Roger Waters, “The Wall” tour, live in Zagreb, Croatia (2011)
Zagreb, the capital of Croatia is about a six hour bus ride from Novi Sad. It was the next stop for Roger Waters’ “The Wall” tour and was the closest I would ever probably be to seeing one of my favourite “bands” perform live (I say “bands” because this is the closest I will get to see a Pink Floyd concert without actually seeing Pink Floyd because the band itself will never tour again… mainly because keyboardist Richard Wright passed away in 2008).
The only “problem” was that, due to a miscalculation on behalf of my ticket vendor, I didn’t actually have a concert ticket and while I knew that going blindly on a bus to Zagreb with no guarantee that I would actually find someone to sell me ticket was a risk and a half, I was very aware that if I didn’t go and didn’t try, then I’d probably be kicking myself in the rear end for years to come.
So I did what any “normal” person would do and I hopped on the bus taking other Floyd fans from Novi Sad, with ticket money in my wallet and a backpack full of hope on my back.
Six and a half hours later I was standing outside the Zagreb Arena trying to figure out my next move. I had roughly four hours to the start of the show and I had to get a ticket by any means necessary. The regular ticket hawkers (that always pitch up to sell you tickets for exorbitantly high prices were nowhere to be seen. It was still early for them, but that did not deter me from circling the Arena four or five times, looking out for potential ticket-sellers (by the way, tickets in regular sale were already long sold out) and staring “suspects” straight into their eyes hoping they would see the desperation in mine. For the better part of two hours I was still ticket-less. About 18h, when there were more people around, the hawkers started showing up. I was stopped by one offering me a ticket for the side bleachers for a steepish price of 60 Euros. He had offered the same ticket to a man standing next to him, furiously yelling “Tell me quick if you want it or not!!” into a cellphone. As I reached into my wallet, the cellphone man hung up and yelled “I’ll take it!!” And I was left to look around some more.
As luck would have it (and I cannot put enough emphasis on the word LUCK at this point), I was in the right place at the right time as a young foreign couple walked up the stairs, looking for someone to sell an extra ticket to. They came across me and offered me one of their tickets (a friend of theirs couldn’t make it so they were selling). I glanced around and made sure no one else heard (for there were more and more people without tickets lurking around) and paid them 50 Euros for a standing-area ticket (what I had planned to buy back in Novi Sad anyway) and I was so ecstatic that I kept checking the ticket to make sure it wasn’t a fake because it seemed to good to be true.
Ticket in hand, I made my way to the entrance where a security guard told me no umbrellas were allowed inside (I had packed one in my backpack because rain was forecast for that day), so I ended up throwing away a perfectly good umbrella…. not that I really cared. The electronic ticket-reader beeped and flashed green meaning my ticket was valid….and I was inside!
“The Wall” tour tshirt in backpack and beer in hand I made my way onto the floor and headed for the stage where side parts of the “foundations” of the wall were already in place. I had heard the show was quite a spectacle so I purposefully didn’t go all the way to the front in order to be able to absorb everything properly. At exactly 20:05 the lights went out, the crowd roared with anticipation and “The Wall” was put into play! What followed were two and a half hours of visual genius, musical mastery and awe-inspiring effects that brought to life Pink Floyd’s amazing album, in chronological, track-by-track order.
The show kicked off with “In the Flesh” (with the support of waving red flags, red and yellow fireworks and a mini World War II jet fighter plane flying above the crowd and simulating a crash just behind the wall. A couple of songs later, a large inflatable evil-looking school master emerged from behind the wall and the band jumped into the infamous “Another Brick in the Wall – part 2” which caused the Arena to erupt! A children’s choir and two solo guitarists added to the euphoria as all the while, band roadies, dressed in black stealthily made their way on and off the stage, bringing with them more bricks to add to the wall.
“Mother” was the next crowd favourite with a large blow-up doll of a fierce looking woman sitting on the wall, a young Roger performing the song from old video footage being displayed on the wall and a mature, seasoned Roger with an acoustic guitar singing to a packed arena with a voice as powerful as it was when Floyd recorded this theatrical album back in 1979. The first half of the show continued with “Young Lust” (erotic red images of women being splashed onto the wall), “Don’t Leave Me Now” and others, while the wall kept getting higher and higher until the stage and the musicians on it were completely out of sight. As the lights faded a couple of bricks in the wall opened up and Roger’s silhouette appeared as he slowly sang the morbid lyrics to “Goodbye Cruel World”, before the panels closed up again and the music faded away.
As on the double-LP recording from 1979, the double-CD recording from the 90’s and in all live performances of The Wall from 1980, this was the end of the first half of the show and a 15-minute intermission followed, during which images of fallen war veterans (that people had sent in from all over the world) were digitally plastered onto the wall.
The solemn “Hey You” and eerie “Is There Anybody Out There” kicked off the second part, all performed from behind the wall. On “Nobody Home” a large panel opened up in the wall revealing Mr. Waters, sitting in an armchair and staring blankly at “thirteen channels of shit on the tv…” At this point I was overly excited and boiling over with anticipation because after the two short songs that followed “Vera” and “Bring the Boys Back Home” I (and the other 20,000 fans) knew that the epic “Comfortably Numb” would blow the roof off the Arena. The bass guitar came in and the wall light up, Roger Waters appeared in front of it and 20,000 pairs of hands went into the air and a roar of sheer rock-appreciation thundered within the walls of the venue.
While Roger (along with the crowd) sang the verse, Robbie Wyckoff (along with the crowd) sang the chorus, which was initially sung by David Gilmour on the album. Wyckoff appeared on top of the wall with spotlights illuminating him as he sang. For the guitar solos (that in my opinion make this song a personal favourite) guitarist Dave Kilminster also appears on top of the wall, illuminated by spotlights and plays the notes as if possessed by David Gilmour himself. I felt goosebumps run all over my body and I couldn’t help but smile as I realised what I was hearing and seeing live in front of my very own eyes.
As Kilmister played, Waters emulated a hammering of his fists on the wall and the virtual bricks exploded revealing a rainbow-coloured splendor that immersed from the dull, grey wall… a metaphor that required no explanation.
The songs that followed, “In the Flesh, part 2”, “Run Like Hell” and Waiting for the Worms” were hard, in-your-face, violent and loud critiques of war and government abuse of power and disregard for human suffering. The band was now assembled in front of the wall and, along with Waters, were dressed in black Hitler-esque uniforms. Waters had in one hand a megaphone through which he shouted absurdities while in the other an automatic machine gun with which he “shot” the audience in a theatrical rage. The rage subsided ever so slightly during “The Trial”, where Waters was left alone on stage to interact with the animated characters (Pink, the Judge, the School Master, Mother and Wife”) that we’ve seen in the Pink Floyd movie of “The Wall” (starring the one and only Bob Geldof) and that have been popping up during the show all night long.
“The Trial” lasts for almost six or seven minutes and builds up to a painful climax where Pink is sentenced by the Judge and revolution erupts calling for the wall to come down – shouts of “tear down the wall” bellow through the speakers (and from the audience) and as Waters disappears under the stage, a red light is cast upon the wall and accompanied with the loud sound of thunder and crashing, the wall itself, that was constructed on the stage from the start of the show, literally comes crashing down in a heap of rubble and dust leaving the audience cheering and clapping.
A bright light shines onto the fallen bricks and out of the rubble step Roger Waters and his band, dressed in casual afternoon clothes, trumpets, acoustic guitars and banjos in hand. They stand in line and as the crowd cheers they play out with the optimistic, post-apocalyptic and hopeful “Outside the Wall”. The song finishes and Roger Waters and his band receive a well-earned, heart-filled, ten-minute (and I literally mean ten-minute) standing ovation. They wave, Mr. Waters thanks the crowd sincerely and they depart off stage, under the rubble, “Leaving just a memory….” of a truly amazing musical masterpiece and a spectacle of a rock-opera.
A day later and I’m still feeling overwhelmed and amazed by what I experienced last night. The whole trip was an adventure in itself while the show was nothing short of unforgettable, moving, emotional, entertaining and above all it reminded me of why I admire, respect and love the music of Pink Floyd so much and why albums like “The Wall” are pieces of musical legacy that have meaning and substance and are bound to be considered some of the best music ever recorded.