High-tech update of Waters’ wall
proves both gorgeous and harrowing
If you came of age in the early 1980s, it’s quite possible you created your own nightmarish mental movies from Pink Floyd’s epic double album, “The Wall.”
Written almost entirely by Roger Waters, “The Wall” (released in late 1979) is really HIS story about the fear and loathing of growing up fatherless in post-WWII England. But somehow “The Wall” became OUR story, EVERYONE’S story about how very alone we ALL sometimes feel in a world in which we have so very little control.
In 1982, film director Alan Parker, one of the most famous members of the masses who connected with “The Wall,” turned it into one of the darkest, most unrelenting pieces of cinema ever conceived (Roger Ebert still champions it as a “great movie”), full of soaring bombers, marching hammers and totalitarian thugs (topped with an eyebrow-less Bob Geldof in a truly sinister performance). It’s hallowed rock’n’roll lore that the process of turning “The Wall” into a film was so traumatic that it literally tore the Floyd apart.
But the multi-million dollar, multimedia version of “The Wall” that the 67-year-old Waters is touring the world with now (and made stop #2 with in Pittsburgh earlier this week), while it’s in no way cheery, is much truer to his original vision of loss AND redemption, isolation AND acceptance. As such, the dazzling technology involved pays off in a tour de force show that’s much more satisfying emotionally.
Waters also has updated the message with railing against big government, big business (although it’s hard to take that one too seriously with top-line tickets for the show going at $200 each) and wars without end. There are pyrotechnics, flying pigs and garish, giant marionettes. But the star of the show (performed in only four cities in 1982) remains a conglomeration of metaphorical, white cardboard boxes.
Act 1 of the show is performed as the wall slowly rises. By the time Act II ends with “Goodbye Cruel World,” the wall completely obscures Waters (as the fictional Pink) and the band of studio musicians supporting him. Act III, which includes two of Pink Floyd’s greatest songs, “Hey You” and “Comfortably Numb,” uses the completed wall creatively. For Act IV, the perception is flipped and the audience moves inside the wall with Pink and the band. Of course, the wall comes tumbling down (as it always doe) and the band reappears amid the rubble in street clothes for the ultra-important epilogue, “Outside the Wall.”
“And when they’ve given you their all,
some stagger and fall, after all, it’s not easy
banging your heart against some mad brother’s wall.”
Waters, once the maddest of brothers, was all smiles leaving the stage, casting little doubt that all the banging Floyd fans have done on his wall has ultimately done him a lot of good.
“The Wall” will make an appearance in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 10, and a three-night stand in Philly on Nov. 8, 9 and 11.