The Great Wall: Roger Waters captivates Grand Rapids fans in Van Andel Arena spectacle E-mail
by John Sinkevics

Brick by brick by giant cardboard brick, Roger Waters artfully and bombastically constructed “The Wall” in Grand Rapids on Wednesday night.

Roger Waters And when that mammoth barrier finally came crashing down – some two hours into this mind-twisting, eye-engaging, ear-pounding rock spectacle to end all spectacles – the former Pink Floyd frontman seemed genuinely pleased with what he’d wrought, raising his arms triumphantly in the air and flashing a genuinely appreciative grin at the awed Van Andel Arena crowd.

For good reason.

After all, Waters had turned this 33-year-old dark, double-album rock masterpiece that’s permeated with desolation, isolation, war and despair into a psychedelic, color-emblazoned celebration of high-tech, music-enhanced visual art – not to mention being a global commercial blockbuster.

Despite the lofty price tag for some tickets, the near-capacity crowd of close to 11,000 Pink Floyd faithful certainly didn’t feel cheated in any way, ardently cheering this elaborate rock ‘n’ roll display, wracked with equal amounts of wonderment and satisfying nostalgia.

The Grand Rapids debut of “The Wall,” wedged between bigger versions of the production in Detroit on Tuesday and at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on Friday, seemed even more compelling than it did when I first experienced it two years ago at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Roger Waters With its exceptional sound quality and a little fine-tuning of details, the 1 hour-and-55-minute show spotlighted Waters at his wry, politically charged best, with help from pyrotechnics, a plane crashing into the stage in a ball of flames, towering, creepy marionettes and some of the most striking video and visual projections ever to grace a concert stage (and in this case, a wall of cardboard blocks that completely obscured the band by the intermission).

Even though Floyd diehards likely missed the services of guitarist David Gilmour, stand-in Dave Kilminster didn’t miss a beat or a lick as he hovered above Waters atop the wall during the epic "Comfortably Numb" in the show’s second half, delivering those familiar, searing leads that have made the song legendary as a mainstay of classic rock.

And while the rest of the band operated mostly in the shadows – or behind the wall – for much of the night, they shined as a unit, with veterans Snowy White and G.E. Smith on guitar, Graham Broad on drums and Robbie Wyckoff on vocals, in particular, showing off their considerable instrumental prowess.

Even some Grand Rapids schoolchildren got in on the act, taking the stage in “Fear Builds Walls” T-shirts to act as a “choir” during “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2.”

Not surprisingly, some of the most audience-inspiring moments came during the most popular, invigorating songs: “Mother,” “Young Lust,” “Comfortably Numb,” “Run Like Hell” and “Bring the Boys Back Home,” which choked up fans with images of returning soldiers embracing their children.

Roger WatersWaters certainly used his stunning stage version of a rock opera – aided by phrases and graphic images projected on the wall -- to deliver an anti-war, anti-authority, anti-corporate greed message, but it all worked within the context of the “wall” theme, whether it was the central character of this ‘rock opera’ using drugs to keep the world out or politicians using tyranny to keep folks in line.

It echoed a host of Pink Floyd’s message-filled projects spearheaded by Waters, from “Dark Side of the Moon” to “Animals,” all of which have stood the test of time during the rock era, invigorating new generations of teens, along with their parents, and, ulp, grandparents.

Buoyed by that enduring music, Waters once again made a powerful, lavish musical statement on Wednesday night, rightly decrying war-mongering and authoritarian government rule in the process.

And the giddy classic rock fans streaming out of Van Andel Arena seemed better off for having seen it – partly because they’ll be telling their friends and relatives about this one for many years to come.

Veteran music critic and entertainment writer John Sinkevics maintains his own Spins on Music website at www.localspins.com, covering and commenting on West Michigan’s music scene – a site where you can also read more about Wednesday night’s show. Photos by Paul Jendrasiak.

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Published: June 7, 2012

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