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Concert Reviews:
Roger Waters' "The Wall" still stands strong the second time around

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Wednesday, June 6, 2012

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DETROIT -- The more Roger Waters builds "The Wall," the better it seems to get.

In 2010, the former Pink Floyd bassist took the multi-platinum 1979 album he spearheaded, and which had been performed a scant 30 times before, on the road -- including an Oct. 24 stop at the Palace of Auburn Hills -- dazzling audiences with over-the-top staging and conceptual theatricality. And, of course, a set of music that's still played on radio as if it were a brand-new release.

The show, which made second Detroit-area visit on Tuesday, June 5, at Joe Louis Arena, is just as spectacular two years after its launch, with a few tweaks and additions made along the way to further fortify "The Wall" as a potent piece of both showmanship and social commentary.

Decked out with giant puppets, a floating pig, carefully deployed pyrotechnics, video projections and animations, and, of course, the 240-foot-wide wall that was constructed during the concert's first half, "The Wall" would be effective if it was about the usual rock 'n' roll themes of girls, cars and good times. But Waters' 21st century vision of the piece takes its original theme of personal alienation and weaves in observations and criticisms of war, politics, big business and religion. He may sing about needing "a dirty woman" in the song "Young Lust," but Waters clearly has much more on his mind at this point in time.

That was particularly clear in a coda he's added to "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)." After a local children's choir shouted down the evil teacher/puppet ("Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!"), Waters played the solo acoustic "Ballad of Jean Charles de Menezes," inspired by a Brazilian man killed by British police during 2005 in a case of mistaken identity. Speaking to the Joe Louis crowd for the first time, Waters noted that no one has yet been held accountable for de Menezes' death, saying that, "If we give our government, especially our police, too much power, it's a steep and slippery slope to tyranny."

"The Wall's" broader outlook was also fleshed out in photos and short biographies of victims of wars and other conflicts -- including Waters' own father, who was killed during World War II -- that were projected onto the wall during the opening "In the Flesh" and during the show's 20-minute intermission. "Goodbye Blue Sky" featured a video of bombers dropping corporate and religious symbols in lieu of bombs, while "Vera" was accented by footage of G.I. homecomings before Waters delivered an emotive -- and well-received -- rendition of "Bring the Boys Home."

The rest of "The Wall" held up in fine form, with Waters and his 11-piece band -- which included five back-up singers and three guitarists -- ably delivering the album's 28 songs, extending a "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)," "Young Lust" and a couple of others with additional solos. Waters again sang "Nobody Home" from a living/hotel room set that came out of one corner of the wall, while Dave Kilminster performed the revered guitar solo from "Comfortably Numb" on a hydraulic lift that held him just above the top of the structure. Robbie Wyckoff, meanwhile, sang Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour's parts, and Waters dueted with a video version of himself from 1980 during "Mother."

"The Wall's" destruction at the end of "The Trial" remained powerful, even for a crowd that knew it was coming, and the acoustic "Outside the Wall" was the perfect note on which to end the night. Waters and company will be packing up the bricks later this summer, but he's clearly established "The Wall" as an iconic and important performance piece as well as a massively popular recorded work.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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