The Wall, live at Toyota Center, Houston
Much has been written about the impetus behind Roger Waters writing Pink Floyd’s The Wall. From the death of his father in WWII, to feelings of alienation and self-doubt, to stardom and the trappings of fame, the album was Waters’ way of coming to terms with his childhood and becoming an adult.
From the onset, those in last night’s capacity crowd at Houston’s Toyota Center knew they were in for a show. It began with a “homeless” man shuffling his way through the aisles of the venue’s floor and led into a parade of flag bearers in mock military garb before launching into the spectacularly pyrotechnics-enhanced intro of “In The Flesh” and “The Thin Ice”. Once Waters hit the stage it was apparent this was his moment–his artistic statement–and no matter of legal wrangling and bad blood between his former Pink Floyd bandmates could keep him from his mission.
For The Wall‘s lead 1979 single, “Another Brick In The Wall, Part II”, Waters was joined onstage by a group of children, each sporting a shirt that read, “Fear Builds Walls”. It was one of the many tools Waters used throughout the night to pound home the point that The Wall was more than a mere concept album or performance art–it was socio-political commentary, and one that remains as valid today as it was 30 years ago.
Waters used the wall, which was built brick-by-brick throughout the concert, to reinforce his point. Scenes of violence, political slogans, and images and information on soldiers killed in action were projected upon the wall in its various states.
The theatrics–an exploding airplane, the crumbling wall, the requisite floating pig, and the projections–never quite overshadowed the music, though some were heard after the show to comment on being forced to stare at a wall instead of being able to watch the band. While understandable, it’s tough to imagine people today still not getting the point of The Wall.
It was The Wall’s moodier moments–notably “One Of My Turns,” “Nobody Home,” and “Vera”–that were most impressive. Waters vocals were strong throughout the two hour-plus concert, and his onstage antics (pretending to try to scale the wall, machine gunning the audience) did little to detract from the overall theme.
Waters chose a smattering of hired guns for his 2010-2011 tour, singer
Rob Thomas Robbie Wyckoff and guitarists G.E. Smith and Dave Kilminster among them. However, the music of Pink Floyd and The Wall is iconic and was what missing was readily apparent to anyone who’s spent serious time with the album. Like fellow reviewer Pete Vonder Haar wrote in his review for Houston Press‘ Rocks Off music blog:
…The Wall may chiefly be Waters’ baby, but the fact he needed three guitarists and a vocalist to replace Dave Gilmour’s contributions shows just how vital to the whole thing Gilmour was…
While I wholeheartedly agree, it was a relatively small point last night, since fans have had decades to get over the break-up of Pink Floyd and the Houston stop (or “Howston,” as Manhattanite Waters deemed it) was good enough to allow even the most ardent Gilmour fan (uh, me) to ignore it and simply enjoy the show.
Roger Waters’ experiences, insecurities, and talents helped him craft The Wall, and last night’s performance reinforced why his music remains among the most notable in rock history. At the end of the show, Waters commented on the feelings of alienation that led him to pen The Wall and how close he felt to his fans after all this time. “I don’t feel…alienated any longer,” he said. It was good to see how time has healed Waters’ wounds.