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Thirty Years Later, The Wall Proves To Be A Timeless Musical Experience

A "powerful emotional trip" is the best way to sum up the experience of seeing Roger Waters and his band performing the seminal Pink Floyd album The Wall, on Oct. 10, at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., although the phrase hardly does the show justice. Thirty years after it was originally performed, The Wall proved to be just as relevant, perhaps more so today, than when the album was originally released in 1979.

Considering the current times we live in, one of the concept album's plots a boy growing up without a father who died during World War II (a personal experience of Waters) resurrecting this album in the live setting couldn't be more timely as military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq continue on.

That concept was brought to an emotionally jarring climax during "Bring the Boys Back Home," where visual images of soldiers reuniting with family were projected on the physical wall that was built to its completion during the first set of the show. The snapshots served as juxtaposition to portrayal of military personnel and other political activists, civilian law enforcement and other emergency service workers that gave their lives. It is a stark reminder that for those families, there is a lot more at stake than simply defending the ideals of freedom.

But the album and this corresponding live performance was more than just a statement on the military. The Wall also touches on themes of isolation as attendees watched the protagonist Pink complete his withdrawal from reality, becoming a fascist leader of sorts, a process that began with a smothering, dominating mother until its ultimate conclusion where he is ordered to "tear down the wall" that he hides behind during "The Trial."

On its original tour in 1980, Pink Floyd performed The Wall just eight times in the United States (four shows in Los Angeles and four in Uniondale, N.Y.), constrained by the technology of the time. Technological advancements have now made it possible for the album to get exposure on a more nationwide scale.

While there were some things that he updated, Waters kept this version of The Wall faithful to its original presentation, both visually and musically. Compared to the Pink Floyd release, Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980/1981, the music performed on the current tour was as close to how Pink Floyd's classic lineup as one could expect.

Yet, as musically faithful to that original production this latest tour is, including the effective use of animation by Gerald Scarfe, the absence of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour is very much noticeable, especially during the solos of "Comfortably Numb."

Capturing Gilmour's effortless and fluid playing is a challenge in and of itself, but when presented in the context of this performance, his absence becomes even more glaring, given the guitar-laden subtleties of The Wall (Waters has stated in interviews that Gilmour declined an invitation to play on the entire tour, but agreed to make one surprise appearance on this tour to play the aforementioned solos). Despite that drawback, the show hits the mark everywhere else, which is a credit to Waters' vision.

Roger Waters - The Wall Live
Oct. 10, 2010
Verizon Center
Washington, D.C.

- Gregory Twachtman

Copyright 2010, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.