Pink Floyd’s riveting rock opera transcends time

Roger Waters Photo by Andy Argyrakis
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When “The Wall” was first staged by Pink Floyd in 1980, it may have been the biggest show on the road, but it was still stacked up against the production limitations of the time period. Primitive by today’s standards but no less ambitious, the initial outing played a mere 31 times to mixed reviews and left some fans scratching their heads. But with the blockbuster movie in 1982 and the band’s breakup shortly thereafter, its legend only grew, convincing Roger Waters to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2010, which sold so well a second leg was added in 2012.

While the grand presentation gave concertgoers two act’s worth of engaging entertainment, it would’ve meant little if the music wasn’t able to withstand the past three decades. Not only did Waters’ latest presentation of “The Wall” continue to transcend time, but some sections still sounded frighteningly futuristic.

Roger Waters

Photo by Andy Argyrakis

Whereas the first trip through Chicago hit the United Center four times, this summer’s return visit packed the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, which was the perfect sized setting for what’s morphed into a technological marvel on stage. Flying helicopters, pigs, pyrotechnics, video screen projections and plenty of bricks helped tell the progressive rock opera’s tale of Pink, the textbook rock star suffering from paranoia, isolation and disillusionment.

While the grand presentation gave concertgoers two act’s worth of engaging entertainment, it would’ve meant little if the music wasn’t able to withstand the past three decades. Not only did Waters’ latest presentation of “The Wall” continue to transcend time, but some sections still sounded frighteningly futuristic. As the tension built with “In The Flesh?” and “The Thin Ice,” so did the literal wall of bricks (one layer at a time) as a parallel to Pink’s drug-induced unraveling.

For more casual onlookers, hits like “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)” and “Young Lust” lit up the night in all their stadium-shaking glory, though Waters also brought theatrical intimacy to the gargantuan venue during more album oriented material. As the snippet “Goodbye Cruel World” faded out the first half, he appeared midway up the wall through the one and only remaining hole, which aside from building the plot’s drama, also demonstrated his untainted vocal abilities.

After an intermission, Waters and his band (now completely blocked by the fully filled in structure) returned with the haunting cries of “Hey You” and “Is Anybody Out There?,” though it wasn’t until the enduring “Comfortably Numb” that every fan returned to their feet. Besides the visual allure of Waters singing center stage while the iconic guitar solo took place on top of the massive edifice, the song was especially euphoric surrounded by cheers from tens of thousands.

Even so, the runaway highlight of the night was “Run Like Hell” thanks to its hypnotic barrage of momentum-building rhythms, accompanied by a black pig flying overhead to symbolize Pink’s rapidly escalating hallucinogenic state. Though the epic presentation wound down with the anticlimactic in comparison “Waiting For The Worms,” The Trial” and “Outside The Wall,” their mastermind beamed with delight during his final bows, perhaps not only celebrating the fact that this particular show was a success, but that his concept collection is finally connecting on the grand scale it so richly deserves.