Roger Waters brought one of the most spectacular, eye-popping shows ever to grace Vector Arena's stage. His live performance of the 1979 Pink Floyd album, The Wall, has been on the road for almost a year and a half, so by the time Waters and his huge entourage arrived in Auckland for the first of four sold-out shows, the technically complex multi-media extravaganza was firing on all cylinders. There were explosions, there were aircraft, there were jack-booted storm troopers, there was even a flying pig. The only thing missing was ex-band mate David Gilmour's distinctive guitar playing. Waters made up for that by bringing on three guitarists, Snowy White (who performed with Pink Floyd back in 1980), G.E. Smith (known for his work with Hall & Oates and Bob Dylan) and Dave Kilminster (who performed most of Gilmour's solos including the show-stopping climax to Comfortably Numb). Vocalist Robbie Wyckoff was on hand to sing Gilmour's parts.
The two-show got underway with a sound clip from the 1960 Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus and then a solo, mournful trumpet solo played by Waters emerged from the darkness. Then, the band came on with literally a flash, playing In the Flesh, while banks of pyrotechnics lit up the stage, exploding repeatedly. It was clear this was not going to be your run-of-the-mill rock concert. And it wasn't. In fact, it was more like a Broadway musical with its huge, ever-changing props, dazzling lighting, giant, inflatable puppets, and a dive bomber that crashes into The Wall at the end of the first number.
Throughout the show, slogans such as "Trust Us", "Should I Trust the Government?" and "Them Not Us" were flashed on the stage. During Another Brick in the Wall, a small army of school children came out wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Fear Builds Walls".
When Waters first conceived The Wall, its focus was on his own alienation and anti-war feelings. Thirty years later he has expanded the scope of his vision to include an anti-government and anti-corporate message. His anti-war message has been updated to include images of 9/11, the US war in Iraq and terrorism in general. In fact, the only time Waters strayed from the original words and music of the album was to add lyrics to Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) about the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian who, mistaken for a terrorist, was killed by London police in 2005.
Roger Waters filled the show with a dizzying about of iconic images and references, from Kafka to Welles, Hitler to Hussein. Hammers and sickles were displayed alongside corporate logos. Waters was taking a scatter-shot at everything, which was emphasised late in the show when he took aim at the audience with his machine gun.
The audience itself was extremely enthusiastic, and Waters seemed genuinely appreciative. Ironic, considering part of the reason for writing The Wall originally was Waters' increasing distain for Pink Floyd's audience back in the '70s. But that was when he was a self-confessed "grumpy young man". At age 68 and newly-married, Waters clearly enjoyed his time on the stage and the feedback from the audience.
Even so, it was a little unnerving to watch the fans as they dutifully followed Waters' lead, chanting "tear down The Wall". Did they miss the point being hammered at them the entire evening, or were they being ironic? My guess is they were simply out to have a good evening of entertainment and sing along to some old songs.
What: Roger Waters: The Wall
Where: Vector Arena, Auckland
When: Saturday 18 February