BRONX, NY—It was a night of bombastic rock theatre at Yankee Stadium, where ex-Pink Floyd founder/leader Roger Waters took on his version of The Wall. Backed by a stealthy unit of faceless gents, Waters breathed life into the recorded and film versions, resurrecting the 33-year double album from the dustbins of time and tweaking it into an updated and stinging piece all without changing a note. The insular quest for humanity remains, yet the thorny acerbic wit has morphed into a biting satire on the industrial military complex and the evils of war.
The original’s lament to the loss of Waters’ father (who died serving Britain in World War II) and his own inner turmoil on rock stardom has turned into a manifesto against the war machines as well as the universal issues of loss at the hands of government corruption and corporate greed. The 1979 album became the original band’s opus with Waters leaving shortly thereafter at the peak of their game. The movie, starring Bob Geldof, was a psychedelic mash-up destined for midnight movie screenings.
This year’s model was an in-your-face knockout of epic proportions that combined the tightly wound, manicured pomp and circumstance of a Broadway blowout with the snap, crackle and punch of a rock and roll rally. Waters played pontiff to his alter ego Pink, as he took on his own rage and meltdown, and then beckoned on back to the womb for the final showdown. A simulated fighter jet crashed onstage, kids railed against thought control, a pig on the wing flew from the rafters, quotes were shown from Eisenhower, Kafka and George Orwell, and animation from the film and political graffiti were splashed across the wall that covered the entire outfield from pole to pole.
As marching hammers took over the screens, the show opened with the militaristic stomp of “In The Flesh?” Waters baited the crowd dressed in Nazi-esque gear as he paced and howled at the masses in growling condescension as the bricks in the wall started to get laid, one by one.
A monstrous inflated teacher with brightly lit eyes and baton ready at hand watched over the proceedings as Pink and the kids cornered it on “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2.” On “Mother,” a flying pig was let loose that hovered over Yankee Stadium before gliding towards the stands, where it was soon deflated. By the time “Another Brick In The Wall Part 3” faded out, one brick remained. “Goodbye Cruel World” ended Act One (or side two of the first album) as the final brick was placed, closing off the band from the crowd for a brief intermission.
Act Two began in front of the completed wall as Pink took on his inner demons, war pigs, and then the trial before finally breaking through his own dementia. On “Comfortably Numb,” guitarist Dave Kilminster ripped a solo from on top of the wall that was incredible. His twisted vibrato, sustain and jagged leads screeched across the South Bronx, adding bolts of sonic thunder to the muggy, hot summer night. Waters beckoned the crowd with “Are there any paranoids out there?” as they rumbled through “Run Like Hell.”
The backup band, including Saturday Night Live alumni G.E. Smith and Waters’ son Harry, reproduced the piece magnificently, adding a jungle-fied edge to Floyd’s version. Waters worked the stage like a Shakespearean actor, as he morphed from a nasty dictator to a wasted rock star and back to the fold.
By the time “The Trial” ended, the crowd was chanting in unison to “tear down the wall” as the bricks fell, leaving the band exposed onstage for all to see. Stepping over the crumbling dusty relics, they ended it all with the acoustic “Outside The Wall” as the crowd stood, staring and smiling…comfortably numb.