Music preview: Roger Waters re-creates 'The Wall' to update battle against 'isms'
July 3, 2012 8:00 AM
Roger Waters performs "The Wall" at Consol Energy Center in September 2010.
By Scott Mervis Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Billy Corgan recently did an interview with Fuse in which he railed against his brothers of the grunge generation for going out and playing nostalgia shows packed with old material. The Smashing Pumpkins frontman singled out Pavement, who famously ridiculed the Pumpkins in the song "Range Life."
Mr. Corgan then turned his thoughts to an icon from a prior generation.
"I just went to see Roger Waters do 'The Wall' for the second time -- that's a work from 1979 -- and he didn't play but one new song in the entire set. But he's re-contextualized the work to have a modern air. He's talking about everything from Apple to Gulf Wars and all this stuff. He's updated it for modern audiences."
Tonight, the founding member and troubled genius of Pink Floyd will give Pittsburghers a chance to see it for a second time -- or a first time if you missed it in September 2010 -- when he makes an encore trip to Consol Energy Center.
Unlike when he toured "Dark Side of the Moon" in 2006 and performed other catalog songs, this is just "The Wall," the 1979 semi-autobiographical rock opera about a rock star named Pink still tormented by the loss of his father in World War II and his abusive teachers, and pushed over the edge by his wife's infidelity, his drug use and growing contempt for the fans who adore him.
Mr. Waters' penultimate album with Pink Floyd, "The Wall" topped the album charts for 15 weeks, hit 23 million in sales, produced the chart-topping single "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)" and was ranked No. 87 on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums of All Time.
Through 1980-81, Pink Floyd staged a theatrical production of "The Wall" in four cities: Los Angeles; Long Island, N.Y.; London; and Dortmund, West Germany. In 1982, Alan Parker directed a disturbing film version starring Bob Geldof that featured live action mixed with animation. In 1990, with his solo work flagging in comparison to the remaining Pink Floyd's continuing success, Mr. Waters revived the album at the Berlin Wall, eight months after it fell, in a charity concert with Van Morrison, Sinead O'Connor, Levon Helm and more.
In 2010, he pulled it out of mothballs, updating it with images of current conflicts, explaining that "it has occurred to me that maybe the story of my fear and loss with its concomitant inevitable residue of ridicule, shame and punishment, provides an allegory for broader concerns: nationalism, racism, sexism, religion. Whatever! All these issues and 'isms' are driven by the same fears that drove my young life."
The $60 million production comes complete with a crashing plane, a flying pig, a 240-foot-wide wall made up of 1,000 cardboard bricks, pyro, a children's choir and a touring ensemble that features guitarists Snowy White, GE Smith and Dave Kilminster, and vocalist Robbie Wyckoff, who sings David Gilmour's parts.
Mr. Waters indicated that it likely will be his final tour -- but it's a long one. That first 2010 leg ran from September through December in North America, and then hit Europe and Asia (March-July 2011), Australia and New Zealand (January-February 2012) and South America (March-April 2012), before returning to North America in April. There are seven shows scheduled after Pittsburgh.
With the top tickets going as high as $250, so far it has grossed more than $240 million and sold 98.5 percent of the available tickets.
It's reasonable that some Roger Waters fans would lament that, at 68, he's devoted this much time to "The Wall" -- particularly when the last Pink Floyd tour was more than 30 years ago.
Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason recently told Relix magazine, "Oh, I'm ready to go. But it's easier for me. I don't have some of the creative issues that the other two do. It's a bit more difficult without [the late] Rick [Wright] there as well. The trouble is if we did it, we'd have to do it properly, and that would be very difficult at this stage, to go out for a year and play old material. I cannot see us going back in the studio."
He did give his old band mate props for "The Wall," though: "To be honest, I think it's great. That was always his baby, and it's bringing him the recognition he failed to get after he left the band. It's well deserved, and he should enjoy every minute of it. I think the show is fantastic."