It's difficult to imagine Roger Waters being able to carry off a performance of a Pink Floyd album by himself. However, since "The Wall" is perhaps his magnum opus (that means greatest work for those of you who haven't taken Latin or Literature 101) that is the one piece of the Floyd catalog that is almost entirely his creation.
In fact, during the recording of the original studio album, the other Floyd members were often treated like session players. Waters was not getting along with keyboardist Richard Wright and at one point fired him from the band for refusing to go to Los Angeles and record some tracks for The Wall, only to bring him back as a salaried player for the album tour.
The show at the United Center last night was an updated version of 1980's thirty-odd gig, four city tour. The complexities of staging this production, which is as much a showpiece as it is a concert, as far easier with 21st century technology enabling the addition of many more venues thirty years hence.
I won't go into the story behind the record which is well documented. See this Wikipedia article for more detail.
Apparently some of the minor technical glitches that occurred on Monday's opener were in evidence last night, as the show went off without a hitch. I was quite a spectacle. All the usual Floyd gimmicks were there, from the exploding airplane to the flying pig.
Acoustically it was fabulous. Visually, it was stunning. The audience of predominantly thirty, forty, and fifty-somethings sang along with just about every song, especially the show stoppers like "Comfortably Numb" and "Another Brick in the Wall." There was always something being projected onto the wall, which was being "constructed" by stagehands during the performance. A lot of the messages were anti-war and anti-establishment. The crowd ate it up, particularly when after the line "Should I trust the government?" The words "No fucking way!" appeared projected on the wall.
One could have only wished that David Gilmour could be part of this spectacle. He is rumored to appear at some selected dates. Even two musicians, one on vocals, and a guitarist can't quite capture the energy and presence of Gilmour, notably on the solo in "Comfortably Numb." That however, was a minor blemish on an otherwise superbly crafted show.
(See the great photo gallery of pics from Scott Strazzante of the Tribune)
Waters looks great, considering he turned sixty-seven two weeks ago. He is thin, in great shape, and his voice still sounds wonderful. He even commented about how he was singing a duet with himself, as projected from film of the 1980 tour on the backdrop. He pulled that off seamlessly. Roger leaves his bass to others and simply sings for many of the songs.
My favorite part of "The Wall" remains what would be considered Side two of the album -the stretch that goes from "Goodbye Blue Sky" to "Goodbye Cruel World," the song that ends the first set of the live show. While I agree that the best songs are the ones that became the hits, listen carefully to this section and how it flows together so well. I recommend listening to the live version released as "Is There Anybody Out There?" which includes two tracks not contained on the studio album.
Although the tickets were a bit pricey, the show is very worthwhile. Think of what you pay to see a show at a Loop or Broadway theater with Roger Waters performing.
This is only the beginning of the tour, with two more Chicago dates Thursday and Friday and many dates across the country.
For further reading on Pink Floyd, I recommend my friend Stu Shea's book Pink Floyd FAQ. Stu was kind enough to give me the opportunity to author one of the chapters on the top live Floyd shows.