Roger Waters The Wall, Bank Atlantic Center, June 15, 2012
by Todd McFliker
Roger Waters returned to Bank Atlantic Center on June 15th with another magnificent note for note presentation of the legendary rock epic, The Wall. The theatrical rock opera was staged by the 68-year-old bassist, lyricist and principle mastermind behind Pink Floyd's historic concept album. Not unlike the Broadway-like show in 2010, Waters' complex recreation of the fourth bestselling album of all time was sold out, as well as phenomenal. Of course, this years' trek consisted of even more elaborate sound, special effects and brilliant choreography. "We change the show every day," Waters explained on June 27th's launch of SiriusXM's Pink Floyd Channel. "It is sort of enjoyable to go on trying to make the details more moving."
According to The Wall's backup vocalist Mark Lennon, the crew is consistently asked to make little improvements, such as sing a part differently, or add to certain segments here and there, despite staging the show almost 200 times. "Roger is a thinkaholic and a workaholic who just wants the show to be as fantastic as possible," Lennon said. "He is a perfectionist, and his ideas are absolutely brilliant." Guitarists Dave Kilminster, SNL's former bandleader, G.E. Smith, and Robbie Wyckoff, who nails David Gilmour's vocals with precision, would all agree that Waters is obsessive, in addition to uncompromising, when it comes to The Wall.
Without a verbal introduction, a gray-haired Waters appeared in sunglasses and a long black trench coat to sing "In the Flesh." A partially built wall of enormous white bricks stood on top of Waters' 240-foot stage. Throughout the course of the first set, the three-story barricade of 424 bricks was built by hard-to-see construction workers wearing only black. State-of-the-art lights, photos and movies were projected onto the 35-foot wall. One of The Wall's logos of two hammers was wrapped around Waters' sleeve. The same symbol stood the height of the massive round screen onstage. Soldiers marched along a bridge that connected the two sides of a wall under construction. Red lights illuminated thick fog, as fireworks shot towards the sky from the front of the stage. In the middle of the number, a military bomber looked like it was diving from the venue's ceiling onto the stage. Concluding the piece, a hail of bullets sprayed the talent. While helicopter search lights danced over the fortunate spectators on the floor during "The Thin Ice," photos were displayed of fallen soldiers and civilians from WWII, Iraq and 9-11.
Following "The Happiest Days of Our Lives," more than a dozen students from the Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theater located in the Galleria Mall showed up onstage for the No. 1 single, "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2." Wearing shirts that read "Fear Builds Walls," the ensemble sang the familiar lyrics, "We don't need no education... Hey teacher, leave those kids alone." The fortunate youngsters stood beneath a gigantic 50-foot puppet of a wicked educator whipping his pointer stick, while Waters clapped his hands over his head in unison with the adolescents. The round screen displayed barb wire over a wall that read "iBelieve." South Florida then experienced a new number. Waters strapped on a black acoustic to deliver a coda to "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2." According to The Wall's backup vocalist Kipp Lennon, "Roger was really taken back by the story of Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old Brazilian man in London who was mistaken for a terrorist. He fit the description, so police shot him seven times in the head, obviously killing him, before asking him any questions. Roger was extremely angry about that, so he wrote the song and added it to the show. He feels that someone has to be held accountable.”
"Good evening Fort Lauderdale," Waters spoke to his audience for the first time. He explained that as a narcissistic experiment of time travel, he'll present a double track of "Mother" along with "that poor, miserable, fucked up Roger from all those years ago." A young Waters performing the number in 1980 was displayed on the giant wall, along with random words and phrases. The "Br" of "Big Brother Is Watching You" was scratched out with an "M" drawn in its place, allowing the screen to read "Mother knows best." And when Waters sang "Should I trust the government," it read "No Fucking Way." The memorable experimentation served as a highlight of the unforgettable evening.
Thousands recognized the familiar introduction to "Goodbye Blue Sky." The little boy on the record stating, "Look Mummy, there's an airplane up in the sky," is actually Roger's son, Harry Waters. The 33-year-old keyboard player is now on his third global jaunt with his old man. Animated airplanes were displayed on both the screen and the wall. In slow motion, the bottom of the planes opened up and dropped numerous red crosses and peace symbols in the place of bombs. The auditorium then went black, besides a few spotlights under The Wall's familiar cartoon flowers getting erotic in "Empty Spaces." More recognizable animation sped across the wall, such as the movie poster's screaming face. All night, music lovers got to feast on similar eye-candy associated with The Wall as the bricks gradually closed in the band. Throughout "Young Lust,"a seductive three-story-talltopless dancer was shown on the wall, and the crowd heard an international operator getting hung up on. Viewers saw photos of American soldiers who were killed in battle in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. As the last brick was put into place to cover up the singer at the end of the set, Waters sang "Goodbye Cruel World's" closing lyric, "Goodbye."
For the duration of intermission, poignant music played over photos of innocent lives taken by terrorism. Each picture had notes, describing how they each had lived and died. When the second set kicked off with "Hey You," the colossal wall blocked the entire band, including Waters, from being seen. For the duration of "Nobody Home," a piece of the massive barricade folded down on the left side of the stage to show Waters sitting in a motel room looking through his "15 channels of shit" to choose from. Touching videos of kids being reunited with their fathers coming home from war played during "Vera." Listening to "Bring the Boys Back Home," thousands were touched by heart-rending videos of Iraq-deployed fathers coming home to surprise their children. Waters stood at the bottom of the wall to sing the melodic "Comfortably Numb," as the lead guitarist played from the top. Colorful cartoon bricks slowly fell. Waters poured himself into the personal song about overcoming a fever when he was a child. He touched a white brick and multicolored projections raced along the wall. Brilliant. Guitarist Robbie Whicoff emerged in a spotlight on top of the wall, not unlike Gilmore's last appearance with Waters at 2005's Live 8 in London.
The boys dug into "In the Flesh," and a gigantic balloon of a black boar that read "Trust Us" floated around the arena. The inflatable prop reminded many audience members of the "Impeach Bush Now" pig seen on Waters' 2007 Dark Side tour. Bright red, blue and yellow searchlights danced around the inflated animal. By the time the crowd heard "The Show Must Go On," animated fighter jets fighter planes were flying across the screen and dropped crosses in the place of bombs. Meanwhile, thousands of 2-inch paper versions of stars, dollar signs and seashells fell over the fortunate audience members on the floor. The unparalleled highlight of the evening was "Run Like Hell." Throughout the intense anthem, Waters acted as if he were a fascist dictator in the spotlight before an angry mob. During the clean guitar intro, he burst with maniacal laughter and shot an imaginary machine gun into the crowd. The screen displayed random words as applications, like iLearn and iPlanet, as Waters' silhouette covered optical illusions and trippy images racing across the wall.
While singing "Waiting for the Worms," Waters spoke through a bullhorn as cartoon hammers marched onscreen in the background like evil Nazis. A puppet of the ghost-like character from the film was sitting in the spotlight when it tumbled off of the colossal wall. At the end of the last number, "Outside the Wall," the massive barricade crumbled onto the giant stage. The living legend and his crew emerged unharmed, waiving goodnight and thanking Fort Lauderdale's spectators. Water's most recent presentation of The Wall was extraordinary enough to make the perfectionist proud.