(...we came in?)Up until a few days ago I wasn't going to attend this concert - I was contacted by an old workmate who told me he had a spare if I wanted it. As this is probably the last chance we'll ever get to see The Wall performed live by the guy who wrote it, and probably the last time he will ever tour such a big production, the bullet was bit!Although I've seen Waters twice before, once at this venue and again at Liverpool's Echo Arena, this show promised much. Performances of 'The Wall' in its entirety are few and far between; it is only now that Waters has had the budget and the technology to take the show on the road. The Pink Floyd Wall shows in 1980 have become legendary; similarly the all-star show at Berlin, performed following a pledge by Waters that he would stage it after that previously divided city's Wall came down. On entering the arena the scale of the production was clear immediately. A huge, partially-built Wall went across the stage, with the performers mostly positioned behind it. Shortly before the lights went down, an announcement came over the PA requesting that the audience not use flash photography, even advising patrons how to set their cameras to switch the flash off! Waters himself soon appeared, to rapturous cheers, as he ran from one side of the stage to the other to greet the crowd. Clad in a black T-shirt and black canvas jeans, he donned a greatcoat to start proceedings with the opening track, 'In The Flesh?' The sound effects and carefully-positioned spotlights were effective in creating the illusion of an air attack, as the bomber sound effect grew louder and climaxed with a pyro explosion on the stage complete with fireworks. There were few present who did not know the story behind the concept album; based on Waters's own life, it tells the story of a young boy whose father was killed in World War II who grew up to become the rock star 'Pink Floyd'. As the track 'The Thin Ice' began, a projection of Eric Fletcher Waters, Roger's father appeared on the large screen over the stage. A smaller image appeared on one of the bricks in the wall, and as the song progressed images of other war victims began to appear on the screen, then as bricks in the wall. Eventually the entire wall was taken up, and a powerful point was made. As the show progressed, you could see technicians slowly adding more 'bricks' to the wall. This meant of course that both the band playing and the screen were becoming hidden from view, but this mattered little as the main man was still visible, emerging from the gap still in the wall to the front part of the stage. When the set got to 'Another Brick In The Wall Part 2' the song was extended to accommodate solos from guitarists Snowy White and Dave Kilminster.
To accompany this song, there was a large puppet 'Teacher' looking exactly like that seen in the promo video all those years ago, and for the 'schoolchildren' part of the song a group of young people clad in black T-shirts all with the slogan 'Fear Builds Walls' appeared on stage. When it got to the outro solo, one of these youngsters broke ranks and played air guitar along to the solo! Needless to say this song was cheered to the rafters. It wasn't until we got to 'Mother' that Waters addressed the audience, and showed a hitherto unseen willingness to call himself out. He announced that 'Mother' would be performed as a sort of duet - between himself singing live, and himself from 30 years previously. Footage from the Earls Court shows of 1980 appeared on the Wall as the song was performed, and by now we could see little of the band on the stage. However, a large inflatable 'Mother' was clearly visible, looking stern and imposing. Equally visible - and blunt - was the response to the line 'Mother Should I Trust The Government?' on the Wall, written in the Scarfe style!Another powerful visual came during 'Goodbye Blue Sky', showing animation of a squadron of bombers (looking suspicuously like B-52s) in silhouette, all in formation and about to bomb the land below. However, the 'bombs' were symbolic - one bomber was dropping crucifixes, another dropped Stars of David, another the Star and Cresent, and there were even 'bombs' in the shape of the Shell symbol, the Mercedes-Benz logo and the McDonalds 'M'. It's safe to say none of these companies were sponsoring this tour! The wall was nearing completion by this time and although we could hear the band rock out for 'Young Lust', for example, all that could be seen were scantily-clad women projected onto the Wall! The first part of the show ended with 'Goodbye Cruel World', when all that was left was one brick-sized gap, closed as the song ended. During the intermission, once again there were projections of people who had lost their lives in wars. Preceded by a message from Waters himself pledging 'We Will Remember Them', these were images sent in by people from around the world and displayed, regardless of where they were from and who they were fighting for (if indeed they WERE fighting - some were civilian victims). Each image had a short description about the person's lives, and once again, without lecturing anybody over a microphone - Waters had made a point. The show recommenced with the completed Wall in place, as the band struck up 'Hey You'. The fact that we could still the spotlights were still focusing on the players but not the musicians themselves was very bizarre! A section of the Wall opened up stage left for 'Nobody Home'; this had Waters sat in a recreated hotel room watching 'thirteen channels of s--t' while he performed alone. All we saw up until 'Comfortably Numb' was projections, but the sight of the words 'BRING THE BOYS BACK HOME' written in huge Scarfe-style letters across the Wall carried extra weight now, given current events. Waters himself appeared in front of the Wall for 'Comfortably Numb' and sang, while atop the Wall were singer Robbie Wycoff and guitarist Dave Kilminster. Sadly no Gilmour, who appeared at London's o2 Arena for one date, but anyone who wants to see that will have found it on YouTube by now.
Kilminster performed the solo superbly, almost exactly as it was recorded, as below, Waters conjured up effects to make the Wall seemingly explode. Because of its iconic status, the song is usually played at the end of a set but with this being a live recreation of the Wall album, it had to fit in the order. Consequently there was a danger that the rest of the show could be anti-climactic - not so here, with the master of rock theatrics. He brought out a 'surrogate band' for 'In The Flesh' performing in front of the Wall, all dressed in the scary uniforms and with the 'hammer' flags above them. It all got a bit 'Sid Vicious' at the end when Waters produced a machine gun and 'had us all shot' too - he outdid every Heavy Metal musician who has pretended to 'machine-gun' a crowd with a guitar in one swoop! 'Run Like Hell' followed, which was about the only time this felt like a straight rock gig with Waters and his band urging clapping throughout. The show ran like clockwork, Waters is a master when it comes to presenting his work as theatre and with such strong visuals, he really brings the album and its concept to life. The penultimate song 'The Trial' saw plenty of disturbing Scarfe animations before the Wall itself came tumbling down - I think the stewards stationed at the front of the stage facing the audience got a shock as huge 'bricks' came down up on their heads! Fortunately, the bricks are merely cardboard but even so, there was a huge mess at the front of the stage! At the end, there was a massive roar from the huge Arena crowd, as Waters came out and introduced his band - including his son Harry who was playing keyboards. With the band stood in a line, and with Waters playing a trumpet, it was time for the final song, 'Outside The Wall'. Following that, Roger then thanked the audience and gave special mention 'to all the Scousers here tonight'! He is well aware of the devoted following of his old band in the Liverpool area and risked jeering from the rest of the audience, but did so anyway. Pity that the show wasn't held in the Echo Arena then - but the sheer scale of this production meant that it could only be staged in the largest venues. He then earned himself another light-hearted boo by congratulating Manchester United - explaining that it hurt to do so as he is a lifelong Arsenal fan! However, the boos suggested not too many United fans were present! Football-related banter aside, this was a colossal event and one everyone present was privileged to be at. When you consider that the guy is 67 years old, his performance was astonishing, and when you consider that he's been doing it night after night for the best part of a year, doubly so. There are many current acts playing arenas who put on huge productions but as stylish as they may be, surely none can come close to this one. The original Floyd shows are still talked about today, and I predict that this production will still be revered in another thirty years time. I hope I'm still around by then to brag that I was there! (Isn't this where...)