Roger Waters The Wall Live


Roger Water’s ‘The Wall Live’ left me awestruck. His show was easily the best conception, production, and execution in rock and roll history. Even behind the scenes I received such kindness and respect from the tour manager who made me feel like royalty. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

The deluge of emotions one feels in the audience is indescribable – every sense is ignited, lit with pleasure. “Sensory overload” is an understatement. The most prominent theme that impacted me was a return to innocence through the breaking down of barriers. Although we are taught to build walls for our ‘protection,’ it is not until we break down those walls that we can truly evolve.

Waters asks the question: “What are the walls surrounding all our lives that prevent us from getting at the truth to the extent that we’re willing to sacrifice young men/young women under the guise of ideology?” As the show began, a wall was erected on stage, brick-by-brick, slowly obstructing the view of the band. As it grew, it took on a life of its own though the use of projected images perfectly set to each beat. An ever-shifting horizon extended across the stage of fantastical spectacles rising and falling, as the audience journeyed through a dark but hopeful world together with the music.

At one point the Wall became alive with the spirits of the victims of war. The faces and names of soldiers and civilians alike were remembered as a testament to the unjustifiable nature of warfare. Witnessing this on Veterans Day gave it particular poignancy, which still gives me chills to recall. As Waters performed “Us and Them” the audience swayed lighters – each flame representing a soul lost to war. Water’s explained his position as, “There is no them. We are them and they are us.” How many more lives are to be lost before we stand up and unite?

“There are lots of walls surrounding the world today. There’s a wall between the rich and poor, the first and second world, the new world and the old world. There are walls that divide people due to different religious affiliations or other ideological questions. And so we live in a world where we are separated by one another by these differences, not necessarily in good ways,” Waters explains.

Sadly, in this universal narrative, as old as the birth of the nation state, the many must die for the greedy few. Water’s bold symbolism projected on the Wall unflinchingly points out the motivators behind the monstrous machine of warfare through the images of Bomber planes dropping religious and monetary symbols, such as Crosses and Dollar signs. He states: “The beef is always about power, geography, and cash, always. I actually think religious ideology is used as a tool to develop the means for those ends.”

Such tools, and even people, are used for ill-gotten gains, as illustrated by the use of puppets throughout the show. A school master puppet descends from the darkness somewhere high above the Wall as a symbol of authority to frighten the children into submission and quell their bold declaration of “We don’t need no education—we don’t need no thought control.”

The puppet of “Big Mother” is used to condition the children to trust a “higher” protective authority from birth, instead of trusting themselves. The projected image of a mother’s protective arms around a baby, during the song “Mother,” transformed into walls surrounding the now grown man by “Big Brother,” reminding us that: “Of course Mamma’s gonna help build the wall.”

The show was truly a transformative experience that causes reflection upon its symbols long after the final song. For example, no Roger Waters show would be complete without giant, flying remote-controlled pig. The pig hovered above the stadium with slogans and graffiti across its body. Stenciled on its side was a symbol of a man holding a gun to another’s head captioned by ‘CAPITALISM,’ representing the rise of Corporatism still flying under the anachronistic banner of the glorious capitalistic mythology of First World nations. Most prominently printed on the pig was, “Trust us. Everything will be okay. Just keep consuming.”

A homeless man pushed around a shopping cart of junk through the audience, illustrating how we are all caught up in the rat race of conspicuous consumerism. We become obsessed with our attachment to these objects and imbue them with a power so great that our very identity becomes dependent on their possession. This obsession causes us to forget about our true selves so that we all become as spiritually haggard and destitute as the old man pushing his shopping cart of sacred totems.

Yet there are hopeful notes in this dark world created by the Wall. It is this hope that fuels the revolutionary spirit of the show with such symbols as a brilliant red moon hanging over the Wall inscribed with: ‘Believe.’ Waters expressed his optimistic view of the future rooted in the growing globalized nature of our world via internet technology: “Maybe that because of Facebook, Google, YouTube, and all the other machines for communication, it just may be that we stand on the brink of having a chance to say: ‘hey hold on, there’s something wrong with this picture.’ And maybe we (the Us and Them, who are the same people) may at some point get a chance to approach a benevolent truth– we derive more pleasure from building than from destroying.” In reference to his song ‘Nobody Home,’ it is through these channels of technology that we can replace the ’13 channels of shit on the TV’ with new forms of information transcending the confines of each nation’s ‘Big Brother’ and truly have a destination to where we may ‘fly.’

“We get more pleasure from love than from hate, I know I do. Because, I’ve done my share of fussing and fighting, as John Lennon had it, it sort of brings you nothing but grief,” Water’s further stated. “Whereas if you find it in your heart to help somebody, to build a bridge, or to see from somebody else’s point of view, then hey–what a surprise–suddenly you feel better, about not just about yourself, but about everything. ‘So you may say I’m a dreamer’ (to quote the great man), and maybe I am, but I sense suspicions of some of Lennon’s and Gandhi’s dreams beginning to have possibilities and coming true.”

It is the bridges built by the experience Waters creates that force one to remember that one is a part of something bigger than one’s self. The incendiary messages of the show lit the fire of revolution in the hearts of the audience as they shouted out the lyrics “Tear down the wall!” The chanting swelled into a primal beat driving the destruction of the Wall as it came crashing down in a haze of fiery red at the end of the show.

With the fall of the Wall came an end to the spectacular fantasy, as the band emerged from rubble and dust, formed into a united front. The basic white stage lights fell upon the troupe of revolutionaries, banjos, trumpets and other instruments in hand, bidding thanks in a humble acoustic farewell.

The show left me longing to jump a plane to the following tour date just to experience it again. Look for tour dates in Europe 2011 for Roger Waters, The Wall Live, and check out a preview of the show at

Written by Roya Butler