NEW YORK, NY— Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters took his version of The Wall to the Garden transforming his autobiographical ode to 70’s excess into a night of bombastic rock theatre.
The original Floyd barely played it live when the album first came out except for isolated shows in Long Island, Los Angeles and London in 1980. An overblown film by Alan Parker starring Bob Geldof followed as well as Waters version at the Berlin Wall in 1990 that included guests from Cyndi Lauper to Van Morrison. A dormant beast at bay, hibernating before there was even talk of it ending up on Broadway.
This year’s model bodyslammed the Floyd’s meandering and melancholic wake into a blood curdling showdown of jagged riffs, in-your-face visuals and sonic boom that left the crowd dumbfounded and awestruck by evenings end.
His backup band added a gutsy edginess and full throttled swagger to the original’s stoneyed dreaminess with a politically charged bang-up to the world order as hammers, crucifixes and militaristic images charged onscreen. They filled the expansive void of the arena with sights and sounds that went from the pastoral to the apocalyptic.
A six-piece unit including Saturday Night Live alumni GE Smith, veteran Waters sideman Snowy White and Dave Kilminster faithfully reproduced David Gilmour’s guitar parts. Rumors abounded in the papers that Gilmour might show for one of the area gigs added a sense of historical relevance to the night, but this was not to be. (It is, however, likely that he may appear at one of the London gigs next year…)
Helicopter and war plane sounds buzzed in quad sound throughout the rotunda. Fireworks exploded, giant sized marionettes danced and straddled the wall and a flying pig, making a triumphant return from the Floyds Animals tour, returned as the wall was built brick by brick over the course of the first set and gradually torn down by the grand finale.
Waters played it out as the character Pink to the bands dirges, as he molted onstage from the nasty and tyrannical to his burnt out and exhaustive counterpart in the course of the two act night that coincided with the original double album set.
Sauntering onstage to the overtures of “In the Flesh?,” Waters donned a black trench coat and aviator shades taking on Pink then worked his way to the back as the wall started to build from stage left and right, that also doubled as a screen. On “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II),” members from the The Boys Club of New York wearing “Fear Builds Walls” tee shirts chimed in on the chorus’s “We don’t need no education” as they slowly paced the stage in group formation surrounding the players and ending with high fives from Waters. On “Mother” a grainy black and white video from the 1980 tour sang along with Waters.
The rest of the show was a movement of reprisals and recurring themes to anguish, loss, breakdown and redemption. On “Young Lust” things got funky as Waters chided the crowd to get up and have some fun. “Goodbye Cruel World” ended the first half as the Pink Floyd bassist peaked from inside the wall to the crowd and placed the final brick in its place completing the Wall.
“Hey You” and “Is There Anybody Out There?” were delivered from behind the wall as stage hands set up the band equipment up front. “Comfortably Numb” started slowly then peaked into an onslaught of chunky notes that rambled, then broke on thru as Pink turned around onstage and shattered the wall ending his meltdown.
“Run Like Hell” rocked things up in all its paranoid glory as the guitarists reverb bounced around the arena. For “The Trials” Pink’s tormentors including the teacher, mother and his wife faced off against his inner demons. A collective shout out to “Tear down the wall” followed as the bricks toppled to the pit below completing Pink’s breakthrough.
The band played the closer “Outside the Wall” unplugged in front of the ruins. Banjoes, guitars, harmonizing vocals and Waters simple trumpet playing took us all back to the beginning, before the wall, of course. Awesome indeed.