Sunday, May 20 , 2018, 1:06 pm | Mostly Cloudy 65º


Jeff Moehlis: Roger Waters Tears Down The Wall

He opens up during an amazing performance of the classic Pink Floyd album

Roger Waters certainly seems more affable now than he was 30 years ago, when he and the rest of Pink Floyd staged their legendary tour in support of their new album The Wall.

Much of the impetus for that album was Waters’ frustration with and feelings of alienation from the band’s audience, and during the shows a giant wall was built that literally separated the band from the crowd. This wasn’t just good theatrics — it was also a reflection of Waters’ attitude at the time.

In contrast, at the end of the amazing performance of The Wall on Monday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Waters declared, “I love being with you in this room.” This from the man who contemptuously spit on an overzealous fan at a concert not long before The Wall was written?

Although Waters’ attitude toward the audience may have changed for the better, the show was very similar to Pink Floyd’s performances so many years ago. Well, I can’t say this from experience — being only 10 years old and living in Iowa at the time, I wasn’t even aware of that tour until years later, although I do distinctly remember hearing “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” emanating from a boombox at my elementary school shortly after it came out, with the lyrics “We don’t need no education” seeming quite shocking to my young and innocent mind.

Roger Waters plays “In the Flesh?” at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Of course, the big difference is that this time Waters was without his Pink Floyd bandmates, one of whom has passed away and at least one of the others still feeling the wounds from dealing with the Waters of yore. But Waters’ band — including guitarist Snowy White, who also played in the 1980 performances — sounded absolutely phenomenal, sticking very close to the album versions of the songs, including virtually note-for-note renditions of David Gilmour’s studio guitar solos.

The show exploded to life with the track “In the Flesh?” with bearers of “crossed hammer” flags, plus pyrotechnics galore. At the beginning there were only bricks on the edges of stage, but throughout the first set brick after brick was added, until the last one dramatically and fittingly popped into place at the end of “Goodbye Cruel World.” Whether completed or not, the wall had various movies and images projected on it, including Gerald Scarfe’s trippy animations familiar to fans from the movie version of The Wall.

There were also fake helicopters with spotlights that scanned the audience before fixating on particular audience members, grotesque 30-foot-tall puppets, a giant inflated flying pig, a children’s choir, plus, I’m sure, other props that I’ve forgotten to mention.

An early highlight was Waters singing “Mother” along with a video of the “poor, miserable, f***ed up” younger Waters, as filmed at Earls Court in London in 1980. During this song, a variety of text was projected onto the wall. When the two Waterses sang, “Mother should I trust the government?”, the answer “No f***ing way” appeared. Moreover, phrases such as “Don’t worry, everything will be alright,” “Trust me” and “Mother knows best” in different languages scrolled across the wall, and ultimately the phrase “Big Mother is watching you” appeared, with “Mother” being “Brother” with the “Br” crossed out and replaced by an “M.”

Roger Waters plays “Run Like Hell.”

The next song, “Goodbye Blue Sky,” showed a cool new animation of bomber planes dropping famous symbols including a cross, the hammer and sickle, the Star of David, dollar signs, and Shell and Mercedes corporate logos. This sequence generated some controversy in early shows, but to me added nicely to the song.

In the first set, it was also nice to hear “What Shall We Do Now?”, a cool song also played in the original Pink Floyd shows but left off the studio album.

After the intermission, it was somewhat surreal to hear the band playing but not being able to see them because they were behind the wall. This was a simple but brilliant theatrical device, and made breaches — such as Waters singing “Nobody Home” while sitting and watching TV in a fake hotel room on a platform sticking out from the wall, or guitarist Dave Kilminster soloing during the centerpiece song “Comfortably Numb” while on top of the wall — stand out.

The most moving portion of the show was “Vera,” which included video footage of surprised kids welcoming a parent back from military service. This was tear-jerking stuff, and was especially poignant knowing that when he was an infant, Waters’ father died abroad during World War II. This set up the plea “Bring the Boys Back Home,” a song whose message sadly continues to be relevant.

Later, after the “surrogate band” played a militant reprise of “In the Flesh?” in front of the wall, Waters asked, “Are there any paranoiacs in the audience?” and the band launched into “Run Like Hell.” This had a particularly amazing video sequence, including a satire of iPod ads with slogans such as “iFollow,” “iLose” and “iKill.” There was also the disturbing video footage of freelance photojournalist Namir Noor-Eldeen and his assistant Saeed Chmagh killed by an American airstrike in Iraq, which was made public earlier this year by WikiLeaks.

Of course, it is said that what goes up must come down. After “The Trial,” which featured the bad trip animation from the movie, and amid chants of “Tear down the wall!”, the wall finally crumbled. It was after this climax of a truly extraordinary show that Waters said, “I love being with you in this room.”

It seems that Waters’ own wall has come down.

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site,

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