Last Night: Roger Waters' The Wall at the Toyota Center

Note: A review of Waters' May 2012 show at Toyota Center is here.

Roger Waters Toyota Center November 20, 2010

Ed. note: The sold-out Roger Waters show was so highly anticipated, we sent two reviewers. Tune in Monday morning to read our second write-up and to see even more photos.

When Roger Waters parted ways with Pink Floyd in 1985, it seemed unlikely he would ever reconcile with his former bandmates. After all, other groups like the Eagles and Sex Pistols had split up, and we all knew there was no way they'd ever get back together.

And aside from a one-off at Live 8 two years ago, Floyd hasn't. Waters' solo career enjoyed sporadic success (did we really hear singles from The Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking on the radio in '87?), and he did present an all-star version of his and Floyd's magnum opus The Wall at the fall of that other edifice in Berlin in 1990, but it wasn't until his "In the Flesh" and Dark Side of the Moon tours (in 1999 and 2006, respectively) that the idea of his revisiting the 1979 classic again became a real possibility.

That prospect came true for a sold-out crowd at the Toyota Center last night, as Waters and a talented cadre of musicians brought his tale of alienation and isolation to life for what one has to imagine is the final go-round for a boy named "Pink."

What do you say about a show that opens with a WWII era German divebomber strafing the stage ("In the Flesh?"), then exploding in the upper reaches of the arena? Yeah, we don't know either, except maybe "holy shit." With very few exceptions, the crowd was hooked from the get-go, singing along to every anti-war/anti-prejudice anthem that marked the show's 2 ½ hour running time.

"The Thin Ice" came next, featuring pics and bios of war dead from World War II on up to both sides of the Iraqi conflict, while "Goodbye Blue Sky" sobered us with its depiction of bombers saturating the countryside with the traditional symbols of oppression - the cross, the dollar sign, the Shell Oil logo, the hammer-and-sickle, the Muslim crescent (which drew cheers from our section of the audience...way to be unclear on the concept, fellas).

For an older dude, Waters only seemed stronger as the show went along. "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" found him playing bass alongside a dancing group of children, while his rendition of "Empty Spaces," complete with scenes (from the movie) of the wall laying waste to civilization, gave us chills.

There was a brief intermission between "Goodbye Cruel World" and "Hey You" (or sides 2 and 3), during which we saw a Tweet deriding the concept of such a thing at a rock show. Point taken, except The Wall isn't that. It's performance art, as the visuals certainly proved. The projections worked seamlessly with the concert, and were as elaborate as anything we've seen at a live show, incorporating elements from Animals ("Run Like Hell") and playing alongside giant puppet versions of the School Master, Mother, and the Wife (the inflatable pig even made an appearance, though he'd been appropriately butched up - black and with tusks - for these modern times).

Waters himself is certainly in a better place emotionally (especially considering the circumstances that prompted him to come up with the concept back in the day), but the message of The Wall is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago -- maybe more so -- and Waters is as anti-war and anti-corporate as ever. Even though we found ourselves remarking, after hearing of the $70 hoodies at the merch table, that there must are apparently some aspects of capitalism he's comfortable with.

One other thing, The Wall may chiefly be Waters' baby, but the fact he needed three guitarists and a vocalist to replace Dave Gilmour's contributions shows just how vital to the whole effort Gilmour was. And while nobody could perfectly replicate the bone-chilling solos from "Comfortably Numb," replacements Dave Kilminster, G.E. Smith(!) and Snowy White performed ably.

Again, The Wall was less a concert than an event; political theater of the grandest (and loudest) kind. It seems unlikely the 67-year old Waters is going to trot it out again in this form (he has remarked this may be his last tour), so if you missed it this time around...we're really, really sorry.

You know, our own father is still alive, and we've been lucky enough not to have endured the same *unfortunate* relationships with women (the show does retain much of its startling misogyny), so The Wall was one of the first things to open our shallow whitebread eyes to the evils of consumerism and the horror of isolation (we were already pretty clear on the "war=bad" concept). In that way, Waters had as much influence on our impressionable pre-adolescent mind as anyone, and last night's show was a fitting farewell.

Personal Bias: Dad brought The Wall home in 1979, it was also the first R-rated movie we saw in a theater, and we're not prepared to admit how many times we sang along to/mock performed it in its entirety while home on summer afternoons.

The Crowd: Older, and we're betting more female than your average 1970s Floyd show. And old habits die hard, even in the heavily patrolled confines of the Toyota Center. To paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park: "Pot found a way."

Overheard in the Crowd: "WE DON'T NEED NO EDUCATION."

Random Notebook Dump: "I wonder how many teachers are here tonight."

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