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Roger Waters Revives ‘The Wall’ for Massive US Arena Tour

Pink Floyd bassist brings the epic 1979 concept double LP to the stage

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rsiwebadmin Jun 10, 2010
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Tim Monsenfelder/Getty Images Entertainment

On a sunny afternoon in Manhattan, Roger Waters sits behind a giant computer monitor in a production studio, going over stage schematics and digital-animation clips for his most ambitious tour in decades: The Wall, a staging of Pink Floyd’s legendary 1979 double album that will hit arenas across North America beginning September 15 in Toronto. As an animated pig flashes across the screen, Waters laughs and says, “That’s my inner self!”

Waters was inspired to tackle the classic disc after the success of his last tour: From 2006 through 2008, he performed Dark Side of the Moon 118 times around the globe, grossing more than $60 million in the US alone. “The Dark Side tour was very enjoyable,” says the 66-year-old singer and bassist. “I’d been thinking that I’ve got one more big tour in me ”“ and the obvious thing to do was our other magnum opus.”

Waters reached out to Pink Floyd singer-guitarist David Gilmour, but after years of acrimony, Gilmour wasn’t interested. “We asked David, and he said no, so that was that,” says Waters. His new band features an LA session vocalist named Robbie Wyckoff taking Gilmour’s parts. “He sings in a similar range to David, which is important for these iconic songs,” says Waters. “I look at The Wall and Dark Side as almost classical pieces. I like to keep them consistent with how they were recorded.”

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The original 1980 and ’81 Wall tour hit only New York, London, LA and Dortmund, Germany ”“ and was so expensive to stage that Waters has claimed the band lost $600,000 on the run. (Waters also staged an all-star, one-time performance of the album in 1990 in Berlin.) For this year’s tour, Waters brought back original Wall illustrator Gerard Scarfe and production designer Mark Fisher to help him update the technology. “We will build the wall,” says Waters, referring to the giant wall that is constructed and toppled over the course of the show. “Thirty years ago, we had three old, rickety 35mm projectors. But now we have a 350-feet-wide and 35-feet-tall video screen.” Adds Fisher, “There’s never been a DVD or film release of the original tour, so it’s mythic.”

Since going on sale in April, The Wall tour has sold so quickly that promoter Live Nation added 12 new dates, for a total of 48 shows, with tickets ranging from $45 to $250. Ron Delsener, chairman of the New York division of Live Nation, says that once the tickets went on sale, “they went boom. Fans have seen what he’s done with Dark Side of the Moon ”“ it’s overpowering.”

The 1979 double LP, which has sold more than 23 million copies in the US, is an autobiographical concept album that traces a rock star named Pink from his troubled childhood through years of rockstar excess until he suffers a nervous breakdown. “I was an aggressive, frightened person then, and that fear made me cut myself off from other people,” Waters says. “In the last 10 years, I’ve opened myself up much more, and I’m much happier for it.”

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Though the album doesn’t relate to Waters’ inner life anymore, he thinks the messages in songs like ”˜Comfortably Numb’ and ”˜Mother’ have lasting appeal. “I’ve realised it has a broader message than telling the story of who I was then,” he says. “I see fear now in a broader sense: controlling nations, religions and governments. So I think within the context of this old narrative, there’s a chance to explore some of these ideas.”

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