Roger Waters performs The Wall at The O2, Dublin on May 24th 2011.
It’s hard for ‘The Wall’ not to be the first thing you see entering the auditorium. The sheer size and vastness doesn’t even come near preparing you for the event that’s about to unfold. It is an event, this can’t be called a gig or a concert. It is the ultimate audio/visual experience consumed en mass.
‘The Wall’, the iconic 1979 Pink Floyd concept album, tells the story of Pink, a character based on Waters himself, who eventually isolates himself from society, hence the wall, which is built up and then torn down.
The extravaganza opens with a muted introduction to Pink. Flag bearers fill the stage holding red flags with bright hammer icons. Just as you try to figure out what exactly is going on, pyrotechnics run from left to right and back across the stage, they fall from the ceiling, rise from the ground, racing until the all culminate with a mighty bang.
The sound of spitfires tear around the back of the venue and a searchlight is turned on the audience. The wall itself, takes up the entire length of the stage, at this point, just with the end pieces intact. Clever propaganda-esque images are projected onto the bricks while the band are set up in the middle, slightly back from the front. Above the band, the infamous round ‘Mr Screen’ hangs.
The thing is with this, you don’t have to be a Pink Floyd fan to appreciate what is happening. Even a casual observer will be familiar with the strains of ‘Another Brick in The Wall’. The sound from the band in the arena is a tad ropey to start. When Roger Waters addresses the crowd it is hard to hear what he is saying, Something about driving a Zephyr 4 to a town called Cock and telling us not to drink-drive. As the sound gets better, the faithful audience find their voice.
The acoustic-led ‘Mother’ fills the auditorium accompanied by surveillance camera graphics. As each song progresses bricks are added to the wall and illuminated with graphics and projections. Despite them being updated for the 21st century, cartoonist, Gerald Scarfe’s influence is everywhere. From his puppet design for inflatables to the satirical way corporation logos and slogans have been incorporated into the show.
As the band continue playing, a bridge of bricks is build around them showing this to be quite the structural feat. The music is flawless, this is about more than that, although listening, people can be heard chatting to their friends about the visual feast they are witnessing.
Slowly the bricks are placed in the wall, itself a fantastic feat as the musical show goes on around it. Waters steps through the holes in the wall, conducting and urging on the crowd as they sing. As ‘Goodbye Cruel World’ plays the last bricks are placed into position, until we can no longer see the band.
As the audience waits for part two to commence, they are faced with the sheer size of a fully built wall, fifty blocks wide and twelve high. Throughout the second half of the show, we are given glimpses of the musicians behind the wall while Waters is in front. For ‘Nobody Home’ we see Waters in a sitting room environment, TV, lamp and comfy chair on stage.
The part has a more definite rock show feel. The crowd singing every word to ‘Vera’ and ‘Bring The Boys’ back home. It is though, ‘Comfortably Numb’ that steals the show. Gerald Scarfe’s animations continue across the Wall as ‘Run Like Hell’ is sung by the masses. Roger Waters shows himself as not only an accomplished musician but performer also, taking a megaphone and literally performing as if on the theatre stage. The infamous Pig make’s an appearance, moving across the standing crowd and right around the venue. Yes, pigs do fly! And Oh, to have the remote control for this one!
It’s a strange thing, we know what happens, the wall comes down. We want to see how it will come down or will the bricks come down via projections ? Chants of ‘Tear Down The Wall’ build up, echoing around the auditorium. The sound of helicopters and explosions come from behind the wall while we can see smoke rising. Finally in a dramatic the Wall crumbles to rapturous applause.
There’s no Dave Gilmour appearance tonight, no one minds. The cheers and applause still continue as I head for the exit. Amazing visuals, amazing atmosphere, a definite “I was there” extravaganza.