Concert Review: Roger Waters-The Wall Live @ Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada
Legendary English rock band Pink Floyd released their classic double album, The Wall, in November of 1979. Bassist Roger Waters wrote nearly the entire album. It tells the story of a character named Pink. At a very young age, Pink loses his father in the second world war (as did Waters). At school, he is bullied and teased by his teachers while at home he deals with his overbearing and overprotective mother. When Pink grows up, he becomes a big rock star. Eventually however, the rock star life takes its toll on Pink and he burns himself out, descending into madness. His marriage fails and he is left alone. Each of these incidents individually represent a ‘brick’ in a metaphorical ‘wall’. It’s the wall that is built brick-by-brick through life to protect the individual from the outside world and keep him/her safe. The wall also acts to isolate that person. Waters was really into some deep thinking here. In the end, Pink is judged and ordered to ‘tear down the wall’.
The live tour shows for the Wall became famous for their massive theatrical productions in which a real, giant wall would slowly be built on stage between the performers and the audience during the first half of the show, and then tore down by the show’s climactic end. The album was also adapted into a movie in 1982 and it told Pink’s story using live action inter-cut with cool animation. The music from The Wall album was the film’s soundtrack.
Now, Roger Waters brings his giant, visually-stunning, updated stage production of The Wall to Rogers Centre (still Skydome to me and a lot of other people) in Toronto.
Before the show started, we could see the wall partially built on the edges of the stage. There was also a circular video screen on stage.
The show started with a bang. As the band started Into the Flesh? giant bursts of pyro shot up from the front of the stage. There was the giant ‘duel hammer’ logo on the circular video screen (made famous in The Wall movie), consisting of two hammers crossed to make an ‘X’ in front of a half red/half white circle. Roger Waters appeared dressed in black t-shirt and pants. He walked on stage and put on a long military-style ‘SS’ black jacket that was waiting for him. People waving flags were elevated behind the band and there were giant spotlights shining this way and that. At the songs end, a fighter jet projected on screen flew at the audience, opening fire. There were more pyro explosions before a good-sized model of a real fighter jet descended from the rafters of Rogers Centre, crashing into the wall as flames jumped in the air.
The Thin Ice started with Waters picking up his bass. As the song played, pictures/info of people of all ages/nationalities who have died too young appeared on the screen. Waters’ father was the first shown. We also saw pics of other soldiers, activists, civilians, and firefighters. Theses pictures started to cover the wall while scenes of grief were shown on the big circular video screen.
The stage/wall was bathed in red light as the bass-line for Another Brick in the Wall–Part 1 hit. The crowd here gave a big cheer for the tune. Waters appeared in a red spotlight as the screen onstage turned red in colour and showed random clips of people.
Next came loud helicopter sounds as searchlights scanned the crowd. The screen onstage showed a brick wall covered in barbwire. The words ‘iBelieve’ were written on it and you could see two industrial smoke stacks in the background (reminds me of the Animals album cover). Next, we were introduced to the giant ‘schoolmaster’ puppet as it appeared for this song at the right of the stage. It was massive, wearing a blue blazer, and its eyes lit up.
I hear another massive cheer from the crowd as the line ‘we don’t need no education’ signals the start of Another Brick in the Wall–Part 2. This is probably the most famous/recognizable song on The Wall album. A group of local children came out on stage to handle the kids choir parts. They even added a little choreography and put on a good show. I imagine it was a really cool experience for them. People were also seen walking on stage here, adding more bricks to the stage’s wall, slowly building it up. At the end of the song, a subway train was seen rolling across the bottom of the that wall.
Waters took some time before the song Mother to say ‘Hello Toronto’ and I think I heard him make a joke about the name of the venue, “Rogers Centre’. I didn’t hear exactly what he said, but he acknowledged it was a pretty corny joke. He also took time to thank the kids for their wonderful job on the previous song. Waters told the crowd that they were going to project footage of him singing Mother from Earls Court in 1980 on stage. So the modern Waters would be singing a duet with his younger self. It looked cool, with the 1980 Waters’ body shown on the wall, while his face was shown on the circular screen. There was a massive ovation for the first line “mother do you think they’ll drop the bomb?” There were the obvious jeers/boos/no’s! after the line “mother should I trust the government?”. For added effect, after that line, the words NO…FUCKING…WAY appeared one after the other in bright red letters on the wall to a massive ovation. A giant ‘mother’ puppet (covered in red light) became visible standing behind the wall at the left hand side of the stage while the video screen showed a big, ‘eye-in-the-sky’ surveillance camera rotating around, watching things. Words of comfort scrolled across the wall in different languages before we saw the phrase “BIG
BMOTHER IS WATCHING YOU” appear.
The stage went pitch black for the start of Goodbye Blue Sky. Then, a flock of white birds flew across the wall/screen from left to right. With the birds gone, the wall/screen shone a colour that reminded me a lot like the glow of a full moon. Next, we saw bomber planes appear on wall/screen flying through the sky dropping bright red bombs in the shape of crosses, dollar signs, religious/political symbols, and corporate logos as the stage was bathed in red light.
The song Empty Spaces featured the animation used for the song in the 1982 Wall movie projected on stage. It started with two flowers basically ‘doing it’, before one flower devoured the other and turned into a black dragon, flying away. There were urban landscapes and we saw the wall flying across the land. It’s the exact same footage as in the movie.
What Shall We Do Now? was not on the original Wall album. It was added in live shows and the Wall movie. At the concert, we saw more footage from the Wall movie during this song. As in the film, there was a giant colour explosion of bright red/teal/blue across the screen/wall. It looked amazing. At the end, we saw a menacing-looking hammer formed, and it slammed down toward the audience, just like in the movie.
At the start of Young Lust I noticed even more of the wall had been built. Women in various states of dress/undress were projected on its surface. The stage was brightly lit. Near the song’s end, more bricks were added to the wall and a giant pair of eyes appeared across it.
The eyes stayed on the wall as we heard audio of telephone conversations (from the album) and saw a hotel room scene with a young woman marveling at Pink’s room/bath/guitar collection (again, from the album). Waters appeared in the spotlight to sing One of My Turns. The pair of eyes returned as more bricks were added and the wall grew higher.
Don’t Leave Me Now started with a woman’s face on the wall with Waters solo in the spotlight. The red-haired, green praying mantis ‘wife’ puppet appeared in front of the left side of the wall, its lips glowing pink (think Poison Ivy in the Val Kilmer Batman movie). By now, the wall was almost complete, and as the song ended, the wall dripped a spectacle of different colours. It looked amazing.
Another Brick in the Wall-Part 3 shows news footage on basically what is now a large wall-shaped projection screen.
The Last Few Bricks is another song not off the original album. It too was added in live shows. The wall appeared red here, with pieces of it seemingly opening here and there and floating off.
The first act’s final song, Goodbye Cruel World had Waters by himself behind the last remaining brick hole in the wall. He was back-lit and had a spotlight on him. The final brick was placed in the wall as the song ended. Then, in giant white capital letters across the entire length of the wall: INTERMISSION
Intermission ended with the circle screen turning blue behind the dark grey wall. At one point during Hey You, a thunderclap roared out, and the wall ‘appeared’ to swing open in the middle. A scary looking white creature ran toward the audience screaming before the wall slammed back shut.
Is There Anybody Out There? got a massive crowd response as searchlights spanned the audience. The giant pair of eyes showed up on the wall again. Part of the wall (2 bricks) opened to show two people playing the acoustic guitar parts, lit from behind in blue/green.
Nobody Home started with fighter jets on the wall as we heard pilot dialogue. Part of the wall opened on the left hand side of the stage to reveal Roger Waters sitting in a chair in a hotel room. This same thing was done during his 1990 The Wall Live in Berlin DVD. The hotel room also had a lamp and a TV. It was lit in blue, but at one point glowed bright red before going back to blue. At the song’s end, we saw a fighter jet crash into the ground (projected on the wall).
The song Vera featured clips of soldiers returning home from duty to see their loved ones.
During Bring the Boys Back Home, a quote from former-US president Dwight Eisenhower was shown on the wall in big white letters. It read: “every gun that’s made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, A THEFT (in big red letters) from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed”. The images on the wall were of impoverished children. The song ended with the song title in giant white letters across the wall. Waters was in the spotlight in front of the wall as it turned white as snow.
Waters stayed put as Comfortably Numb started. A band member capably handled the Dave Gilmour vocal parts whilst on top of the wall. There was also two guitar solos on top of the wall by another band member. At one point during the 2nd guitar solo, Waters slammed his fists into the wall, and the image broke up in a rainbow of super-bright colours and eventually reminded me of a sunset. This was one of the coolest parts of the show and looked spectacular.
The wall became lit in white at the top. As the white crept its way down the wall, we saw five people dressed in black, singing The Show Must Go On in harmony in front of it.
‘Banners’ (not real, projected) unfurled down the wall at the start of In the Flesh. They looked like ones in the Wall movie, black with red trim, and featured the ‘duel hammer’ logo. The circular screen behind the wall showed the same logo. The whole band was in black uniform out in front of the wall as it showed black flags waving with red hammer logos. People on stage also walked around with flags. Waters appeared in his black military jacket as the banners reappeared on the wall. An inflatable black pig with tusks and bright red eyes was now launched to float over the audience.
Waters asked the crowd “Are there any paranoids in the stadium toinight?” as the words appeared on the wall. “This one’s for you, it’s called Run Like Hell” said Waters, reading the words on the wall. The wall itself flashed white light in time with the bass drum. Some of the crowd started clapping in unison. As the black pig flew around, we saw ‘you better run!’ in red letters, before seeing the words: “iLead iProtect iFollow iResist iProfit iLose (with people and animals wearing ipod headphones), “iTeach iLearn iBelieve (Mao/Stalin/George W Bush with headphones), “iPaint” (Hitler with headphones), “iKill iPay”. Finally “you better run!” in white letters appeared before we saw more combat footage (the military ‘taking enemy soldiers out’) and the wall go back to flashing in time with the drums.
Worms appeared on the wall during the song Waiting for the Worms (how clever). Waters grabbed a megaphone to shout at the crowd while the famous ‘marching hammer’ animation from the Wall movie was projected on the wall. The song got louder and louder and louder, until it died off completely into the solo piano of the song Stop.
The Trial featured all the animation used in the Wall movie for that sequence. We saw the hammers lined up, poor little Pink, the prosecutor, the schoolmaster, the wife, the mother, and the worm judge. We also saw a modern ‘CG’ version of a tormented Pink with ‘iHate’ on the wall behind him as he gives the audience the finger. In the end, the judge orders Pink to “tear down the wall!”. The crowd at Rogers Centre took up the chant, over and over, “tear down the wall!”. A high-speed visual recap/montage of the entire concert was projected across the wall on stage before the actual wall itself came literally crashing down.
Red light covered the rubble of the wall. The band came out in a spotlight to do the final song, Outside the Wall. The song was done with only acoustic instruments and sounded awesome. I always love the Dr. Seuss-style lyrics of this track. At the show’s end, the Rogers Centre crowd gave Roger and the band a massive ovation, really loud and lengthy. Waters made a comment about how he used to be kind of ‘cranky’ around crowds of that many people, adding that there was no other place he’d rather be than at Rogers Centre with the fans that night.
If you made it through that lengthy recap, you’ll understand why this show gets a 10/10 for visuals. I have never seen anything like it, especially at a rock show. The band sounded amazing. The vocals were kind of fuzzy at times (not Waters’ fault, more the acoustics of the giant dome) but still not too bad. I definitely got my money’s worth at this concert and would highly recommend it to other Pink Floyd fans. Roger Waters seemed really into the show’s presentation and gave full effort throughout. I would just like to thank him for bringing his big production back to Toronto for us all to experience.
PHM Rating: 9 out of 10
Setlist for Roger Waters: The Wall Live @ Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada – Saturday June 23rd, 2012:
In the Flesh?
The Thin Ice
Another Brick in the Wall – PT 1
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall – PT 2
Goodbye Blue Sky
What Shall We Do Now?
One of My Turns
Don’t Leave Me Now
Another Brick in the Wall – PT 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
Thank you for you descriptive diligence to detail. It brought the whole night back to me. I can’t believe you caught all that and am curious to know whether you took notes or taped it. Regardless, fantastic review.
You are right, no human alive could remember all that without help. I took notes, but I had seen footage of previous shows online and knew what to look for.