Much has changed over the two years since Roger Waters last presented his masterpiece "The Wall" in Buffalo. And yet, nothing has really changed.
And Pink Floyd's "The Wall" remains one of the most stirring 20th century exegeses on the alienation engendered by the above.
In Buffalo, our love for Waters, Pink Floyd, and "The Wall" remains undiminished. Just like last time, Thursday's performance appeared to be a sellout, a real achievement during a daunting economic era, considering the hefty ticket price.
Waters and his massive band performed the album in full, as road crew members constructed a wall around them, brick by brick. The Wall itself also acted as a video screen -- the media for images from illustrator Gerald Scarfe's original animation for the film version of "The Wall" and graffiti ranging from "I believe" to various Occupy Wall Street-based slogans. And during a heart-wrenching take on the ballad "Mother," footage of Waters himself from Pink Floyd's 1980 Earl's Court performance of the album played in tandem with the now 68-year-old Waters in real time.
Since starting the first "Wall" tour, Waters has been collecting photos and short bios of war victims through his web site, and their names, stories, and visages scroll across the screen throughout the show.
Many of those attendance probably would not agree with Waters' implied suggestion -- that these lives were stolen from us, wasted in service to an unwinnable game of twisted chess and strategic wall-building -- but regardless, the power of the music seems to unify the majority of the crowd, at least for the 2 1/2 hours of the show.
And, oh, what glorious music it is. From the opening salvos of "In the Flesh," through the crushing elegy to lost human communion that is "Comfortably Numb," "The Wall" has aged incredibly well, much like its author, who continues to command the stage with his lithe form, emotion-soaked singing, and subtly brilliant bass playing. What has changed since "Wall" tour number one is the amount of nuanced interplay between Waters and his band. In particular, guitarists Dave Kilminster, Snowy White and G.E. Smith seemed to have grown into their solo turns. If at first all three players seemed to feel stifled by the daunting task of re-creating Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour's original parts and solos, by this point, they present a laid-back mastery that suggests the music has become their own. Similarly, vocalist Robby Wyckoff, responsible for the original Gilmour vocal parts, has grown to inhabit the songs in a most believable manner, through inflection, phrasing, and emotional investment. This may have been a victory lap for Waters, but nothing about Thursday's show felt phoned in. "The Wall" continues to tower as both artistic masterpiece and visceral reminder of how each one of us might strive to life better.
Roger Waters: The Wall Live †††
WHEN: Thursday evening †††
WHERE: First Niagara Center †††