuals” and “not so much about the music” and “theater” as if this is surprising.

    Did you know they made a movie called The Wall? That had lots of animation? And you never saw the band play music in the movie. Some of the people reviewing this show probably should check that movie out. It is quite good. As was this concert.

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