EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—Thirty-one years since the release of The Wall, one of the best selling rock albums of all time. Twenty-five years since leaving the band. Terrorist attacks, financial breakdowns, the overthrow of one of the world’s premier superpowers, the birth of scores of new musical genres and the phasing out of more than a handful that never evolved to changing tastes. And they were all just bricks in the wall.
Although the band Pink Floyd was credited as having created the concept album The Wall, the piece was largely conceived by Roger Waters, and has always served as his personal magnum opus.
It came as no surprise then, that Waters poured his heart and soul into the production and the performance. Though he is now 67, he led vocals on nearly every song, except a few such as “Waiting for the Worms,” where he instead took up a megaphone to shout the familiar fascist propaganda wearing a trench coat and arm band in front of footage of the famous marching hammers. His voice was just as sharp as it was on record over 30 years ago.
He made sure to include the audience whenever possible, asking if there were “any paranoids” in the arena before exploding into the hit “Run Like Hell” and slyly questioning if he had shot anyone after testing out a machine gun at the closing of “In the Flesh.” Some of the messages in the images displayed did a great job of rousing the crowd, including an opinionated answer to Waters’ question “Mother, should I trust the government”—a resounding, “No Fucking Way.”
Though the Nov. 3 show didn’t include the rumored cameo by Waters’ former bandmate, and Pink Floyd lead guitarist, David Gilmour, the band Waters brought along had no trouble filling the shoes of Gilmour, [keyboardist] Rick Wright or [drummer] Nick Mason, especially the lead guitarist, who matched Gilmour’s wailing solos on “Hey You” and “Comfortably Numb” note for electrifying note, at times even taking license to augment the passages, a gamble that ended up being more than rewarding.
The show was nothing without its crew though, and a performer could not ask for a better team of engineers and stage hands, piloting lights with the precision of military helicopters and setting up the bricks that isolated the band from the audience as quickly and quietly as mice.
Other caveats included a children’s choir supporting “Another Brick in the Wall Part II” and Gerald Scarfe’s newly redesigned puppets for Pink’s teacher and wife. Pyrotechnics fired up the crowd at the onset of the show, including a spectacular series of fireworks and a plane crashing and bursting into flames to introduce “The Thin Ice.” Waters picked up a trumpet for unexpected acts at the beginning of “In the Flesh?” and the end of “Outside the Wall.”
Of course, a Floyd show is a Floyd show, and the 240-foot wide, 35-foot tall wall hosted projections that were simultaneously abstract and grippingly real. Finally, footage from the original 1982 film supported the entirety of “The Trial,” while Waters stood lonely at the foot of the wall, summarizing the whole story and detailing Pink’s sentence before the chants of “Tear down the wall!” reached a fever pitch and the wall collapsed.
The Wall has never lost relevance, since its release three decades ago, but Waters made sure to keep the themes even more current, updating imagery to include portraits of innocent lives lost as recently as a few years ago and victims of conflicts far too close to home. The nostalgic certainly wasn’t left out though, as Waters took part in a duet with his past self, when it became crystal clear that his skill has not at all declined with age.
Floyd fans were right at home and elated to see Waters hitting hard in a post-Floyd world, and any rock fans unfamiliar with the album were blown away by the brilliance of the show.