The dive bomber careening over the audience and crashing in a fiery explosion. Those menacing, mammoth blow-up marionettes associated with iconic characters from the album (the schoolmaster, a wife, the pig). And of course, the wall, slowly being constructed, brick by cardboard brick, as the show progressed and used as a 240-foot-wide projection screen.
Roger Waters claims this will be his last-ever tour. And, really, it should be, because he could never top bringing “The Wall” to life.
He’s also managed to contemporize the semi-autobiographical Pink Floyd album, which, even after three decades, works as a complex study of politics and psychology.
Of course, there will always be the faction of fans who views “The Wall” as their best stoner companion, and hey, everyone finds meaning in their own way.
But even they likely were moved by the images of soldiers – including Waters’ father, killed during World War II when Waters was a baby – projected behind Waters and his airtight 11-piece band for “The Thin Ice.”
The rebellion and middle-finger defiance of “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1,” hasn’t disintegrated with age, either, and Thursday’s rendition – the red lights cascading like visual water, the googly-eyed schoolmaster puppet, the group of local children who burst on stage to play air guitar with the raspy-voiced Waters – made you forget those years of hearing the song endlessly drilled into your brain thanks to classic rock radio.
Interesting about the show is that while it’s presented as a theatrical production – and the gargantuan effects almost justify that top ticket price of $200-plus – Waters frequently broke “character,” to talk to the sold-out Philips Arena audience.
He joked before the gripping “Mother” that his decision to sing the song alongside video footage of himself from Earls Court in 1980 “might be narcissistic.” The boyish-Roger/67-year-old Roger moment was, actually, fascinating for its rock history significance.
But if Waters really is worried about how his ego is perceived – and who thinks that is a possibility? – he might instead want to tone down his Messiah movements during “Comfortably Numb.”
Throughout the first half of the show, roadies unobtrusively and methodically built the wall until it completely masked the band. But, while rife with symbolism, it was also a slightly jarring way to watch a concert – able to hear, but not see, the perfect harmonizing on “Goodbye Blue Sky” or watch Waters thump his bass during the nasty rock funk of “Young Lust.”
Amusingly, before the show began, several dozen attendees (including this one) had their seats automatically relocated by the venue because of visual obstructions.
A thoughtful gesture, yes, but also unnecessary. After all, for the last five songs of the first set, every seat was technically obstructed as the crowd waited for Waters to poke through a hole in the wall to sing the plaintive “One of My Turns.”
At the start of the second set, “Hey You” was performed with the band completely obscured. But that didn’t diminish the potency of Robbie Wyckoff’s eerily David Gilmour-esque vocals.
Wycoff and ace guitarist Dave Kilminster also helped turn the hazy, swaying “Comfortably Numb” into a highlight as they performed at the top of the wall while Waters paraded in front of it like an excited maestro.
In a blink, the “surrogate” band appeared around him, their instruments rising from the floor in the dark, and Waters donned the black leather overcoat and marching hammers armband to match the faux-fascist attire of the band.
“Enjoy yourselves!” he yelled at the start of the serrated riffing in “Run Like Hell,” as the words “you better run” crept across the wall in blood red.
By the time the two-hour plus show reached its inevitable finale – the wall being detonated in a cloud of smoke – it was obvious that this wouldn’t be a concert that merely gets the “It was good” treatment around the water cooler. This was one that will inspire references and arguments for years.