Roger Waters' "The Wall" Live
October 27, 2010
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Spoiler alert: despite the rumors, David Gilmour didn't make an appearance. Regardless, Roger Waters' front-to-back performance of The Wall was the ultimate in Pink Floyd fan indulgance, incorporating themes from the film of the same name into a multimedia explosion that kept the audience entertained for two and a half hours.
[jump] Even before the show started, there was excitement in the room as a series of "woooo!"s rippled throughout the most middle-aged, baby boomer crowd. As the overhead speakers blared clips of everything from South Park and Family Guy to old political speeches, an older man in a white coat pushed an overstuffed shopping cart through the crowd and periodically stopped to shake people's hands; the men in front of me theorized that the actor was Waters himself, but I was too far away to get a good look. If it was, it would have been a fascinating way for him to begin the show.
The show exploded -- literally -- with opener "In the Flesh" culminating in a small prop plane flying over the audience and smashing into a series of pyrotechnics on stage. Throughout the first set, a real-life gigantic wall was constructed off the front of the stage, beginning with edges that extended all the way out into the bleachers and moving toward the middle of the stage, eventually barricading the band behind the bricks as they played.
All the while, a series of gigantic marionette-style props helped tell the tale of The Wall, starting with a haggard teacher monster that loomed over the right side of the stage. During "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2," the teacher monster faced off with about two dozen young children from the Neighborhood House on St. Paul's West Side, who were given the opportunity to sing and dance the schoolchildren portion of the song in front of the sold-out arena crowd.
About halfway through the first half, Waters finally addressed the crowd. "Good evening, Minneapolis!" (We were in St. Paul, but close enough.) "Here we are 30 years later, still at it!"
And with that he announced that he was going to sing "Mother" as a duet, but not with the guest that so many were anticipating this evening. Instead, he would sing a duet with himself, using a recording from the original Wall tour in 1980. "It'll be a double track with that miserable young Roger from many years ago," he proclaimed. "Wish us both luck."
The taller the wall on stage became, the more images could be projected onto it, and the last half of the first act relied heavily on projections and visual effects. At one point the wall looked like it was starting to crumble, and people in the crowd actually gasped before realizing that it was actually an advanced style of animation that was being projected onto the bricks. Before long, the band was completely covered, and it became mesmerizing watching more and more bricks being placed onto the wall by workers from behind the structure. When there was only a small hole left in the very bottom of the wall, Waters stood peering out of it and sang "Goodbye Cruel World" before placing the last brick and fading away.
With the whole wall built, the second act was going to be intriguing. Would they play from behind the wall the entire time? Sure enough, for the first couple of songs the band returned to the stage but we could not see them, so it became more like watching a movie than a concert.But then for "Nobody Home," a panel of the wall opened up to reveal Waters, seated in a lounger in front of a television, as he sang right out into the crowd. And for "Comfortably Numb," the big hit and the moment when we would find out once and for all whether Gilmour would make an appearance, Waters came out in front of the wall to sing as two different musicians appeared on the very top of the wall to perform Gilmour's parts: Robbie Wyckoff on vocals and Dave Kilminster on guitar. There was another guitarist holding down Gilmour's parts throughout the night, G.E. Smith (yep, from SNL's old house band), meaning that it takes three professional musicians to accomplish what just one man could in Pink Floyd's heyday. Longtime Pink Floyd touring member Snowy White was also pitching in on guitar.
The ending of the show led up to one inevitable point when the wall was shoved back down, and the crowd went wild at the sight of those giant white bricks falling to the floor. Waters and his crew came out in front of the bricks to play the cute acoustic "Outside the Wall," then he thanked "Minneapolis" one more time and left the stage, leaving the hazy, smoke-filled room a bit dazed.
Personal bias: I was raised on this stuff.
The crowd: Mostly boomers with a few younger folks sprinkled in.
Overheard in the crowd: "Make sure you put down that it should have been louder!" --Man in front of me, who has perhaps been to one too many rock shows because the volume seemed fine to me.
Reporter's notebook: Pink Floyd fans are really bad at clapping in time to things.
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Steve Cohen.
Set list/The Wall track listing:
"In the Flesh?"
"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"
"One of My Turns"
"Don't Leave Me Now"
"Another Brick in the Wall Part 3"
"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"
"Outside the Wall"