Last night Richard and I, along with a bunch of other friends and colleagues, watched Roger Waters’ performance of The Wall, in its entirety, at the Schottenstein Center.
It was an awesome spectacle, and I am trying to use those terms with precision. Waters, who is whippet-thin, was in good voice and good spirits and was backed by a large and skilled band and backup vocalists. Together they were able to musically recreate the album — not quite note-for-note, but close. The songs sounded great on an excellent quadrophonic sound system, and soon much of the audience was singing along. By the time the show reached The Trial, a massive, crushing wave of sound was washing over the audience.
The music, of course, was married with a lot of showmanship and visual effects. As the show progressed, workers steadily built The Wall brick by brick. The Wall then served as the conceptual centerpiece for the show and the backdrop for wide-ranging video projections, many of which had overt political themes, before it finally crashed to the ground at the show’s climax. The show also featured enormous, extraordinary puppets depicting characters in the same disturbed cartoon style found on the album, a crashing airplane, and a huge floating boar covered with advertising and political slogans and graffiti.
The Wall is a weird, disturbing album, filled with pain and misogyny. This performance of the album sounded similar themes, and at times during the performance of album one the anti-woman messages became unbearable. For album two the perspective was a bit less anti-female (but only a bit) and more political and anti-war, including a profoundly moving video montage of soldiers returning home to greet their children. As we reached side four of the album, fascist concepts prevailed, with giant goosestepping hammers projected against The Wall, red and black flags, and Waters clad in a floor length black leather coat with a Nazi-style armband. Watching the show beginning to end, you can’t help but conclude that Waters must have had to deal with some disturbing issues in his life.
For me, highlights of the night were Another Brick in the Wall Part II, where Waters was joined on stage by a group of children who sang and danced and then went to protest at the feet of an enormous strutting schoolteacher puppet, Mother, where Waters sang a duet with a 1980 video recording of himself that was projected on The Wall, Hey You, Nobody Home, and finally the stunning, irresistible Comfortably Numb, where a guitarist stood atop The Wall as he played the iconic guitar solos from the album.
This show was an experience, and one well worth having.