Roger Waters: The Wall
Amway Arena, Orlando, FL June 16, 2012
Would somebody please note in my permanent record that on June 16, 2012 I witnessed what could have been a total and complete masterpiece. Roger Waters is a genius and he employs other geniuses. This was more than a concert, it was a multimedia, mind-expanding, emotion-tugging marvel of what is possible with technology and a stage in the early 21st century.
I hadn't heard the entire Wall album in a very long time prior to going to the show. This may have contributed to the feeling of overwhelmedness. These were songs that had been with me my entire life. I felt as though I was being visited by old friends whom I didn't realize I had missed so much. Mix that in with epic visuals so amazing you have a hard time wrapping your head around them and apparently you have the correct ingredients for a total, complete, and utter head-splosion.
Here's the story... When I got to the Amway Center I felt important. I was covering the show for Ink 19. As such, I dressed smartly and even waxed my 10-week-old mustache. I received my press ticket in an envelope from the Will Call office and proudly called out my awesome-next-to-the-soundman seat number so that others around me could bask in my glow. One guy wearing a rayon button-up shirt which featured a print of yellow beer gave me an eye-rolling salute. (That was particularly weird because the feller was sipping a warm Four Loko.) For a brief second I was La Caca -- the man -- a legend in my mind. That was until I walked past a guy who then leaned into his date, pointed at me, and said, "Man, that guy's tripping balls." ...
Outside the center I noticed a very diverse age demographic. Kids, cotton-heads, and every age in-between. All sizes too. Crack skinny to some of the biggest asses I've seen lately. It was the dark side of the navel. For a moment I pondered about how the venue would handle four or five really big asses in a row in those small folding chairs.
It wasn't long before I was inside and sitting in my awesome-next-to-the-soundguy seat. I purposely had not watched any of the footage of the Roger Waters show prior to seeing it. I wanted my head to fully 'splode. I had heard that this would happen. Already, the crowd and I were feeling anxious for what was about to occur. On the stage was a huge, partly assembled wall and that amazing circular projection screen that I had seen in pictures of Pink Floyd concerts.
I watched with slight trepidation as one guy wobbled into the aisle and completely collapsed, only to be caught by his meathead friends. I became a palm-sweating worrier as his lumberjack friends dragged his limp body past me -- clearly his head had 'sploded -- and before the first note was even played! This did not bode well. I nervously bit my bottom lip. Could it happen to me? I didn't have any friends there to catch me. With that thought came darkness.
A disembodied voice commanded us to turn off our flashes as it would diminish the multimedia experience. The crowd erupted like a bunch of excited children!
Pink, the frail character from the original album, was being held by the bad men in black. Commanding voices broke into shouts of "Spartacus!!" and then at once Pink was dropped in a clump like a used towel.
A moment of silence, and then...
Flares! Fire and smoke! Holy mother of God!! "In the Flesh?" never sounded so grand. I was taken back to my childhood and tears welled up inside me. On that brilliant stage of a partly erected wall walked Roger Waters, greeting the screams and wails of his fans with the knowledge of what he was about to do to all of our minds. He sang those wonderful lyrics causing us all to tug at the frayed edges of our emotional voices. "So you, thought you, might like to go to the show? ..." I was bombarded with lights, sounds, and awe as an airplane crashed in a fireball into the wall.
The frailty of "The Thin Ice" brought with it somberness. Along with those sweet melodies came pictures of those who had fallen in both sides of wars. For the first time that evening Roger drove the tragedy of war into our faces and hearts. You couldn't escape the feeling. "...and Daddy loves you too..." We were all tying the words to the people in the pictures. How tragic for their families. This sentiment flowed like a ribbon throughout the entire show.
From there we sailed across a crimson ocean. Having floor seats at what could've been the perfect distance from the stage was amazing. I swirled with feelings of vertigo. The sound of a helicopter being flown around the room by the surround sound and an incredibly intense beam of light searching the audience were the perfect cover for the revealing of the psychosis-ready teacher marionette. Kids who live in Orlando ran on stage, accosting the puppet with "We don't need no education." The crowd went bananas.
During "Mother" a giant white video silhouette of Roger strumming and singing the same song in 1980 at a venue named Earl's Court glowed on the pieces of the wall. All the while current-day Roger performed it on the stage. This was quite interesting. He was playing a duet with himself in the past. I became much more aware of the stage hands adding bricks to the wall. There was a certain ominous quality to the wall as it was being built. More and more projected images were able to be displayed.
Planes dropped religious, money, and corporate symbols as bombs. Gerald Scarfe's original animations of flowers making sweet love displayed across that ever-growing wall. Undulating ladies and enormous eyes were projected. Nude women danced in red light -- and all to those brilliantly written songs. I knew the fuse was lit. 'Splosion was certain. The timing of it was not. I breathed deeply in anticipation.
The giant female weirdo "wife?" figure greeted the stage with neon glowing lips while green tears dripped from eyes and bricks in the wall. Giant words and flickering cathode-tube-style video images ground into my eyes. The wall was getting closer to completion now, and as it grew, red-tinted pictures of Middle Eastern children displayed on the bricks. Large images, small images, and red-tinted video clips finally formed into a wall of bricks which fell away into the distance. "So went the subconsciousness of Pink," I thought. Roger capped off the first set by saying good bye through the last brick. The wall was complete. In the dark I felt like somebody had popped my balloon head leaving me to fly around the room and land exactly where I was standing.
Having your mind blown is thirsty work. I noticed the drink line was much shorter than the line to the bathroom at that moment so I grabbed a refreshing beverage and asked an usher where another bathroom was. Across the building I found a mostly unused restroom. While there, I saw the most peculiar thing. A very obese security guard walked up to a urinal, unbuttoned his pants, dropped them to the floor, and urinated. The legs-balls-n-all approach to using the urinal caught me off guard and I nearly choked on my delicious drink.
When the show started again it was all wall. As the band performed "Hey You" it became apparent that they were behind the wall. This made for excellent tension. The wall was bad and in the way. Lights in the cracks of the walls could be seen. The musicians were performing on the other side and we couldn't see them! This emphasized the "divided we fall" lyric.
Oh those enormous eyes! They watched us all until Roger showed up in a small section of the wall. In this part he sat in what looked to be his living room that had folded out of the wall like a hide-a-way bed. The scene also projected in holy crap size on the wall in what looked to be HD. "Vera" featured video of kids being reunited with their fathers who came home from the war. These images were very moving. The emotional faces underlined another burden of war: separation. When "Bring the Boys Back Home" displayed on the wall it was triumphant and made me want to stand and shout at the powers that be. I very much do not appreciate war.
"Comfortably Numb" brought with it more feelings of nostalgia. Robbie Wyckoff, who sang the parts of David Gilmour, did so fantastically. The chorus took the crowd's breath away while the wall-inspired pattern turned and shifted on itself. He sang from the top of the wall while Roger was down on the stage. On the right side, top of the wall, a guitarist played that eternally sweet solo note-for-note.
Soon a blimp of a black warthog splattered in corporate graffiti floated above the audience as Roger Waters thundered onto stage in a delusional neo-nazi scene. "Run like Hell" proved to be quite evocative as images of "leaders" listening to iPods and other, more sinister iStatements glowed on the wall. At one point Roger intensely blasted blanks from a machine gun at the crowd. This was projected larger than life on the wall.
"Waiting for the Worm" featured animation of worms crawling through the neo-nazi scene. Scarfe's marching hammer animation of the original movie displayed. The soft Pink character was found at the top of the wall near the end of the song. Tossed to the ground once again, Pink began his trial. The animations properly rendered being "toys in the attic crazy." The crowd chanted "Tear down the wall!!" at the end of "The Trial" while animated blood flowed all over the wall. Inwardly, I felt the sparkling of the fuse make its way towards the final mental kaboom!
"Tear down the wall! Tear down the wall!" This continued until the wall came apart and crashed to the stage! The wall was down! The wall was down! Never before had a stage prop affected me so insanely. We were free from its tyranny. We were free!!! We were free!!! I spun and sputtered, twirling inside-out. Time stopped and started. Lights flashed. Smoke billowed. The 'splosion was complete!
Roger emerged amid the rubble with all the rest of the musicians to celebrate with an organic mandolin-fueled "Outside the Wall." This wonderfully happy-ending song featured money-sign confetti falling from the ceiling and, at its end, immense gratitude. He mentioned that 30 years ago he was a grumpy old soul and has since changed. Roger gushed with thanks. After introducing the band members, they walked off the stage and the show closed.
I felt as though I had witnessed a historical event. As the house lights were finally lit, I looked around at everyone who seemed to be in the same sort of shell-shocked state. What a journey. A short guy, with his face reading the same internal spell I was under, looked at me and whimpered, "I... am... overwhelmed." I replied with a shell-shocked head shake into a nod, then turned and joined the masses making their way to the doors.
I left that room deep in thought...Thank you Roger Waters. You have 'sploded my head and for that I am grateful. I can now say that I have witnessed one of the greatest performances of all time. Thank you.