Roger Waters delivers a prog-rock spectacle for the ages
At Rogers Arena on Friday, December 10
At one point during Roger Waters’s spectacular sold-out show at Rogers Arena he pulled off what he called “an experiment in time travel”, playing in unison with a 1980 video of himself performing the ballad “Mother”. In actual fact, the entire concert was a journey back in time, to the days when his old band, Pink Floyd, would pull out all the stops and spare no expense to give its fans the type of massive rock spectacle they’d rave about for years to come.
Waters put on a riveting, state-of-the-art show three years ago when he played here on his Dark Side of the Moon tour, performing that cosmic 1973 Floyd opus in its entirety. And on his current tour, where he’s performing all of Floyd’s 1979 concept album, The Wall, he hasn’t cut back one bit on the staging and visuals. If anything, he’s ramped them up even more.
That became clear from the first song, “In the Flesh”, when huge fountains of shooting sparks cascaded around the stage and a plane came flying down on a cable from the far end of the arena to “explode” into flames at stage right. That really got your attention.
The centrepiece of the show was the wall of white bricks that was methodically built up while Waters and his crack band churned out The Wall’s tales of isolation and oppression. A major theme of the two-hour-plus presentation—which included a 25-minute break—was the futility and madness of war. Particularly heart-rending was the video footage shown during “Bring the Boys Back Home” of cheerful elementary-school kids breaking down when they catch sight of their returning soldier dads stepping into the classroom.
Waters’s own father was killed in the Second World War, and the fallout from that type of loss is just one of the issues plaguing Pink, the Waters-based protagonist of The Wall. He’s also burdened with an overprotective mother and abusive schoolteachers, the latter leading to a group of kid singers being brought on stage to proclaim “We don’t need no education!” and rail against a giant puppet teacher in “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2”.
It wasn’t just Waters’s personal demons that were targeted, though. Corporate greed and human-rights abuses also took a pounding, as on “Goodbye Blue Sky”, when animated warplanes unloaded blood-red Shell Oil emblems instead of bombs.
An hour after the show started the wall was complete, standing about 40 feet high and stretching the entire length of the stage, so that the band was completely hidden—and only Waters could be seen peeking through where one brick was missing, singing the languid “Goodbye Cruel World”. During the intermission the wall became a memorial for the casualties of human conflict, displaying pictures of scores of dead civilians, soldiers, and activists to a solemn soundtrack.
After the break Rogers wandered out by himself in front of the newly constructed barricade while his unseen band played along from the other side. One of the show’s most dazzling moments—and there were tons—came during “Hey You”, when he slammed his fists against the front of the wall and it exploded in a rainbow of light, bricks flying everywhere. It was only a trick of animation, though; the wall still held firm, and soon after the band appeared in front of it, carrying on with a set that included the atmospheric showstopper “Comfortably Numb”.
Apart from the stunning visuals, the sound quality of the show was unsurpassed—except maybe by Waters himself the last time he was here. How he manages to make a hockey rink come off like an acoustically designed concert hall is beyond me. I was still wondering how he did it after the wall had tumbled into ruin and a small army of workmen were folding down its cardboard-box bricks, stacking them aside for transport to the next unforgettable gig.
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