On Saturday night, David and I saw Roger Waters’ “The Wall” tour at Yankee Stadium. It was pretty spectacular. I liked most of the first half of the concert alright (there were a couple of songs that I didn’t think the presentation was quite as cohesive as the rest of the show), but the second half took my breath away, because it was pretty great. You can read a write-up of the show in the New York Times here, and everyone can offer their own opinion as to what they get out of the music of The Wall. I can tell you what I got out of it: As an introvert who is too easily most comfortable in the presence of no other people, I absolutely appreciated what I viewed as Rogers’ way of describing all of the methods human beings use to keep themselves walled off from each other. These can be both the societal as well as the personal. We have phony borders and nation-states warring with each other that keep us from appreciating the reality of people in other places. We have institutional control that sometimes perpetuate false assumptions about what each person is and what each person can become. We all can fall prey to others telling us who we are and limit ourselves. We have technology that has so much potential to connect us to each other, but as currently used keeps us alienated from each other and subject to the dominant media message of materialism. And for an introvert like Waters (and like me), too much of these influences can cause us to try to isolate ourselves from other people, because we are tired of dealing with it all. When we do that, and turn completely into ourselves, we succeed in building our own walls, and we become complicit in a power structure that harms all of us. So we have to tear down our own walls and turn outward, which is hard. So very hard.
During the course of the evening, the huge wall, the length of Yankee Stadium was built. Here are some highlights from the spectacle.
Before the concert started, we took in the scene at the new Yankee stadium. This was my first visit to the new stadium, and I was pleased we were in the comfortable seats. However, I missed the old Yankee Stadium. This was my first trip back to the Bronx from my last day at the Bronx Family Court, and it made me miss that job tremendously.
This much of the Wall had been constructed at the start of the show:
When the lights finally went down, we were treated to a pretty exciting opening with “In the Flesh”:
The political message was overt from the very beginning:
And then there were pyrotechnics:
Other highlights of the first half included the adorable children’s chorus during “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” trying to fight off the giant marionette British State School administrator:
By the end of the first half, the wall was fully assembled, so that during the intermission, it was projected with the names and faces of people who died in wars, in acts of terrorism, and in acts of state oppression and heavy-handedness.
When the second act began, “Hey You” was played with Roger Waters and the band behind the wall, unseen by the audience. I thought it was pretty powerful. By the time Waters got to “Nobody Home” the message of alienation through the media was pretty powerful (It is probably one of my favorite songs on the Wall). From there, Waters turned away from the theme of personal alienation and back to the larger theme of state manipulated control.
Also, “Comfortably Numb” was just spectacular. That is really all I can say about that.
And there were some amazing visual displays with the fully assembled Wall:
I thought Waters played the part of a fascist dictator quite well, and looked very dashing as a 70-year-old man in a leather jacket on a 90 degree New York night, even when he was gunning the audience down:
So yes, the rest of the crowd and I demonstrated how easy it is for people to become persuaded by charismatic dictators by just lapping up Waters, who was playing the part.
Thankfully for us, he was just acting a part, and the end of the concert came with the wall tumbling down. Then, we were all left with our minds prepared to recommit to communitarian principles, but faced with the prospect of having to board the New York City Metropolitan Transit System, the ultimate arbiter of one’s committment to civic virtues, and of course, everyone failed that test. Because you want to have a wall around you on the 4 Train at midnight. You need the protection.