Live review: Roger Waters @ the Pepsi CenterBy Candace Horgan and John Leyba | November 24th, 2010 | 7 comments
It’s pretty difficult to overstate the sheer awesomeness of “The Wall.” Pink Floyd fans may argue ’till the earth goes up in a nuclear inferno as to which Floyd album is the best, but for the coherence of theme, strength of the music, and subsequent melding of art, imagery, sound and words into a live setting, “The Wall” is unmatched.
Floyd bassist Roger Waters, who wrote most of the material on “The Wall,” brought a full-scale production of the album to the Pepsi Center Tuesday night. The show consisted of the first half of the album, a short intermission, and the second half of the album. No other material was played, leaving “The Wall” to stand on its own strengths.
Thematically, “The Wall” touches on many concepts. The original album was inspired by Floyd’s dissatisfaction with playing to arena audiences, as they felt removed from the fans. In the few concert performances of “The Wall” in 1980, the band played the first part of the album while a giant wall was erected on stage in front of them, and played the second set behind the wall, tearing it down at the end.
At the Pepsi Center, Waters melded elements of musical theater into the performance, and used updated technology to create something even grander than the original. One fan leaving the Pepsi Center mentioned he’d seen one of the original performances in L.A., and that the wall itself remained blank for much of the show. Tuesday night, the wall became a giant projection screen, at times scribbled with graffiti to resemble the Berlin Wall.
During the intermission, Waters turned it into a war memorial, projecting images and tributes to people who have died in the last century of brutal bloodshed, including Waters’ own father, whose death in World War II is a prominent part of songs like “Another Brick in the Wall, Part I.”
The spectacle part of the show ranged from a series of sparklers shot from above to mimic an airplane firing bullets, to the giant, menacing puppets of the teacher and a woman that resembled a praying mantis. These could have easily overshadowed the music in less capable hands, but Waters and his band were in top form from the opening note of “In the Flesh.”
Floyd used to experiment with sound in their concerts, including quadraphonic sound. Given that history, it’s no surprise that Waters’ performance of “The Wall” had elements of surround sound. A helicopter seemed to fly right over the audience’s head. Frequently, ambient sounds and prerecorded speech from the album echoed from the back of the arena, creating a lush soundscape for the material.
In many ways, “The Wall” seems prescient of some of the issues that are in the news today, and Waters deftly utilized imagery to reinforce that link. During “Mother,” which Waters sang in stereo with a recording of his Earls Court performance in 1980, a cartoon image of a security camera panned back and forth over the audience while “Big Mother is Watching” played across the screen. During “Goodbye Blue Sky” planes dropped bombs shaped like crosses, a Star of David, a Shell Oil symbol, a Mercedes symbol, a communist hammer and sickle and dollar signs.
At one point, Waters referenced the “poor, miserable, fucked-up Roger” who gave birth to “The Wall.” On Tuesday night, it seemed he’d made peace with that dour part of himself, and instead embraced the brilliance of “The Wall.” He frequently smiled between songs, and during “Comfortably Numb,” raised his arm in triumph to the crowd, which roared their appreciation.
Whether this is Waters’ swan song is unknown, but if he does retire from the road, it will be with a bang.
John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.