Tuesday morning, as she was ticking away the moments that make up a dull day, one of The Spin's co-workers, a diehard Pink Floyd fan, was offered the chance to spend $500 on a front-row seat to Roger Waters' The Wall Live tour at Bridgestone. A tidy sum, to be sure, particularly if you're not in the hi-fidelity first-class traveling set. Still, we offered the only advice we could: screw responsibility, throw caution to the wind — and run like hell to the Bridgestone Arena.
Of course, her mind was already made up before she sought our sage counsel. And as it should be. It's not every day (or year, or decade) that the Andrew Lloyd Webber of psychedelic rock comes town. (Perhaps calling Webber the Roger Waters of theater would more appropriate, since the stage impresario clearly ripped off the hook from Pink Floyd's “Echoes” for Phantom of the Opera. But we digress.)
And sure enough, Waters, looking remarkably spry for a 68-year-old, rocked the Bridgestone with enough pomp and spectacle to make even the most elaborate Broadway production look like the Little Rascals after Spanky shouts, “Hey! Let's put on a show!” In fact, Tuesday night's concert might just be the greatest arena rock show we've ever laid our dilated pupils on.
And that says a lot, particularly since The Wall isn't our first, second or even third favorite Floyd album. By the time Floyd's 11th studio effort hit the streets in 1979, the arty, otherworldly head trips that sparked our love affair had given way to heavy-handed anthems.
But hey, what works better in an arena setting than heavy-handed anthems! (See: U2.) And it's interesting to note that as Rogers performed an entire rock opera that was chiefly inspired by disgust and animosity toward his audience, he couldn't have been more affable. Have we changed for the better? Has he mellowed? No matter — love was in the air, and we were along for the ride.
There were so many highlights that it's hard to recount them all: the titular monolith growing ever larger throughout the first set, as Rogers and bandmates (including G.E. Smith) pop up in various nooks and crannies; a group of Nashville schoolkids in “Fear Builds Walls” T-shirts storming the stage for “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” singing, dancing and shouting down a four-story-tall ogre of a teacher; Waters performing “Mother” in unison with a video recording of him performing the song 30 years ago; the assorted cast of jack-booted thugs providing a dash of menace; and as always, the flying inflatable pig.
As with any arena rock show, people-watching was half the fun. For instance, the woman directly in front of us who stood and waved her fist in the air through the entire show, even when everyone in a 50-yard radius was seated. (Our companion not-so-affectionately dubbed her, “Lolita.”) Or the woman next to us, who stood and videoed all of “Hey You,” with the band completely hidden by the wall. She now has four minutes of a brick wall (with no projected images, mind you) on her iPhone! Cool!
Though the album The Wall expressed some antiwar sentiment, it was more about alienation and abandonment in general, as well as distrust of the establishment. But Waters' stage version was dominated by direct and unambiguous critiques of war in all its forms. Throughout the show (and even intermission), images of soldiers and civilians killed in conflicts throughout the last century were projected onto the wall and screen above the stage, often including names and details about their deaths. The evening's most chilling moment featured the subtitled video of an Iraqi photojournalist and his assistant being gunned down by an American Apache helicopter — appropriately, during “Run Like Hell.” After the video, a banner hung in front of the wall, reading, “Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chamgh, We Will Remember You.” Waters' antiwar message might have been heavy-handed, but then again, some messages require heavy hands.
Below, the Spin's crack(pot) iPhone videographer renders "Run Like Hell," as seen through the eyes of Fritz Lang, thanks to the 8mm app: