Roger Waters tears down ‘The Wall’ in Toronto
TORONTO ñ Roger Waters tore down the house Wednesday night in Toronto as he kicked off the 30th anniversary world tour for Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”
He walked out to thunderous applause beginning with the first track of the seminal concept album, “In the Flesh,” and the adulation never stopped. Synchronized pyrotechnics, Orwellian imagery and marching hammers culminated with a plane flying into the wall and bursting into flames. And that was just the opener.
Many times when classic rock artists perform, there’s an air of nostalgia, but not with Waters. Not only does the material seem fresh, it also appears 2010 is the right time for this tour, probably because of the technology that catapults it into the stratosphere.
Throughout the nearly 2 1/2-hour performance, the wall fills with imagery making the large arena feel almost cozy. Thanks to the width of the wall, which spans the Air Canada Centre, and the constant saturated, crisp projection, there doesn’t seem to be a bad vantage point. It’s almost like seeing a staged musical in an appropriately sized theater.
The first half of the show sees the wall going up brick by brick, and by the last song, “Goodbye Cruel World,” the massive structure is complete.
Tour designer Jeremy Lloyd says the wall stretches 240 feet across and is more than 35 feet tall. Once built, the wall consists of 424 bricks, of which 242 are built, assembled and ultimately knocked down throughout the course of the show.
When Waters conceived the rock opera in the late 1970s, he wanted to capture the cause and allusions of personal alienation, hence the metaphorical wall. The character Pink shares a lot of attributes with Waters, and some with his friend and band co-founder Syd Barrett.
Waters exaggerates the circumstances a bit, giving Pink an overprotective mother, abusive teachers and dysfunctional relationship. As he escapes through drug use and violence, each instance becomes another brick in the wall that leads to his catatonic state, which isolates him from human contact.
One of the most moving performances was “The Thin Ice,” which began with an image of Waters’ father, Eric Fletcher Waters, who was killed during World War II. Other images included U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Iranian political protester Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death was captured on video in 2009. The wall filled with hundreds of smaller images uploaded by fans to Waters’ website.
Throughout the performance, Waters played it straight, never breaking the fourth wall until the end of the show when he thanked the crowd. The only thing that resembled communication is Pink engaging the crowd by asking it, “is there anyone here who worries?” before launching into “Run Like Hell.”
That, along with “Comfortably Numb,” seemed to be the most bombastic tunes. Ironically, former Pink Floyd member David Gilmour wrote both songs. “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” featured local kids singing the choir part and dancing with Waters.
A consummate professional, Water refined the arrangements of songs at a sound check hours before the show. On “Run Like Hell,” he insisted that the bass not follow the drums until the end of the song and that a cowbell needed more effective use.
He modified wardrobe changes down to the bitter end, being sure the right footwear matched the black hoodies for the segment in which Pink takes on neo-Nazi-like demeanor.
There were the usual props at various points of the show, including an anatomically correct woman-as-a-sex-object marionette standing nearly 40 feet high and a few flights from the inflatable pig.
Waters has taken the theme of isolation and applies a global perspective to it. Sometimes it’s entertaining; other times it gets a bit political, though never divisive. If there’s one central them, it’s that of humanity. Throughout the show, there’s a great deal of Orwellian imagery that, at times, feels like Apple Computer’s “1984” commercial. Only nobody wanted a sledgehammer to end it.
When the wall finally fell, the giant cardboard bricks came into the first rows of the orchestra but were quickly scooped up by the crew.
“The Wall” tour continues across Canada and the United States before going to Europe later in the year.