Roger Waters The Wall Live at Xcel Energy Center, 6/03/12
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Sunday, June 3, 2012
View a slideshow here.
Roger Waters rebuilt The Wall again on Sunday night for his dedicated legion of Minnesota fans, just to have the whole thing come crashing spectacularly down once more.
Roughly a year and a half after treating longtime fans to a live recreation of their legendary 1979 album, The Wall, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Pink Floyd mastermind Waters brought a slightly retooled (but mostly similar) tour back to the same venue and delighted much of the same audience (13,000+) with a dazzling combination of both sight and sound.
The Wall itself was massive, appropriately (given the production's brazen stance against consumerism) stretching from one luxury box to another at the opposite side of the arena. As the lights went out, flag-bearers with the now infamous hammer logos gathered menacingly on the stage, as a giant model plane flew from the back of the arena to crash into the right corner of the wall, only to be engulfed in flames and explosions that clearly got everyone's attention straight away.
The flag-bearers were lifted 20 feet above the stage as "In The Flesh?" impressively kicked in. Waters was dressed ominously in a leather trench coat, and seemed to relish singing the taunting lyrics of the track to the gathered hordes. War casualties both past and present were projected on the screens behind the band as well as on the wall itself during "The Thin Ice," bringing a tragic current resonance to the album's themes of war and loss. A image of a roiling, blood red ocean swept across the stage as the haunting strains of "Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 1" rang out in the arena, as Banksy-like graffiti images were projected on the slowly building wall.
Photos By Erik Hess
A 40-foot inflatable schoolmaster puppet then dominated the stage as the band launched into the familiar sinister melody of "Brick Pt. 2." A St. Paul kids choir joined in towards the end of the song, sporting "Fear Builds Walls" t-shirts while they shamed the schoolmaster into submission, as he slowly shrank away. Waters added an acoustic coda to "Brick" that surely gave extra time to the busy stage hands to make some quick adjustments to the set up, but really came across as a flat and awkward addition to the well-known running order of the album.
He also stepped out of character for a bit to hilariously say, "Good evening Minneapolis" (we were in St. Paul, of course), as well as mentioning a tragic story of a young person who was killed in a violent case of mistaken identity on the tube in London, and whose killers (potentially the police themselves) haven't yet been brought to justice. "If we give our government and police too much power, it's a steep and slippery slope to tyranny," Waters warned, much to the delight of the audience who still held tight to their anti-authoritarian beliefs, at least for this one evening.
Waters pulled off a duet of sorts with himself on "Mother," as audio and video footage of a young Waters playing the same song at Earls Court in London in 1980 was projected on the screens and the wall. Waters played guitar while he sang a double-tracked duet of the tender ode along with the "Poor, fucked-up little Roger from all those years ago." It was a stirring, indelible moment, and was executed flawlessly, emphasized by a graphic, graffitied response of "No Fucking Way" when Waters sang the notable lines, "Mother, should I trust the government?"
Vocalist Robbie Wyckoff smoothly sang the higher register parts of the touching song, as he would throughout the performance, filling in ably for the 68-year-old Waters. Meanwhile, a giant, inflatable Mother judgmentally watched over the proceedings from the side of the stage, as the second B in the Orwellian graffiti slogan, 'Big Brother Is Watching You,' was crossed out and cheekily replaced with an M.
During "Goodbye Blue Sky," the peaceful images of birds flying on the screens were replaced by fleets of sinister warplanes dropping their hostile cargo of crosses, dollar signs, Russian sickles, stars of David, and McDonald's logos instead of bombs. During the song's long, baleful outro, more and more pieces were added to the now towering wall, leaving just a few small gaps so that the audience could still see the band.
Photos By Erik Hess
The graphic flower illustrations from the movie version of The Wall were repeated for "Empty Spaces," before images of writhing, half-naked women filled the stage during a slinky, sultry version of "Young Lust." Roger took to the front of the stage/wall to sing a forceful version of "One Of My Turns," before a massive inflatable version of his wife/scorpion/devil came out during "Don't Leave Me Now," which found Roger sitting backwards on a chair, singing the number directly to a still life portrait of a woman projected on the wall, whose eyes and mouth slowly began to bleed red then neon streaks, before the whole wall became awash in bright colors.
A drawn out version of "Bricks Pt. 3" let the final pieces of the wall be filled in, before Roger sang "Goodbye Cruel World" through the last remaining gap, which was threateningly filled in right after the song ended, leaving a complete, forbidding wall remaining throughout intermission (timed perfectly to coincide with the split of the double-LP). Throughout intermission, sobering images of the dead and their brief but tragic stories were projected onto the screen, which was prefaced by a moving note from Roger, "I would like to thank all of you who sent in pictures of your fallen loved ones. I will remember them all."
The second half opened with the band and Waters himself performing "Hey You" hidden entirely behind the wall, leaving just the strong, evocative music to carry the show instead of any added visuals. Roger eventually made an appearance to sing "Nobody Home" from a cleverly designed extension in the wall laid out to look like a living room, while a giant image of him was projected alongside him. The living room closed like a trap door as soon as the song finished, significantly swallowed up whole by the wall itself. "Vera" featured heartwarming images of tearful reunions between returning soldiers and the kids and loved ones, as Roger reemerged to sing a rousing version of "Bring The Boys Back Home," which was augmented by an anti-war screed from Dwight D. Eisenhower himself.
"Comfortably Numb" also featured Wyckoff on vocals during the chorus, as the menacing image of the wall slowly turned in on itself, as it formed a wave-like image that Waters appeared to be floating in during the majestic guitar solos of Dave Kilminster, who filled in quite nicely for David Gilmour throughout the night (assisted by Thin Lizzy guitarist/longtime Pink Floyd collaborator Snowy White and former SNL bandleader G.E. Smith). Waters figuratively smashed the wall as "Comfortably Numb" came to a dramatic conclusion, which brought a momentary glimpse of the sun as well as cleverly transporting the band's instruments to the front of the wall through the floor in front of the stage.
Photos By Erik Hess
The militaristic propaganda portion of the show kicked in with a portentous version of "In The Flesh," which featured an angry, black inflatable boar floating over the crowd (instead of Pink Floyd's far less threatening pig). The energy level was kept high during a dynamic rendition of "Run Like Hell," which featured taunting modern slogans like iFollow, iLead, iProtect, iLose projected on the wall, while the boar itself had "Everything will be OK, just keep consuming" scrawled on its hide.
Roger shifted into the intimidating, leather-clad leader of the Hammer disinformation party, calling out those who didn't fit into his scheme and violently shooting at them from the stage. The madness eventually came to an end, as Waters/Pink broke down completely during "Stop," setting up "The Trial" that would eventually bring the wall literally crashing down in rubble on the stage. A lone, hopeful girl clutching a batch of balloons was projected on an image of the moon behind the stage, as the crowd cheered at the wall's demolition and she slowly let go of the balloons.
Waters eventually came back out amidst the fallen wall to play trumpet with the full band on "Outside The Wall," as they serenaded the roaring audience with the somewhat optimistic coda to the album that brought the night triumphantly to a close, and also allowed him to introduce his talented band. Waters is a true musical visionary, and despite his longstanding feud with his Pink Floyd band mates, he still gives his dedicated fans a spectacular show each time he takes to the stage, breaking through his own personal wall every night in order to share his inimitable gifts with us all once again.
Personal Bias: Pink Floyd's The Wall was the first double-record I ever owned, and I was thrilled to finally see it performed live in its entirety.
The Crowd: Full of old-school Pink Floyd fans, many of whom were wearing the Wall t-shirts from Waters' 2010 tour or earlier.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Did a plane really just fly right over my head?"
Random Notebook Dump: That was the best sound I'd ever heard in the Xcel Energy Center--just pristine and rich. Absolutely perfect. Kudos to their sound crew.
In The Flesh?
The Thin Ice
Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 1
The Happiest Days Of Our Lives
Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2
Goodbye Blue Sky
One Of My Turns
Don't Leave Me Now
Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 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
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.