If you missed Friday night’s performance of “The Wall” at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, you missed synchronized pyrotechnic explosions, soldiers waving giant red flags, sounds of airplanes launching machine gun attacks, sprawling video projections, fireworks and actual fire. And that was just the first song.
Roger Waters’ modern-day staging of Pink Floyd’s epic 1979 album may be more anti-war/anti-capitalism than the autobiographical themes that inspired his original writings, but the translation is as powerful now as it was then. The spellbinding presentation, meanwhile, is beyond description.
So instead of heaping additional acclaim on a show lauded by critics the world over, here are answers to some of the questions that concertgoers may have had by the end of a spectacle that, as of June 1 (according to box office data on Wikipedia), had grossed more than $320 million since Waters’ launched “The Wall Live” tour in September 2010.
1) What does it all mean? Here’s how Waters recently described “The Wall” in its current incarnation. “When people see that they’re separated from the band they understand that it’s not just about them, the audience, being separated from the performers. It’s also about separation between East and West, rich and poor, powerful and weak ... symbolically represented by this giant wall. ... The walls surrounding our lives prevent us from getting at the truth—to the extent that we’re prepared to sacrifice young men and women on the altar of ideology or commerce. ... I want to make much broader political and hopefully humanitarian statements without being preachy in a way that’s beautiful. That’s the trick.”
2) How many bricks are in that wall? All told, the wall at the BankAtlantic show spanned 240 feet from one side of the arena to the other and reached some 35 feet high. The completed wall features 424 bricks—but 242 are placed during the first half of the concert.
3) Where did those kids come from? At each tour stop, Waters invites local children onto the stage to lip-sync the school choir background on “Another Brick in the Wall (part 2).”
4) Waters vs. Waters: During the song “Mother,” Waters sings harmony with himself, circa 1980. The black-and-white footage of Waters projected onto the half-built wall in set one is from Pink Floyd’s legendary staging of “The Wall” at Earls Court in London, where the band played six dates in 1980 and another five in 1981.
5) Symbol controversy: During the song “Goodbye Blue Sky,” airplanes projected on the wall drop payloads of various symbols—from crosses and the Shell oil logo to hammer and sickles and the Mercedes-Benz logo. Waters caught some anti-Semitism flak early in “The Wall” tour because the plane that dropped dollar signs appeared right after a plane dropping Star of David symbols; so he changed the order of payload drops to avoid any further controversy.
6) By the numbers: According to stats from the tour, it takes 172 speakers, 23 video projectors, 66 touring crew members (with additional local help at each arena) and six tour buses to transport, build and stage “The Wall Live.” The tallest of the inflatable characters featured, “Mother,” is 34 feet high.
7) Who is Namir Noor-Eldeen? The Iraqi photojournalist, who is referenced a couple of times during the concert, was killed by U.S. military forces (along with his assistant, Saeed Chmagh) during a helicopter attack on presumed insurgents in Baghdad back in 2007. The incident gained international attention when the website WikiLeaks released a video of the killing in 2010.
8) Artistic pain: Waters, now 68, began writing “The Wall” in his mid-30s. He credits his first wife—who broke the news that she was leaving him over the phone—with inspiring at least some of the underlying themes explored in the album.
9) Artistic pain, part II: Inspiration for the classic song “Comfortably Numb” is far more literal. During a late-1970s tour stop by Pink Floyd in Philadelphia, Waters was battling a terrible flu. A local doctor gave Waters a shot that, he explains, left him “comfortably numb” during his entire performance that night at The Spectrum.
10) Inflatable pig—or is it? Prior to the band’s disintegration in the early 1980s, live performances by Pink Floyd following the release of “Animals” in 1977 featured an inflatable pig prop, symbolic of Waters’ take on those on the top rung of the social ladder. Waters revived the giant pig during solo tours in the late 2000s. However, the motorized prop during “The Wall” 2012 tour isn’t a pig—it’s a warthog.
11) Intermission tribute: Waters calls the “Fallen Loved Ones” images and stories that are projected onto the wall during intermission “an act of remembrance.” The people featured include everyone from World War II soldiers to activists killed during protests to 9/11 victims. On his website, Waters writes, “Many of these tragic losses of life are avoidable. I feel empathy with the families of all the victims and anger at THE POWERS THAT BE, who are responsible, in equal measure. Please join me in [honoring] our dead and protesting their loss.”
12) Closing argument: “You’re a society with a big knife sticking in your back,” Waters says. “And you seem to be going, ‘Yes, but if I stand like this, it doesn’t hurt too much.’ There’s not a big enough outcry.”