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Roger Waters’ MSG Performance Review; An Audio-Visual Marvel Treat To The Fans

In 2010, we saw the first of two performances of Roger Waters’ production of Pink Floyd’s 1979 album The Wall at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The presentation was just breathtaking—a work of audiovisual art—and it is without a doubt the show to see this year.

The arena rock concerts I’ve seen in recent years have left me feeling somewhat uninspired. The most exciting—and moving—rock concert I have seen in a long time took place the other night at the most renowned of all venues, New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

The first of two performances of Roger Waters’ staging of Pink Floyd’s 1979 album The Wall took place at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, October 5. The presentation was just breathtaking—a work of audiovisual art—and it is without a doubt the show to see this year.

Since I first heard The Wall as a teenager, it has been one of my all-time favorite albums. The Wall, a 1982 movie directed by Alan Parker, is another compelling masterpiece. However, witnessing The Wall live in concert was simply astounding. Waters is concluding the touring phase of his career on the greatest possible note if this is his final tour, as he has intimated in multiple interviews. All upcoming stadium rock mega production will be measured against this concert. The sonic and visual elements work together flawlessly.

The stage crew started building the wall before the performance and proceeded until it was finished at the conclusion of the first act. Many images were projected onto the wall, which also acted as a screen. Photos of soldiers killed in various wars were projected onto the wall both during “The Thin Ice” and at various points later in the performance.

Waters, who is now 67 years old, was only five months old when the Battle of Anzio claimed the life of his father, Eric. As a result of that tragedy, Waters has been an ardent anti-war campaigner for years. Before the tour began, he asked for the pictures on Facebook from his admirers. The images served as an essential commentary on the awful price of war and served as a harsh and moving reminder of the death of those heroic souls.

Later on in the program, a video of kids being reunited with their parents after serving in battle overseas was aired. The videos were quite powerful. I’ll never forget the expression on the schoolgirl’s face when her father unexpectedly showed up in uniform in her class after coming home. I couldn’t help but think about the fact that Waters never got to experience that feeling of joy as a youngster as I watched those clips play out on the wall.

The attractive semi-naked groupie from “Young Lust,” bomber jets dumping graphics like the Mercedes-Benz and Shell Oil insignia rather than bombs, and hammers marching in unison were some of the other visuals displayed on the wall that were also pretty powerful. The event made use of the animated Gerald Scarfe visuals from Alan Parker’s movie, and they looked amazing when they were projected in enormous proportions onto the wall. After three decades, the image of the teacher stuffing a group of nameless students into a meat grinder still has the potential to shock and offend.

Waters’ superb backing band included Dave Kilminster on lead guitar, Snowy White on guitar, G.E. Smith on guitar and bass, and Harry Waters (Roger’s son) on keyboards. As a little toddler, Harry Waters voiced the song “Goodbye Blue Skyopener” on The Wall’s debut album. Robbie Wyckoff, the song’s lead vocalist, is equally deserving of acclaim for his performance.

The performance began spectacularly with “In The Flesh?” when a model German warplane crashed into the stage from the Garden’s rafters. Through the sole surviving opening in the wall, Waters sang “Goodbye Cruel World” to end the first act of the performance. After an approximately 30-minute interlude during which pictures of soldiers and citizens slain in combat were projected on the wall, Waters and the band performed “Hey You” entirely behind the wall. Waters and the backup singers then moved the performance in front of the wall while donning the black outfits from The Wall movie. Part of the uniform was a red armband with crossed hammers that was always shown on the wall.

The best part of the second act was when Kilminster and Wyckoff sang “Comfortably Numb” with Waters onstage behind them.

The wall’s impending collapse was anticipated by the audience before the performance even began. But seeing the wall come tumbling down at the end of “The Trial” was still quite a stunning sight. Standing in front of the wall’s remnants, Waters and the band then performed a fiery rendition of “Outside The Wall” to close the night.

The Wall addresses a wide range of topics, including, among others, the factory-like British educational system, corporate greed, alienation, and war. It is fascinating and exhausting to watch since it is a piece with a lot of emotional weight. About 48 hours after viewing the concert, I’m still in shock as I write this. The performance was really excellent.

Due to the intense demand for tickets, The Wall tour is one of the few that is profitable this year and is perhaps the only one that is actually increasing performances rather than reducing them. The tour’s North American leg continues through December 14. This performance is not to be missed by any fan of rock theater.

The following was the set list for Roger Waters’ performance of The Wall on Tuesday, October 5th at Madison Square Garden in New York City:

ROGER WATERS SET LIST

Set 1:

“Comfortably Numb”

“The Happiest Days of Our Lives”

“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”

“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3”

“The Powers That Be”

“The Bravery of Being Out of Range”

“The Bar”

“Have a Cigar”

“Wish You Were Here”

“Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)”

“Sheep”

Set 2:

“In the Flesh?”

“Run Like Hell”

“Déjà Vu”

“Is This the Life We Really Want?”

“Money”

“Us and Them”

“Any Colour You Like”

“Brain Damage”

“Eclipse”

“Two Suns in the Sunset”

“The Bar (Reprise)”

“Outside the Wall”