View a slideshow from the concert here.
Bank Atlantic Center, Sunrise
Saturday, November 13, 2010
After a blinding flash of light, fireworks exploded from center stage. Sirens wailed and a solemn troupe of flag bearers stood ready on a riser. Roger Waters strutted triumphantly to center stage, flanked by a replica of The Wall spanning the entire width of the arena, stretching from the proscenium to the upper reaches on either side of the stage. Suddenly, its sullen façade dissolved into haunting images and graffiti -- a pastiche of nightmarish imagery. The sounds of battle echoed throughout the auditorium. From the back of the house, a World War II vintage fighter plane soared straight towards The Wall's highest peak, hit it square on and knocked off an entire row of oversized bricks, before exploding in a dazzling inferno.
And that was just the first five minutes.
Roger Waters, his six-piece band, four back-up singers, lead vocalist and what appeared to be a cast of dozens, made up of stage hands, technicians and extras, maintained that momentum throughout a two-hour show that left its audience often in disbelief. Thirty years after its original incarnation as a bold advance in Pink Floyd's ongoing evolution, The Wall remains as iconic as ever. The music is still just as stirring and incisive, with anthemic songs like "Another Brick in the Wall" (its kid chorus enthusiastically chanted by performing arts students recruited from Dillard Senior High), "Goodbye Blue Sky," "Is Anybody Out There," "Bring the Boys Back Home," "Run Like Hell" and of course, "Comfortably Numb," continuing to strike a responsive chord with Floyd fans past and present.
Waters' retracing of The Wall is much more than merely a concert and far more than an exercise in nostalgia. Although a duet with Waters' younger cinematic self, projected courtesy of some grainy archival footage, seemed more show biz shtick than the dramatic vehicle for which it was intended. To his credit, Waters confessed to a dash of narcissism in bowing to that ploy, but given the fact the show is built on multimedia integration and some serious special effects, a bit of kitsch can be forgiven. The monumental set was in continuous construction throughout, piled up brick by brick, generally overshadowing the musicians who were mostly cloaked in its shadows. A multitude of integrated elements, like the dramatic lighting display, an array of giant puppets that suddenly loomed and threatened from the wings, and multi-dimensional animation, film and photographs, created an expansive and adventurous musical theater production with the sweep and scale of a Broadway epoch.
Waters himself played multiple roles, from amiable host to despondent victim, peppy cheerleader to a black-jacketed demagogue. Looking surprisingly lithe for a man of 67 (and resembling Richard Gere) clad comfortably in black tee and jeans, he shed all hints of his aloof persona to offer greetings to the crowd, often breaking character in response to the audience's enthusiasm. He abandoned his bass for the majority of the show, preferring instead to act as frontman, sometimes ceding entirely the musical duties to his band. He could do so with confidence, thanks to an ensemble that included son Harry Waters and long-time Floyd hired hand Jon Carin on keyboards, veteran drummer Graham Broad, and three accomplished guitarists, Dave Kilinster, G.E. Smith and Snowy White who, between them, managed to faithfully recreate David Gilmour's searing solos. Likewise, Waters fully shared the singing with the youngish-looking Robbie Wyckoff, who proved both a perfect foil and the ideal stand-in when it came to replicating Gilmour's vocal parts.
Embedded in this spectacle are visions that are both striking and surreal. Waters' brainchild from the get-go, it was a heady concept when it was conceived. Tackling themes of alienation, isolation and abuse as drawn from the bassist's real life struggles: the loss of his father in the second world war, his subsequent problems in school, and his difficult relationships with women. Thirty years later, the focus has expanded to include the horrors of a world in which war is unrelenting and terrorism is ever-present. Consequently, politics and social concerns play an increasing part in this rescaled Wall, with the twin tragedies of violence and conflict graphically illustrated in ways that are frightening and grotesque. Mostly though, the images are profoundly haunting, given the array of photographs and tributes projected on the Wall's façade early on in the proceedings and then later during the intermission. The personal remembrances of those victims of violence, previously solicited by Waters on his website, bring home the stark tragedy that befell the soldiers, civilians, activists and innocents who succumbed to conflicts both past and present.
When, at the end, that wall came down, the audience, bathed in red confetti that showered down from the rafters, was absolutely in awe. Stunning in scope and brilliant to the point of genius, Waters and The Wall had clearly scaled new heights.
The crowd: Graying hippies and original devotees, as well as younger admirers, duly
clad in tie-dye or any of the seemingly dozens of tour tees available
to anyone with $40 or so to shed for merchandise. Fathers and sons,
swooning couples, buddies out to relive the wayward adventures of their
Personal bias: Sadly, I never had opportunity to see the original Pink Floyd, but I feel confident that I've seen something comparable.
Random detail: David Gilmour was rumored to make a surprise appearance. Needless to say, he never showed.
By the way: Three's a rare opportunity for those who missed Saturday's performance to catch it tonight. Tickets are still available for Sunday night's show. But hurry. If word of mouth spreads quickly enough, they won't last long. And The Wall ought not to be missed.
The Thin Ice
Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2
Goodbye Blue Sky
What Shall We Do Now?
One of My Turns
Don't Leave Me Now
Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3
The Last Few Bricks
Goodbye Cruel World
Is There Anybody Out There?
Bring the Boys Back Home
The Show Must Go On
In the Flesh
Run Like Hell
Waiting for the Worms
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Outside the Wall