Roger Waters: The Wall, TD Garden, Boston, Sept/Oct 2010

Another Brick in the Wall: 9/30/10

Just got back from Roger Waters at the TD Garden. Wow! I have a million things to say but really need to get to bed. Catch this show if you can; it's unbelievable!

Only had my phone so the photos aren't great, but I'll be bringing my camera tomorrow night.

Another Brick in the Wall Part 2: 10/01/10

Major spoiler alert - if you haven't seen Roger Waters' The Wall show and plan on it, don't spoil it for yourself by reading this. We can't stress enough what a fantastic production this is. A multimedia extravaganza in every sense of the word. All photos and video clips from this post are from October 1, 2010 at the TD Garden in Boston.

We've finally had adequate time to reflect on the experience that is The Wall. It is unlike any other concert we've experienced, and seeing it a second time allowed us to appreciate it even more. It is a testament to the timelessness and genius of the 30 year old material that the multimedia presentation could make it seem, in some ways, more relevant today than it was when Pink Floyd staged it initially.

The pre-show music is very enjoyable, and consists of some Bob Dylan followed by a few tracks from Levon Helm's "Dirt Farmer" album. Then there is an amusing audio pastiche of Monty Python ("Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", the French taunting scene from Holy Grail), Family Guy, Goodfellas, and Spartacus.

Then it becomes quiet and the lights dim. Roger Waters takes to the stage and starts the show with a bang, literally. Each power chord of "In The Flesh?" is punctuated by fireworks sparking onstage, culminating with an airplane soaring on a wire over the crowd and crashing into the upper corner of the Wall, knocking off several bricks, bursting into orange flames. The audience loses its collective breath, realizing the scale of the production they are about to witness.

In The Flesh?

The Wall itself is a character in the show; as the music progresses, stagehands add bricks to it, building up a physical wall between the band and the audience. Imagery is projected on the wall as it takes shape, from original iconic animation by Gerald Scarfe (familiar from the movie) to imagery denouncing the military industrial complex. Typewritten statistics accompany photos of Roger's own father, killed in WW II in Anzio in 1944, a firefighter killed on September 11, a victim of the London Tube bombing of 2005, and a murdered Iraqi child.

The music is practically note-for-note perfect, and though Roger is now 66 years old, his voice can still convey anguish perfectly. Vocalist Robbie Wyckoff does a great job covering for David Gilmour's vocals, but even more impressive are the guitarists, Snowy White, G.E. Smith, and Dave Kilminster. The sound quality in the arena is superb. Large impressive inflatable puppets of archetypes The Teacher, The Mother, and The Wife make appearances during their respective songs.

During "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2", a group of local kids in T-shirts reading "Fear Builds Walls" take the stage, eventually vanquishing the oversized marionette of The Teacher. During "Mother", Roger sings a poignant duet with footage of himself performing it at Earl's Court in 1980. Graphics of security cameras scan the crowd while the large inflatable Mother glares over the top of the Wall with red eyes. Graffiti spells out "Big BrMother is Watching". "Mother, should I trust the government?" Rog asks plaintively. The crowd groans and boos, then erupts in cheers and applause as the words "No" "F*&%ing" "Way" are projected onto the Wall one by one.

During "Goodbye Blue Sky", the Wall is infused with cool blue light, and animated bomber planes rain down symbols on the countryside below. Nothing is sacred: crosses, stars of David, crescents and stars, dollar signs, Mercedes and Shell Oil logos - all play into the culture that enables and even encourages the building of walls.

"Empty Spaces" builds to a crescendo while sexually suggestive flower imagery morphs into something more sinister. "Young Lust" is a straight-ahead rock anthem set to black, white, and red imagery of sexy women.

"One of My Turns" is dramatic as the Wall stares unblinking at the audience with a huge pair of eyes.

"Don't Leave Me Now" is perfectly anguished and angst-ridden. Rog stands alone in front of the Wall, center stage, in the spotlight. "I need you babe," he wails, "to put through the shredder in front of my friends, oh babe, don't leave me now!" His voice gives me goosebumps.

Another Brick in the Wall Part 3

By the time "Another Brick in the Wall Part 3" starts, the Wall is 30 feet tall, and has just 3 small sections of bricks missing, giving a peek at the musicians behind. Rog, still outside of the Wall, hits its surface and it appears to shatter like glass. Typography whizzes across the surface of the Wall, interspersed with corporate logos, advertisements, static, and news footage. "CONSUME" flashes by almost subliminally, along with "F*@% You" "IDOLS" "BELONGINGS" "DENOMINATIONS" and "ACQUIRE". It is sensory overload as we are bombarded by more and more words that we barely have time to register.

By "Goodbye Cruel World", they have placed "The Last Few Bricks" into the wall, leaving one single brick missing in the center of the stage. Rog is vaguely visible back there, as a single shaft of light emanates from the hole. Rog sings "Goodbye all you people, there's nothing you can say, to make me change my mind. Goodbye" as the last brick is placed and the stage goes dark and the sound cuts out. The audience erupts into applause as the house lights come on and the Wall simply says "INTERMISSION".

For the duration if intermission, the Wall then becomes a memorial of Fallen Loved Ones displaying photos solicited from fans by Roger on his web site alongside photos of the likes of Mahatma Gandhi.

Act 2 begins with the Wall alone onstage for a poignant "Hey You." It looks like it is made of stone, like it belongs in an old castle. It splits into a corridor and animation of a monster runs by, splattering blood all over the Wall.

Hey You

A little drawbridge-like panel folds down from the Wall to reveal a small hotel room vignette, complete with neon Tropicana sign in the background. The staging looks identical to how they performed it 30 years ago.

Rog sings "Nobody Home" while sitting alone in a chair gazing at a flickering television set. "Got 13 channels" Rog sings and then points the microphone at the audience. They dutifully respond "of sh*t on the TV to choose from." Things haven't really changed that much in 30 years, there are just more channels now. Roger's sense of mortality creeps in as he sings about "A grand piano to prop up [his] mortal remains."

"Does anybody else in here feel the way I do?" Rog asks during "Vera". Meanwhile, the Wall displays footage of a young girl's incredibly emotional reaction to being surprised by her soldier father's unexpected visit to her classroom. The crowd roars in approval and wipes a tear from its collective eye.

Bring the Boys Back Home

The ballad segues into the anthemic "Bring the Boys Back Home", as Rog stands alone in front of the Wall in a red spotlight. War footage blazes across the Wall. Word by word, the following quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower appears:

Every gun that is made,
Every warship launched,
Every rocket fired,
In the final sense,
From those who hunger
And are not fed
From those who are cold
And are not clothed

- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Then the text "BRING THE BOYS BACK HOME" punctuates the staccato phrasing of the final chorus.

A vocalist and a guitarist appear atop the Wall for their respective parts during the soaring "Comfortably Numb." Rog hits the Wall and it appears to shatter into trippy colored shards around him.

A male choir does an a capella "The Show Must Go On" as Rog and the Surrogate Band take their places in front of the Wall.

At the beginning of "In the Flesh Part 2", a black inflatable pig with red lit eyes appears from behind the Wall and sails over the crowd. The pig has various slogans and symbols scrawled on it, including the hammers, "Trust Us", and "Drink Kalashnikov Vodka". The first night it was neutrally bouyant and stayed nicely aloft above the crowds' heads. It was flown via remote control, with little fans controlling its direction. The second night it had a hard time staying aloft, and soon had to be rescued by the crew as it kept sagging into the crowd. Hopefully they'll have worked out the kinks before the next show.

Rog dons a black leather trenchcoat and sunglasses and assumes a dictatorial persona. Spotlights scan the crowd as he calls out to the "riffraff" that if he had his way, he'd have all of us shot. Just as he had during the '80 shows, he dedicates "Run Like Hell" to the paranoids in the audience.

Run Like Hell

"YOU BETTER RUN" is scrawled in scarlet letters on the Wall, and the bricks appear to fly out of the Wall at us in what almost seemed like 3D. Images of various people and animals had been manipulated to make it look like they were wearing white iPod headphones. In a dark parody of an iPod commercial, these were accompanied by the phrases iLead, iProtect, iFollow, iResist, iProfit, iLose, iTeach, iLearn, iKill, etc.

Rog sings "Waiting for the Worms" through a megaphone. Countless crossed hammers march in lockstep across the Wall as the rhythm builds in intensity. Then, "Stop", as a dummy sits in a spotlight atop the Wall and then plunges to the floor.

The Trial

"The Trial" plays out on the Wall, with the classic animation of The Judge, familiar from both the 1980 concerts and the movie. Rog sits sideways on the stage on a step, watching. Illusions in the projection makes the Wall appear to spin horizontally. Words and images we had seen throughout the last two hours come fast and furious, as the music builds to a fever pitch. Loud chants of "TEAR DOWN THE WALL!" shake the venue. When it reaches a crescendo, a strobe light flashes, smoke rises into the air, and the Wall topples down to thunderous applause and cheers.

The Trial (Continued)

Roger and the musicians appear onstage amongst the debris of the fallen Wall, as for a curtain call. Roger plays a trumpet and they sing a somber yet hopeful "Outside the Wall". It functions as an encore. There is nothing further that they could do to follow that. Roger thanks the audience effusively. The audience adores Roger and lets him know it. We leave the venue feeling absolutely blown away, and addicted to the experience. Everyone around us has a similar reaction as we make our way back to the parking garage. We get out of there quickly, putting the finishing touches on an incredible evening.

After seeing The Wall on Thursday with Steve and my mother-in-law, and having seen it on Friday with Kevin, we can't pass up its last night in town on Sunday - we are Rog junkies. So we'll be seeing the final Boston show, and Steve, Kevin, and Jenn will all be joining us.

If you can make it to see this show when it hits your town - do it! You won't regret it.

Another Brick in the Wall Part III: 10/03/10

Sunday night, Roger Waters closed out a three night run of "The Wall" at the TD Garden in Boston. We were fortunate to be able to attend all three shows. We had bought tickets in advance for the first two nights, but had planned to sit out the final night. We were so blown away by the show that we knew that we couldn't possibly sit at home while the final show was taking place. So we (along with Kevin and Jenn) bought tickets at face value through TicketMaster on Saturday. These tickets turned out to be around mid-court. When we arrived and took our seats, I was surprised at how close we actually were to the stage. I hadn't realized just how big the stage is, and how much of the arena is hiding behind it.

The first night had given a good overall big picture view of the Wall, but tonight we were much closer. The lights dim and the stage is bathed in red light. People are onstage holding flags with crossed hammers on them, and the hammers are projected onto a round screen in the middle of the stage. As the music of "In the Flesh?" builds to a crescendo, Rog takes the stage to great applause. We were close enough to the stage that we could actually see him as more than just a silhouette on stage. It always gives another level of depth to a performance when you can see the person's facial expressions and gestures. He strides over to a mannequin torso and removes a black leather trenchcoat. He puts it on and ties the belt around his waist. He puts on a pair of sunglasses as he says

If you'd like to find out what's behind these cold eyes.
You'll just have to claw your way through this disguise!

Roll the Sound Effects!
the Impresario orders. The flagbearers march offstage. We are seated on the side of the stage where the plane crashes during the climax of the song, and it does not disappoint. We could feel the heat of the fireball which erupted when the plane collided with the Wall. We were speechless.

"The Thin Ice" is told as a cautionary tale. Photographs of victims of war and terrorism are shown on the round screen and are then projected onto the Wall, looking like as many television sets as there are bricks in the Wall. It is a nice effect, as it focuses on individuals and then their larger part in the whole context of war. We were amazed by the sound quality in these seats. It had been good on previous nights, but tonight we could really get the effect of the surround-sound.

Searchlights scan the audience as "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" starts up, and suddenly the inflatable Teacher marionette is towering over the stage. We had a very good view of it, as it maniacally danced, looking like it was doing "the crane" move from The Karate Kid. The chords tumble into "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" and the troupe of dancing kids come onstage and help Rog to vanquish the teacher. The stage crew is starting to pile bricks onto the Wall.

The Happiest Days of Our Lives / Another Brick in the Wall Part 2

Rog then comes out to the front of the stage with his acoustic guitar to greet the crowd..
Good evening Boston.
So happy to see you
Very good to be back
We had a great night here Thursday
A great night Friday
I know we're going to have a great night tonight!
This is a great music town
Always was
Always will be!

He hints that he is working on restoring the footage from the 1980 Wall concerts (they've already released the audio, but the video is currently only available as bootlegs) before settling down to duet with "that miserable young bugger from all those years ago". His acoustic guitar rings out as he accompanies his former self. .

The inflatable Mother with her arms like mini Walls appears bathed in red light, glaring up over the Wall. The black and white footage of Roger eventually gives way to the graphic of a surveillance camera. Text scrolls across the Wall: "Don't worry. Everything will be alright. Trust me. It's OK. Mother knows best." These slogans then become multilingual. One can't help thinking of the Berlin Wall as German text scrolls by, and of the U.S. - Mexican border fence as we read "Todo estara bien. La Madre sabe mejor." The music and the visuals are hypnotic.


During "Goodbye Blue Sky", symbols of divisive powers (religion, economy, etc.) are dropped by B52 bombers onto the countryside below. Blue sky gives way to red blood. It's a powerful piece of performance art.

Goodbye Blue Sky

During "Empty Spaces", the Wall goes racing through the countryside in one of Craig's favorite animation sequences from the movie. Flowers turn to barbed wire. The end of "What Shall We Do Now?" is punctuated with a hammerstrike as we once again see the hammer images which will dominate the second act.

The Wall takes shape more and more during the grungy guitar riffs of "Young Lust". The very center is open and there are two other openings through which you can see the band members.

In the spotlight in front of the Wall Rog's haunting voice pleads during "Don't Leave Me Now." A stark gothic image of a woman's face bleeds from its eyes and mouth. Echo is used to the same effect as on the album The large praying mantis-like inflatable marionette of the Wife with her large neon lips appears to the left of the stage.

The Wall is filled in more and more with bricks during "Another Brick in the Wall Part 3" and the aptly titled "Last Few Bricks". During "Goodbye Cruel World" we could actually see Roger's head through the single open brick which remained in the center of the stage. The stage goes dark as that last brick is placed and Rog's terse "Goodbye" hangs in the air.

After intermission, nobody is visible on the stage during "Hey You". The Wall looks particularly monolithic and imposing. The sense of isolation is palpable.

When the little trapdoor in the Wall opens and Rog is sitting in the hotel room vignette, we have a good view of him (although we can't see the neon Tropicana Motel sign from the angle we are at). Somehow this stage set-up makes the arena feel intimate. "I got elastic bands keeping my shoes on, got those swollen hand blues, I got 13 channels of "... Rog takes the mic away from his lips and points it at the audience. "Sh!t on the TV to choose from!!" they respond in unison.

"Vera" and "Bring the Boys Back Home" are every bit as emotional as they had been on the past two nights. Very powerful, very political. Every bit as applicable to today's wars as it is to World War II, in which Rog's father was killed.

"Comfortably Numb" is intoxicating. Rog engages the audience and urges them to wave their arms and sing along during the chorus. The guitar solos soar. We see Rog as he inspects the Wall for cracks as it towers over him. He knocks on a single spot wihand then the Wall erupts into color at his command.

Comfortably Numb

The inflatable pig is back in top form as it floats out over the audience during "In the Flesh Part 2." Rog is once again wearing his leather trenchcoat, and is wearing an arm band emblazoned with the crossed hammers motifs which dominate the stage. "Run Like Hell" has some of the best computer animation in the show, as bricks appear to fly out at the audience. Rog crosses his forearms into a crossed hammer symbol.

Roger whips the place into a frenzy as images of hammers marching in lockstep punctuate the vocals of "Waiting for the Worms" as he bellows into a megaphone. Then all of a sudden - "Stop! I want to go home!" there is a dummy in the spotlight, sitting on the very top of ths Wall. "Have I been guilty all this time?" Rog wails as the dummy plummets to the ground.

Jenn's picture from "Waiting for the Worms"

Gerald Scarfe's animation takes center stage for the "The Trial". Rog stands to the side and plays the voices of the various characters, starting with the Teacher. The Wall appears to spin and there is a creature sitting in a fetal position in front of graffiti which says "iHate". The creature gives the audience the finger in very impressive 3D as Rog shrieks "They must have taken my marbles away!"

Rog then plays the role of the Wife, for which he uses a French accent and puts his hand coquettishly on his hip. Next he is the Mother. Rog paces in front of the Wall while the judge comes to his decision and sentences him to be exposed before his peers: "Tear down the F%$#ing Wall!!"

Chants of "Tear Down the Wall!" fill the arena. The excitement is reaching a fever pitch as various visuals from the show are projected on the Wall at dizzying speed. Some of it seems subliminal. The Wall sways and then collapses, tumbling onto the stage. The audience goes nuts.

Roger and the band walk onstage and play an acoustic "Outside the Wall" as their curtain call. It seems particularly quiet after the noise of the Wall falling. The music starts and red confetti flutters to the floor over the fans in a dreamy way. Since this is the last night and we are closer to the stage for this quiet part, it seems a particularly poignant way of ending not only tonight's show, but his stay in Boston.

Outside the Wall

All alone, or in twos,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the Wall.
Some hand in hand.
Some gathering together together in bands.
The bleeding hearts and the artists
Make their stand.
And when they've given you their all,
Some stagger and fall, after all it's not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger's Wall.

Jenn's picture of "Outside the Wall"

After much applause, the band starts up again and the members file offstage, leaving only Roger, who thanks the audience profusely. Roger has come a long way in the past 30 years. He had originally written "The Wall" as a young man unhappy with the trappings of fame and blameful of those around him for the things which he could not control. He felt contempt for fans and built an emotional wall around himself to try to protect himself from his fears. It is a very autobiographical piece. The Wall was built between the audience and the stage, and much of the second act back then took place with all of the musicians hidden behind the Wall.

But now, in 2010, Rog admits that he is a lot happier. He's not the same man he was back then. He's on the same side of the Wall as the audience now. He says on his web site that he thinks that "The Wall" can stand as an allegory as to how we as humans can use technology to help us to communicate and understand one another. "I believe we have at least a chance to aspire to something better than the dog eat dog ritual slaughter that is our current response to our institutionalized fear of each other."

When Pink Floyd first performed the work in 1980, it was only done in a handful of cities in the U.S. and Europe. It was such a huge production, that they were losing money on it. Kudos to Rog for putting this new production together and performing it in so many cities. Thirty years of intervening technology have made it possible for him to put together a spectacular event. It's more than a concert. Ticket prices are high, but worth every penny. Don't miss it!

Further reviews of the Boston shows:

Boston Globe Review
Boston Herald Review
Billboard Magazine Review
Worcester Telegram Review
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