photo by the Newt
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MAY 27, 2012
By Steve Newton
When Roger Waters brought Pink Floyd’s The Wall to Rogers Arena in December 2010, he delivered nothing short of a prog-rock spectacle for the ages. His mastery of live sound, lighting technique, state-of-the-art video, and immense staging combined to bring that monumental 1979 concept album’s themes of isolation and oppression to life in a show that was truly unforgettable.
It didn’t seem like there was any way in hell that Waters could have made his performance of The Wall any better than it already was, so when he came back to town last night (May 26) he just made it bigger instead.
A lot bigger.
For the large stadiums, like B.C. Place, that are part of Waters’s latest North American tour, the centrepiece of the show—an enormous wall of white “bricks” that is built up during the performance and then torn down at the end—was drastically enlarged. Up to 500 feet wide, the wall constructed for the big stadium shows is double the width of that used for arena gigs, and—according to the bumf provided by promoter Live Nation—is “the largest projection surface ever toured in live entertainment”.
Size does matter. Especially when it comes to the music of Pink Floyd.
Apart from the much bigger wall—and the additional 22 video projectors required to fill it with the biting sociopolitical imagery Waters is known for—not much else seemed different from the 2010 show. The highlights were the same, including the part during “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” when a group of kids wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the message “FEAR BUILDS WALLS” railed against a giant puppet teacher wielding a pointer.
And the video shown during “Bring the Boys Back Home” of children breaking down when their returning soldier dads surprise them in their classrooms is still as heart-wrenching as ever.
Then there was the plane that soared over the heads of the floor crowd, crashed into some bricks at stage left, and “exploded” during the opening song, “In the Flesh?”. That little spectacle never fails to get your attention.
But with all the emphasis on effects and staging, one thing that can get overlooked when Waters builds The Wall is the stellar band that helps him do it. And it doesn’t help that the musicians spend so much time hidden behind the wall itself, of course.
But Waters would be the first to acknowledge the contributions of the 12 singers and instrumentalists who accompany him. For the record, they include backup vocalists Jon Joyce and Mark, Michael, and Kipp Lennon (all cousins); second lead singer Robbie Wyckoff (who handles all the parts David Gilmour used to sing); keyboardists Jon Carin and Waters’s son Harry Waters; drummer Graham Broad; and guitarists Dave Kilminster, G.E. Smith, and Snowy White (he was in Thin Lizzy! Yeah!).
Actually, even though he’d be the first to acknowledge their contributions, Waters wound up doing it last, when the tuckered-looking players were brought out in casual duds to perform the closing number, “Outside the Wall”. Then they all just stood there, soaking up the wild cheers of the crowd, until Waters decided the adulation was sufficient.
It seemed like a long time, but hey—they’d earned it.