“If you want to find out what’s behind these cold eyes, you’ll just have to claw your way through the disguise.” – Roger Waters, July 12, 2012, in Washington D.C.

Even for someone in their mid-20s, seeing Roger Waters’ “The Wall Live” was a concert I had waited my entire life for. I had spent most of my adolescent years memorizing every lyric to the album, spending change from my $5/hour job on memorabilia and trinkets, renting the 1982 movie “The Wall” from Blockbuster every time I had friends over, and syncing “Dark Side of the Moon” to “The Wizard of Oz” more times than I can count.

Yet, I never subscribed to Floyd’s politics. I was just a dumb kid, completely oblivious to the fact that there was a very poignant message to Roger Waters’ writings. It didn’t matter. To say I was a Floyd fan would be a gross understatement. I idolized them. To say “The Wall Live” was a great concert would be a disservice. It was an experience.

Roger Waters’ show at the Verizon Center in D.C. had all of the angst, fear and paranoia of the album, and I had a front row seat. Having followed him through his career, I knew what I was in for. Waters lead us through the piece — a semi-autobiographical look at his own life. The story in “The Wall” is of a young man who is isolated and fearful: “We’re all frightened of each other, and that makes us behave in ways that are sadly inhumane, like engaging in wars,” Waters told USA Today in 2010. He vowed to make the show more about politics. Oh, boy. Time to break out the earmuffs.

Mirroring the actual two-disc set, “The Wall Live Tour” is broken into two acts. The first set is dedicated to building the massive structure the album and tour are named after, as Waters sings about war, loneliness, industrialization, and other worldly pains that are displayed onto the bricks of the slowly growing Wall.

Waters is a pacifist, and he has incorporated an increased emphasis on the show’s anti-war message. He projects photographs onto the Wall that fans submitted to him of passed loved ones who died at war. Just what we want to see at a rock concert. Good thing my beer’s still full.

Familiar animation from the movie was projected onto the screen: the marching hammers, the fornicating flowers, the fighter planes, etc. All the while, bricks fill in the wall, which spans nearly 500 feet. Waters finished the set by singing “Goodbye Cruel World” from the last hole in the Wall.

After a brief intermission, the second set began with the finished Wall spanning across the Verizon Center stage. Stunning imagery was projected onto the white brick structure, making it the largest screen in touring history. Once “The Trial” began, we all knew what was coming, and the excitement in the audience was intoxicating. The imagery projected on the screen got more intense, more vile, more insane. The music got louder and more dramatic. The audience chanted repeatedly:

Tear down the wall!
Tear down the wall!

Then it all came crashing down — Waters smiling from ear to ear, kicking “bricks” like a jovial child. This is not Waters’ first time demanding the destruction of a wall.

In November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, and in July 1990 Waters staged one of the largest and most elaborate rock concerts in history on the vacant terrain between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate. The show reported an official attendance of 200,000, though some estimates are as much as twice that, with approximately one billion television viewers.

In 2011, Waters, a proponent for the statehood of Palestine, launched a boycott against Israel, demanding “that fair-minded people around the world support the Palestinians in their civil, nonviolent resistance.”

He scrawled “We don’t need no thought control,” lyrics from one of Pink Floyd’s most popular songs, on “the wall” separating the West Bank, and he joined the campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

But that night in D.C., for most of the more than two hours he was on stage, the 68-year-old was something above a mere frontman or a rock singer. He was the maestro of an elaborate and maniacal production, many elements of which could tour as art exhibitions on their own. The musicians (who had yet to be seen at this point) then emerged from the rubble to finish the final song on the album, “Outside the Wall.”

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of mourning at that moment. I looked around and realized I wasn’t alone. Just like that, the show I had spent the last 15 years dreaming of was over. And it shattered every expectation I ever had. You had to hand it to him.

As a lifelong conservative — and newfound Libertarian — and as a rock junkie, I have become an expert at ignoring my favorite artists’ politics. There’s a reason Waters’ views have never bothered me: I just don’t care. I will continue to only see him as the great artist that he truly is.


15 thoughts on “Tear down the wall.

  1. I couldn’t help but chuckle at his anti-capitalism message, all while charging $65 for a t-shirt.

    Did he have the airplane crash into the wall? That was awesome at the show in PGH

  2. The band lost most of its lyrical brilliance and creativity after Syd Barrett took a long dark trip…. and never came back. I can’t help but wonder how many different directions and dimentions they could have reached if Syd had stayed on course. As Barret’s guitar replacement, David Gilmour never really felt like he was more than just another brick in the wall.

  3. WOW…very nicely put! And i agree 100%…i too love the music but can’t stand the politics of the singers/groups….we don’t ask our politicians to sing out loud do we….there is a good reason for it!!!!

  4. Chris nails it – the swine who whine and wail about the suffering of the poor and the evil of the rich, invariably charge outrageous fees for everything from concert tickets to T-shirts made by Chinese slaves who earn two dollars and a bowl of moldy rice per day, but ahhh, don’t they need that money so they can preach to all the rest of us, whom they despise for making them rich!
    And the thing is that although I too can separate the political depravity of most of the leftist/elitist artistes, I could not in conscience go to a concert or buy any of their materials knowing that my meager contribution was empowering them to further spread their madness or worse yet, perhaps funding some murderous cause affiliated with the islamist or ‘pali’ movements.
    I must admit that I DID much enjoy the last Saboton concert…

  5. Wow! I had never known that Waters was anti-Israel. If you never saw the original 1977 Wall concert video, I’d be glad to mail you a copy on dvd. There are also many dvd’s – both from fans and professional shoots – of the current tour. I have two or three of the concerts on dvd. The one thing, though, I have heard is that the wall – while about Waters’ life, was also very much about Syd Barrett (hence all the mental illness withdrawing stuff – which Waters never did).

  6. excellent insight a fan of pink floyd since they came out with meddle recently we had the anniversary of the death of syd barrett from complications due to diabetes a sad mad genius who was the heart and soul of pink floyd in the late sixties may their music live on long after they are gone way ahead of their time

  7. Expertly written post, Jessica. I too am a conservative. Can you give me your description of what it is to be a Libertarian?

  8. Don’t listen to that Kenny, guy. He’s a simple man, with no future ahead of him.
    but what I really wanted to say is thank you!!! so glad to know people of your generation still hold America’ values at heart. you are an inspiration!!! fight long and hard and maybe we can someday turn this ship around.

  9. I always thought that Roger’s opinions are as silly and pretentious as his lyrics. Always loved David Gilmour’s playing, but as my English got better (although I’m still an illiterate…) I became increasingly bothered by what I was finally able to understand.
    In my native language we have a feeling that describes perfectly what I feel when I listen to Roger’s lyrics (or Ron Paul’s opinions): vergüenza ajena

    Roger Waters? No, thank you. I’ll keep listening over and over again my Thin Lizzy records and imagine what a show of them could have been.

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