May 2nd, 2012
Loopster Live: Roger Waters — The Wall Live at Toyota Center
The Wall Live returned to the U.S. last night with a first stop in Houston.
The performance, for it is perhaps better termed theater rather than concert, lives up to the hype in many ways. It is a remarkable production that, perhaps intentionally, overwhelms and can subdue as easily as it enthralls. As a result, the floor audience often seemed unsure whether to sit or stand, as if attending the in-laws religious service on Christmas Eve and wanting badly not to offend.
The music is of course familiar. Reproduced to an almost unbelievable faithful level by a talented group of eleven artists, including, what sounded from introductions, to be two brothers and an uncle as well as NBC’s legendary GE Smith. Perhaps it is because it is so familiar and the visuals so stunning, that it seems easy to get caught up in the messaging and miss the sound.
Roger Waters is a curious character. Of infamous temperament and strong opinion, he seemed gracious and appreciative of the Houston audience’s response. He acknowledged the mutual love as a group and by section both in word and expression. Not having seen the first stop in 2010, I’m not qualified to speak to how Roger’s individual performance has changed, but he seemed very aware that he was the draw and yet some of his talents are being tested by time. Through well-choreographed breaks and technical artistry, he is supported by his former self in video recording and is clearly working on his dramatic performance, not expecting his voice to carry the entire load alone. It is still a charismatic and impressive performance on an individual level.
I often write of the production of concerts. It is an element that, to me, helps define a live experience from listening to an album, certainly from a live album. To that end, The Wall may be the most complex and intricate performance I’ve ever seen, certainly within the rock domain. There were elements of stage rigging that would have made Cirque De Soleil proud, the visuals were bigger than design-heavy Kraftwerk depends upon (though I do expect The Wall to return with visual in 3D to further cement the current effort), and with lifts, pyro, 3/4-story tall puppets, pig blimps floating through the arena, it is easy to believe that the tour requires 14 rigs, which approaches the limit for an arena show and exceeds many stadium tours.
My twitter feed showed many who witnessed the 2010 stop had returned, and it quickly became clear that, with so many visual elements, the production certainly justifies repeat viewings. In fact, as the pictures one attendee posted to Facebook (and others commented on), the show is unusual in that floor seats are not necessarily the best seats. Witnessing Roger Waters, sit on the floor. Witnessing the spectacle of The Wall – Live, seating back and up has many advantages.