Roger Waters – The Wall Live
July 7, 2012
The Bronx, New York
The “Wall” show remains a milestone in rock history, though, and there’s no point in denying it. Never again will one be able to accept the technical clumsiness, distorted sound and meagre visuals of most arena rock shows as inevitable….the “Wall” show will still be the touchstone against which all future rock spectacles must be measured.
— John Rockwell of the New York Times, reviewing the February 26, 1980, performance of “The Wall” at Nassau Coliseum.
Well, Roger Waters has done it again.
The lavishly updated 2012 version of “The Wall” came to Yankee Stadium during a searing summer evening in the Bronx. By all accounts jaws were dropping throughout the stadium and the experience left more than a few concertgoers stunned.
Welcome to the new standard for Big Rock Shows.
Somebody call Bono.
Actually, scratch that. He’ll just ruin it.
Live performances of this grand behemoth of all rock concept albums were rare up until its 30th anniversary. There were the original 31 shows in 1980–1981 that took in four cities across the United Kingdom and the United States. Roger Waters then performed the album with his own band in Berlin in 1990 to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 2010, Waters decided to give it another go and has been trekking it around the world ever since.
Yankee Stadium itself is a confusing maze of walls, barriers and ramps that give you the distinct feeling of being closed in, shut off and somehow always walking in the wrong direction. This way to the M.C. Escher exhibit, “Bouncing Off Non-Existent Walls and the Impossibility of 20th Century Dutch Architecture.” The building is a fitting metaphor for The Wall’s own twisted ramparts of estrangement and emotional claustrophobia.
Rock shows in sports complexes are nothing new but it’s always strange gearing up for an evening of music with “Beer here!” caddies selling overpriced swill in plastic bottles, and bags of peanuts flying through the air. Somehow the worlds of sport and rock are at odds here. I wondered if the stadium crew would stop selling beers after a certain point. Was there a seventh-song stretch or something?
Much like the fireworks of the previous week here in New York City, the performers waited to begin the festivities until nightfall for maximum impact.
And what a beginning.
The opening power and bombast of “In The Flesh?” hits with exploding pyrotechnics and an erupting sound so enormous it’s overwhelming. Audio effects are blasting at you and through you in a 360-degree pattern of roaring airplane engines and detonating bombs. You wonder if all of New York City can hear and feel the total sonic Armageddon.
Images are cascading across a gigantic white brick wall that spans the entire outfield and acts as one massive projection screen. Continuous flashes of graffiti litter the wall’s surface: if at first you don’t succeed, air strike. Sound and vision are converging at an alarming rate. It is a continuous stream of sensory overload.
I quickly realize I’ve never seen, heard or felt anything like this before. It’s almost too much to take in.
I am in the here and now and there is no place I’d rather be.
After a few songs you realize Roger Waters is in top form. His voice is powerful, acerbic and biting. He’s commanding the stage and all emotional and musical currents are running directly through him.
There is no way to separate the songs from the imagery and no reason to. The experience is the perfect balance and total effect of the audio and the visual:
“Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)” is a blood red sea surging over melodic echoes of that famous electric guitar riff.
“Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) Reprise” is dedicated to Jean Charles de Menezes who was murdered by London police in 2005 after being mistaken for a terrorist. Waters goes on to dedicate the show to “all the victims of state terror.”
“Mother” is a sublime somber moment as Waters accompanies a video of himself performing in London in 1980. It’s stark and hauntingly beautiful.
“Goodbye Blue Sky” visualizes a global air strike. Religious symbols and corporate logos are bombs scorching an ideological wasteland.
“Comfortably Numb” is anything but as Dave Kilminster stands alone atop the wall and replicates David Gilmour’s original guitar solo with passion and respect. The solo stands as one of the great achievements in rock music and one of the single best guitar moments in any genre.
“In The Flesh” features a huge floating black boar (the evil twin to the Animals era giant pink pig?) riddled with anticapitalist graffiti and bastardized corporate logos.
“The Trial” is pure fascist theater as the story runs its course and comes crashing to its frightening and violent conclusion as the wall is finally torn down.
Roger Waters has pulled off what most contemporary performers cannot—creating a thoroughly entertaining, engaging and thoughtful concert experience in a cavernous soulless sporting complex. Shows this big usually fall flat and rarely live up to the hype of their billing.
Waters has extended the reach of the original album’s conceptual space. He has turned the internal psychological issues of The Wall inside out to convey broader and more universal themes of state tyranny and oppression. Waters has also heightened the album’s antiwar message and infused the story with anticorporate and antiglobalist viewpoints.
As the very last notes of music began to fade into the Bronx night a light rain started to fall. On the way out of the stadium, police presence was high and there were signs at every turn:
“IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.”
How utterly creepy in an I saw my neighbor wearing a hoodie carrying a tattered copy of Das Kapital so maybe I better call the thought police and isn’t this just the new world order so I better not ask too many questions and we’re just gonna have to accept it and live this way from now on kind of way.
Of course, George Orwell himself couldn’t have written a better ending to a night of surreal dystopian nightmares, high-dramatic spectacle and terrifying irony.
In the Flesh?
The Thin Ice
Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)
Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) Reprise
Goodbye Blue Sky
What Shall We Do Now?
One of My Turns
Don’t Leave Me Now
Another Brick in the Wall (Part 3)
The Last Few Bricks
Goodbye Cruel World
Is There Anybody Out There?
Bring the Boys Back Home
The Show Must Go On
In the Flesh
Run Like Hell
Waiting for the Worms
Outside the Wall
Original artwork by Gerald Scarfe. Live concert photos by André Bergeron.