Roger Waters. The Wall. Wrigley Field. Even just the words sound big. But the show… the show was bigger than I could have imagined. As a Chicagoan, it was an amazing feeling to be inside the crown jewel of Chicago sports history listening to some of my favorite music of all time in a (basically) free-for-all situation. Moods were elevated, security was chill, and the performance was mind-boggling. For what can be considered one of the most epic albums ever written, the production & presentation had big shoes to fill. And it’s safe to say that technology has finally caught up with Roger Waters’ vision. Everything about this concert was grandiose in every possible way. It was a brilliant merging of music & visual stimuli on a level that I’ve certainly never experienced before, and might not see again for a while. The Wall at Wrigley was instantly one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever attended.
The Wall is a concept album if there ever was one. Even if you’ve never listened to the album in its entirety, there’s no escaping many of its classic songs. “Another Brick In The Wall part 2,” “Mother,” “Young Lust,” “Hey You,” “Comfortably Numb,” and “Run Like Hell” are songs that broke the structure of the album and ascended to legendary status on their own merit. And all of these songs particularly grabbed the audience on this night. There was a palpable rise in energy — an amazing feeling in a place like Wrigley Field — when these familiar & beloved songs came booming out of the speakers. The sound inside of Wrigley was outstanding, feeling like a one million channel surround sound system. When there was the programmed sounds of helicopters overhead or legions of marching soldiers, the sonic energy was omnipotent, feeling like it was oozing out of the all the air around you. The sound transformed into feeling, it was in every pore of your skin, wrapped around every hair, driving the music well beyond what any normal concert feels like.
This might not have been the original lineup, but Waters did a great job finding a backing band that recreated the music perfectly and paid it tremendous justice. One of the peak moments was during “Comfortably Numb” (go figure), when the lead guitar player came out from the very top of The Wall and shredded the massive, ecstatic solo right as the screen dissolved from an ominous, blank, gunmetal brick wall, and exploded in an astounding rainbow of rapidly shifting, hyperspace colors. For the thousands of people in attendance who never have and never will consume psychedelic substances, this is about as close as they will ever come. The only complaint that’s even possible to muster is the fact that what should have been the most intense song of the night, “Run Like Hell,” was inexplicably slowed down and turned into an American Idol clap along. It kinda cheeseballed what it the ultimate apex of the album. It’s not like the song was ruined, but it certainly didn’t bring the haunting energy from the album.
The music was stellar throughout, but that’s only half the story. The Wall itself was like the largest HD television screen in history. The imagery — from graffiti graphics, to macabre Soviet era imagery, to wildly psychedelic animations — was like a jolt of electricity directly to your retinas. One of the highlights of the imagery was during “Young Lust,” where the concert went in an X rated direction with a slew of pornographic images. Yup, lots and lots of breasts, on a massive display, at Wrigley Field. Then at one point, during a particularly military-focused portion of the show, Waters emerged looking like some sort of demented Czar and pulled out a machine gun. At which point the screen behind him morphed into a first-person shooter-esque video game image of a larger-than-life version of Waters as he started dumping hundreds of rounds of simulated ammunition into the crowd. It was a startling moment, seeming to catch everyone a bit off guard, that really hammered home the overwhelmingly realistic sensation of the imagery on The Wall. Simply amazing.
When you hear all of the famous songs that I mentioned out of context, it’s easy to lose sight of the grand message of this album. But seeing it all unfold live, this message became abundantly clear. The subversive, anti-government attitude was everywhere. Set firmly in the late 1970s Cold War era, the red & black Soviet theme served as the common thread that held the show together. It was a constant tug-of-war between good and evil, which played out beautifully in the presentation. At the beginning of the concert, the band was behind The Wall, visible through a large opening where some bricks had been removed. But as the first set went on, The Wall was slowly but surely being filled in by unseen stage workers. Very crafty. Then in the second set, Waters played both the good and evil characters from in front of The Wall with his heroic, anti-government alter ego obviously winning in the end when The Wall came crashing down.
With the fall of The Wall, the entire concert came full circle and put a massive stamp on what was a monumental concert for everyone in attendance. This was no ordinary concert. It was a grandiose visual & musical spectacle of the highest magnitude. I can only imagine how much fun Waters must be having on this tour. To see his original vision come to life with such astounding clarity 33 years later must be a dream realized. I totally understand why he has mentioned retiring after this tour. How could he ever possibly top what he’s done on this tour? I can state with the utmost certainty that this concert is one that will stick with me for life. And I think that’s pretty much exactly what Roger Waters was going for.