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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 1, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 22
The Wall Live: Dark but not sarcastic
(OR)
Roger Waters: We still don't need no thought control
Arts & Entertainment
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The Wall Live: Dark but not sarcastic
(OR)
Roger Waters: We still don't need no thought control

by Jessica Price - SGN A&E Writer

THE WALL LIVE
KEY ARENA
May 24


Roger Waters brought his extraordinary production The Wall Live to a full house at Key Arena last week after breaking attendance records in South America, with nine sold-out shows in Buenos Aires (a record previously held by the Rolling Stones, with five shows).

The Wall, released in 1979 as a double LP, was composed almost entirely by Waters while he was a member of Pink Floyd. It centers on the semi-autobiographical character Pink's escalating struggles with fear, isolation, alienation, and redemption. Performed in arenas and soccer stadiums internationally, the current production utilizes a 40-foot-high, 500-foot-long wall and 42 high-definition projectors, which throw thousands of images across the constantly metamorphosing structure as it is built, and then torn down, between the audience and the band.

Pyrotechnics, arena-size inflatables, and a menacing self-propelled pig create a visual extravaganza rivaling the elaborate concert staging of Madonna and U2. But unlike those performers' shows, The Wall Live transcends the artist - it actually tells a story. Though Waters guides the show, the narrative and theatrics are what makes The Wall Live a remarkable experience.

Waters, now 68, appeared spry and only too happy to be once again presenting his masterwork to a live audience (the show was famously mounted in 1990 near the Berlin Wall, and toured again in 2010). The themes of repression, fear, and misguided trust in government are more relevant than ever. Images of civilians and military personnel whose lives were lost to war or police brutality were projected onto the wall pre-show and at intermission, bringing to mind the question of whether sociopolitical conditions have gotten worse or better since the album's debut 33 years ago. From the outset, the sounds of helicopters and explosions coupled with searchlights and World War II-style propaganda synched up perfectly with the music. The album's most memorable songs, 'In the Flesh?,' 'Mother,' 'Goodbye Blue Sky,' 'Young Lust,' and 'Comfortably Numb' were painstakingly replicated by Waters with the help of his touring band (including renowned guitarist G.E. Smith and Robbie Wyckoff, who carries the David Gilmour vocal parts perfectly). A group of Seattle-area children joined the band onstage for 'Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2),' chanting 'We don't need no education &' while shaking their fists at the giant, menacing schoolteacher dangling from the rafters. Introducing 'Mother,' Waters alluded to what a 'miserable' person he was 30 years ago, unable to handle the attention of an arena 'full of people being nice to him & but times have changed,' he said. The only song straying from the original recording was 'What Shall We Do Now?,' a track scrapped from the 1979 album but usually performed live.

The Wall Live is a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime concert experience. The tour continues through July 21 in North America for those who missed it in Seattle (although Key Arena was its last stop on the West Coast). Waters has stated in recent interviews that the excitement of the work itself keeps him going. The technical process and logistics of launching such an elaborate production are a challenge he thrives on.

Beyond the concert itself, the enduring quality of the music is unique and surprisingly relevant in the 21st century. Waters states on his website that 'maybe the story of my fear and loss, with its concomitant inevitable residue of ridicule, shame, and punishment, provides an allegory for broader concerns. Nationalism, racism, sexism, religion, whatever! All these issues and 'isms' are driven by the same fears that drove my young life. This new production of The Wall is an attempt to draw some comparisons, to illuminate our current predicament, and is dedicated to all the innocent [people] lost in the intervening years & [T]here exists a cynical view that human beings as a collective are incapable of developing more 'humane,' i.e., kinder, more generous, more cooperative, more empathetic relationships with one another. I disagree.'

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