A sold-out crowd filled the BOK Center on Saturday for one of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll productions in the history of the genre.
Roger Waters welcomed fans with arms spread wide, Christ-like, as war erupted around him. Pyrotechnic blasts of gunfire brought down a fighter plane as the sad story of lead character Pink erupted. In this version, however, the crowd became Pink and the wall erected trapped us all.
“Roger Waters’ The Wall Live” presented the absurd and surreal, cemented in all-too-real allegories of acceptance and rejection, co-mingled with rabid nationalism, sexism, religion, egotism … -isms compelled by fear and greed.
“Should we ever trust everything the government tells us?” Waters shouted. Projected on the wall behind him, the answer read “No f------ way!” as the audience came to its feet.
Screens projected images of families and today’s wars and names of servicemen as heavy guitars walked on “The Thin Ice,” then melted into elastic chords of “Another Brick in the Wall Part 1,” as the first bricks of the 250-foot-wide wall turned into a projection screen.
“The Wall” is the axis upon which so many things in rock music so successfully revolve. It’s theater, it’s flight of fancy, its a potent anti-establishment message projected to a global audience.
So much of this timeless album are classic radio hits — “Comfortably Numb,” “Is There Anybody Out There?,” “Hey You,” “Another Brick in the Wall” — and to return them to their original context was nearly overpowering. There was a chilling dichotomy between the lead character Pink’s isolation and the sold-out audience’s collective witness to his (our) descent, as fans pulled together to share Pink’s pain and loneliness.
Slowly, the ragged wall became more complete, bricks added one at a time through the show, 25 feet tall and spanning the width of the arena. Nearly 175 surround speakers and spotlights pounded the thump-thump-thump of helicopters as Gerald Scarfe’s rich animation came to life in a stories-tall puppet teacher with glowing red laser eyes.
“Hey, teacher! Leave those kids alone!” yelled a chorus of children who pointed at the daunting figure. “All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall!”
The performance was updated for today, including a song about the brutal shooting of Brazilian man Jean Charles de Menezes, shot and killed by London police in 2005 in a controversial case of alleged mistaken identity.
Next, a young Waters joined the elder Waters for a duo via vintage film and sang “Mother” together. Scarfe’s cartoon mother came to life, too, head shaking, arms folded, 20 feet of scowl, updated to represent the all-watchful eye of big government, an oversized surveillance camera swept the audience as Waters performed.
Slowly, the wall closed in around the stage. The band continued behind it, the projections on its front became more explicit, sexual and violent during “Young Lust” and “One of My Turns.”
Brick by physical brick, Waters erected a barrier between fans and the stage. He walked out in front of it, raised a fist to the heavens and sang. Parts, too, were performed fully behind the wall.
People screamed and cried, tears streamed down their faces as they sang in unison, “Together we stand, divided we fall.” Slowly, Waters asks, “Is There Anybody Out There?” as two bricks come down. He plays a solo. Cracks are seen in the wall. “Nobody Home” was his reply. Its larger message was clear and obvious: We numb ourselves to keep ourselves moving. Every weapon and bomb made is a theft from those who need food, clothes ... And humanity.
Pink puts himself — and us — on trial.
Waters’ vision, and execution of that vision, was as chilling and pitch-perfect today as it was three decades ago. “Run like hell,” he sang, as images of bomb-throwing revolutionaries, teachers and children were projected on the wall behind him. “You better run!”
Scarfe’s animation returned, 2½ stories tall, as the crowd chanted “tear down the wall!” in a deafening roar, as Waters pumped his fists. Bricks tumbled and crashed.
The three-hour, state-of-the-art performance was more than 30 years in the making, and technology has finally caught up with Waters’ Orwellian vision, spawned by Pink Floyd’s 1979 album, “The Wall,” which became the band’s top-selling record.
Waters’ message is more potent today than it’s ever been.
(Outside the Wall)
In the Flesh?
The Thin Ice
Another Brick in the Wall Part 1
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
Goodbye Blue Sky
What Shall We Do Now?
One of My Turns
Don’t Leave Me Now
Another Brick in the Wall Part 3
The Last Few Bricks
Goodbye Cruel World
Is There Anybody Out There?
Bring the Boys Back Home
The Show Must Go On
In the Flesh
Run Like Hell
Waiting for the Worms
Outside the Wall