So, an AARP-eligible musician performs the second leg of a massive tour strictly focused on a 32-year-old record he crafted with the band he's not even a member of anymore. That sounds bad doesn't it? If computers had smell-o-vision, the musky notes of aging desperation might billow from that sentence.
But, when it's Roger Waters performing Pink Floyd's 1979 opus, The Wall, in a fully-produced, massive scale concert, there's a inherent sense of obligation to bear witness, even if you've never had any contact whatsoever with an FM dial since the album's release more than three decades ago.
This is the situation a muggy Saturday evening yielded at Orlando's Amway Center when Roger Waters and company rolled through town for their second Central Florida Wall performance in less than two years. A tad redundant? Perhaps, but a lucrative success if the near sold-out crowd at the Amway was any indication.
As we wait, the colossal stage set-up offers more than enough foreshadowing. High rising rafters, a gigantic psychedelic puppet hanging from above, an SS-style leather trench coat donned over a black mannequin, large already-massive sections of white-bricked wall flanking each side of the stage — they all add up to something you know will be good in one way or another.
The house lights dim, the fanfare starts to the famous "I am Spartacus" scene from Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus film and before long, Waters has hit the stage, clad in the coat and sunglasses, singing amidst his band, fireworks shooting in time with "In the Flesh." It's way too much in the best way possible.
This sentiment sustains throughout the show. As Waters and his band — including son Harry on keys and SNL vet G.E. Smith on guitar — play through a track-for-track set of The Wall material as the theatrical spectacle unfolds, tricks, and wows in ways I honestly never thought a rock concert could.
The centerpiece of the show is the wall itself, a massive structure of white blocks that grows and grows, eventually barricading the south end of the arena and shrouding the entire band. The logistics of how this gets accomplished in a variety of arenas from night to night is completely beyond me. The apparent $60 million budget probably helps.
The wall also doubles as a projection screen rife with images and video birthed from the war overseas, footage from The Wall film, and other compelling imagery. While a little gimmicky and cliché at times, they play very well paired with The Wall's themes of isolation, world-weariness, and dystopian future.
With a spectacle like this, it's almost easy to forget you're watching a live concert in the first place. This is something a lesser artist could easily hide behind, but Waters takes command, kind of ironically, like the authority figures The Wall works to mock and challenge. He's animated, good-spirited, and stricken with more smiles than I cared to count throughout the show. For an album with such a dismal outlook, Waters looks disproportionately happy.
His pinched howls and cooing lows are near carbon-copies of his album takes. In a spat of laughable and admitted narcissism, he sings "Mother" along with a video recording of himself singing the song in concert in 1980 right after the album's release. The sound is so identical I wonder why he even felt a legitimate need to do this in the first place.
A local children's choir came out for the famed portion of "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" and their single-toned chant ("We don't need no education / We don't need no thought control") sounded all the more ominous emanating throughout the arena bolstered by a beady-eyed 20-foot marionette looming above the stage.
At over 600 words, I still feel like I've barely conveyed just exactly how much of a monstrous feat of live musical entertainment this production is. In the end, what really impresses most is how integral all the bells and whistles were to the actual music of The Wall. Sure, it's easy to get lost in a hypnotizing montage of marching cartoon hammers, but then you realize they wouldn't have a reason to march if it wasn't for the legendary stomp from "Waiting for the Worms" that's leading them. Saturday proved that Waters is primarily an artist, an artist with a fortunate knack, and budget, for jaw-dropping spectacle.