As an ardent, obsessive fan of Pink Floyd, you can imagine how excited I was sitting on my stiff, metal stadium seat, gazing out into the vast space of the United Center arena, where the beginning constructions of a wall stood on either side of the stage, waiting for those explosive opening chords of "In the Flesh?" to blast through the speakers and for Mr. Roger Waters to grace us with his presence. My ticket read "8 PM, PROMPT" for the show's starting time. Since my friend and I had arrived a few hours early -- just to have a beer, and to check out the $45 t-shirts (which we each bought, thank you very much) -- we hoped it would start promptly at 8. We didn't want to wait a minute longer.
Well, we did have to wait a minute longer. Twenty minutes longer, in fact. And all the seats in the stadium had just about filled up. I thought I might slip from the edge of my seat and off the balcony into the crowd below in my jittery excitement. The lights went out. Camera flashes and the blue glow of cell phones were the only things illuminating the pitch black arena. The room screamed and cheered. The very air was bristling with energy. Oh my god. This was it. It was happening.
A blue spotlight revealed a lone sax player in the middle of the stage, solemnly warbling out the slow, sad opening tune -- the same melody that ends the show -- as we yelled our elation into the stadium and waited with tingling limbs for what was to come. The audience would grow quiet, then scream again, then quiet again, then scream once more. We didn't know when it was coming, when the sorrowful melody would be bombarded with heavy guitar chords out of the blue, thus truly starting the show. There suddenly was a lull in the music, we all yelled and screamed, and then BA-NUM! BA-NUM! DUN, DUN DUN DUN! The stage was a blinding flash of fire and light and the room erupted. It was already a climactic moment of the show and it had only just started. My friend and I sang along to all the guitar parts until Roger Waters, in all his Roger Waters glory, (because there is glory in simply being Roger Waters), took his place center stage to welcome us with his opening lyrics: "So you thought you might like to go to the show?" Screams. Applause. Whistles. Yes, Roger. We did indeed think that we'd like to go to the show. We did, indeed.
And what a show it was.
Although keeping to the traditions of the original Wall tour from 1980, with the wall being built across the stage as the show progressed, with enormous moving puppets of the school teacher, the mother, and the wife creepily lurking and, seemingly, peering at the audience from the sides of the stage, and with the final tearing down of the wall before the very last song of the show, there was much modernization. The wall itself served as a screen for projecting elaborate, ever-changing images, animations, and quotes, as well as the signature Pink Floyd circular screen that hung behind the stage. These technological advances helped to drive home a message that is deeply relevant to our time.
The anti-war theme of the album was brought to life with such clarity throughout the show; for instance, at the end of "Vera," a clip was shown on the wall of a little girl sitting in a classroom when she gets a look of surprise on her face, then disbelief, then an overwhelming flood of emotion and tears as she sees her dad, a soldier who has come home, walking through the door as she runs to embrace him. I was teary-eyed at this, and even more so when the pulsing drumrolls, triumphant horn section, and Roger Waters's pleading vocals burst into the air for "Bring the Boys Back Home."
There were also messages to be wary of the government and large corporations. During "Run Like Hell," logos of gas companies and car companies washed over the wall amidst the words "You Better Run!", and these same logos were being dropped by military planes during the animation on "Goodbye Blue Sky." Other corporations were attacked as well, one of the most obvious being Apple, with mock iPod ads being projected onto the wall alongside phrases like "iBelieve", "iFollow", "iProfit", "iLose". However, the most prominent and blunt theme was clear as glass: The lyric "Mother, should I trust the government?" was met with "boo!"s all around, and then euphoric cheers and applause when the projection on the wall answered the question itself with the words "No Fucking Way."
The pungent smell of marijuana hung heavy in the air during "Comfortably Numb," and I would have had it no other way. We stood up in our seats and swayed side to side as we sang along, and I never wanted that guitar solo to end. After "The Trial," in which it is decided that the wall must be torn down, the room chanted louder and louder "TEAR DOWN THE WALL!!" as the music built. The music then died away and the first few tiers of white bricks fell forward and onto the stage floor accompanied by booming sounds of explosions and falling rubble. We screamed and screamed as row upon row collapsed until only the sides of the wall remained standing. A light illuminated the front of the stage and the band was revealed, with Roger Waters joining them amongst the debris.
After a long while of cheering and applause, the noise of the crowd abated somewhat and Roger went into the last song, repeating the final line twice, "After all, it's not easy banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall." The room erupted once more and this time we wouldn't stop until the house lights came on and forced us to leave. Over the shouting and clapping and screaming, Roger addressed the crowd, saying, "Thank you, from the bottom of my heart! You've been a fantastic audience!" My friend and I proceeded to repeatedly bow with oustretched arms yelling "Roger! Roger! Roger!" We were still ecstatic, but also bereft, now that it was over. We had waited for this our whole lives; Pink Floyd is in our blood! It runs in our very veins! We didn't want this to be the end. After Roger waved and walked offstage and the house lights went on, everyone made a scramble for the nearest exit as the two of us remained in our seats yelling "Dark Side! Do Dark Side!" at the stage.
All in all, ticket prices may have been steep, but if you like this music and you're going to spend money on anything extraneous, like at a fancy restaurant or on $11 movie tickets or to buy food for your kids, do yourself a favor and spend it on a ticket to Roger Waters instead. He may not be in Chicago anymore, but he's around, and this is your last chance to see him before the wall comes down forever. All in all, it's all so much more than just a brick in the wall.