With the beginning blocks of what would become a 240-foot-wide and 35-foot-high wall in place, thunderous, crystal clear sound twinned a astonishing pyrotechnic assault and a large model war plane glided down from the rafters, crashing into a wall section, exploding into flames. The crowd erupted as the arena fell dark.
And so went the first four minutes of Roger Waters’ rock opera masterpiece “The Wall” at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise Saturday night.
More than 30 years after conceiving the iconic rock concept double album for his then-band, Pink Floyd, Waters, at 67, has taken a massive production on a world tour and hinted it could be his last big one. The music and theme of “The Wall” were inspired by Waters’ deeply personal and vulnerable reflection on his emotional pain. Prior to this tour’s launch, he said of the current version, “I want to make some much broader political, humanitarian statements without being too preachy... the ambition is really simple, to try and move people a bit.”
The result is a profound aural and visual tale of isolation and eventual liberation that is equally eerie and beautiful.
As the band played on, a crew went about assembling the enormous wall, brick-by-cardboard-box-brick utilizing hydraulic lift systems within the stage. By the song “Young Lust,” halfway through the first set, much of the crowd could no longer see Waters, obstructed by the symbolic and virtual separation of the band and crowd that also served as a video projection screen.
For the set-ending “Goodbye Cruel World,” one brick opening remained. Waters sang the song while peeking out, shrouded from behind by a white spotlight blast that beamed through the opening and out into the crowd.
Vivid imagery complemented the grand sound of “The Wall,” from bizarre cartoon animations and enormous, inflatable marionette characters to riveting photos and details of fallen soldiers and civilians from all over the world and in all different eras. They include Waters’ father, who died during World War II when Roger was five months old (Waters’ first brick).
If you’re a rock music buff like me, many songs from “The Wall” are ingrained in your mind thanks to radio. Oh, if I had a quid for every time I abruptly switched stations whenever the eyelid-tugging, beyond-mellow “Comfortably Numb” came on while I was driving at night.
But in this setting, performed not as singles but part of the narrative whole, the songs were precious. Much of the crowd stood for “Numb” as Waters prowled the stage in front of the wall and his vocalist and lead guitarist each performed atop it.
Prior to “Run Like Hell,” Waters asked the crowd, “Are there any paranoids in Fort Lauderdale tonight?” The building momentum of the second set led to “The Trial,” with the crowd chanting along to the music “TEAR DOWN THE WALL!”
And down it toppled.
Ten overhead spotlights illuminated the rubble as the band finished the show at the stage’s edge with handheld instruments for “Outside the Wall.” Red confetti in the shapes of a cross, Star of David, moon crescent and dollar sign fell softly on the crowd.
Chris Bradshaw is a Bonita Springs-based concert photographer who now has a better understanding of why his Floyd-fan older brother stayed in his dark, odd-smelling bedroom with headphones on for such long stretches.