Not Just Another Brick In the Wall
Roger Waters' The Wall 2.0 is the year's best concert (so far)
Seal up the ballot boxes.
There is little need for any more mulling, politicking, or debating about what concert will win my vote for best show of 2010. After watching former Pink Floyd bassist/lyricist/vocalist Roger Waters bring the band’s epic 1979 art rock opera, The Wall, back to life at the Toyota Center there is little left to talk about.
The year has seen the re-emergence of past alt-rock staples like Smashing Pumpkins, The Pixies and Hole, and welcomed chic, new fringe favorites to the stage like LCD Soundsystem and Deer Tick. Classic rock staples like Rush, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Robert Plant all made this summer’s Cynthia Wood Mitchell Pavilion concert season one of the most memorable in recent years.
And all will come in second place (at best) to what Waters unfurled when he decided to rebuild the sights around the well-known sounds of The Wall — one of the best-selling albums in rock n’ roll history — for the first time in three decades.
Even more cathartic were the updates made to this story of personal alienation and governmental control through the use of new digital video and light technology, as well as Waters' own updated anti-war pleas that fit in seamlessly with the original on-stage story line.
Both Waters and David Gilmour wrote the music for The Wall as members of Pink Floyd, but 30 years later it is Waters who seems in firm control its artistic legacy.
For two hours he led a band that included guitarist/vocalist Dave Kilminster (he has toured with Waters in the past to sing the soaring falsetto Gilmour parts on Pink Floyd gems), guitarist/bassist G.E. Smith (formerly the musical director for Saturday Night Live ) and Snowy White (a backing guitarist on the original tour for The Wall).
Even more important: The faceless stagehands who kept filling in the white brick wall that stretched beyond the width of the Toyota Center floor.
After a pyro-spectacular to get the crowd’s attention for the opening carny-barking of “In The Flesh,” the haunting balladry of “The Thin Ice” was the soundtrack to a slideshow of the equally startling faces of armed conflict taking place in the world right now. After each picture was displayed on a giant center stage screen, it was shifted onto an empty block face until the incomplete wall was a graffiti box of disparate souls caught in the crossfire.
And the wall kept being built, even as a local children’s choir sang the all-too-familiar, “Hey, teachers, leave those kids alone!” refrain from “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” under a giant puppet of the villainous Schoolmaster.
It kept rising as Waters strummed a guitar on a darkened stage for “Mother,” accompanied only by a younger, scruffier, video of himself from 1980 performing the same song.
With a completed wall for the second set, Waters had a giant video screen for the faux-Nazi rally and marching hammers that represent governmental interference, paranoia and grief in songs like “Is There Anybody Out There?” and “Comfortably Numb.”
And by the time it was over, the wall had tumbled before our eyes into the audience close to the stage. It’s a multi-layered story with a moral — how protagonist Pink escapes his own mental prison to rejoin society, as well as how Pink Floyd helped art rock briefly reach the mainstream – that became very tangible once again.
Scarier yet, it’s a monstrous allegory that seems more fitting to the politics of the world we live in now than it did to the one Pink Floyd lived in when they wrote The Wall.