As a visual spectacle, Roger Waters’ “The Wall” tour succeeded, and then some, Thursday night at the Times Union Center.
From the graphic projections and the blow-up pig in the second act to the actual wall itself, this was a totally immersive experience for 21⁄2 hours. And the nearly full house ate everything up, cheering from the moment soldiers marched on stage to signal the beginning of the first set, dragging a rag doll with them, to the final collapse of the huge set piece wall at the end of the second act.
Throughout the first set, unsettling images combining threads from pop culture past and present (including liberal usage of quotes from George Orwell’s “1984”), footage from “The Wall” film and other bits and pieces flashed on the wall as stagehands built it up. During “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2,” a chorus of children sang the infamous hook, while a twisted blowup of the teacher character swayed, billowed and eventually cowered before the kids.
Waters’ band went through the motions of these songs with ease, doing an admirable job replicating the record. This was clearly Waters’ show, and without the other members of Pink Floyd around, he gladly took the spotlight, dueting with a video of his younger self on the bittersweet “Mother.” He was also the only musician with the privilege of standing out in front of the wall at times (at least during set one), although as the show wore on, he mostly stuck behind it with the rest of his band.
All this had the effect of rendering the music secondary to the imagery — not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you weren’t at the show to watch the musicians perform. After a while, you couldn’t see them anymore anyway, as the wall built and built — by “Young Lust,” the elaborate stage set had totally taken over the proceedings.
The first set built to a feverish climax during “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3,” as the wall built up at a feverish pace, even as digital bricks on the display screen began flying out backwards. Waters popped his head out to sing “Goodbye Cruel World” before the final brick completely sealed in the band.
This led to an awkward opening for the second set, with the band obviously performing behind the wall through “Comfortably Numb” — a real shame, as it would have been wonderful to see the band interplay on this number especially. Eventually, the band, in military costume, came out front, Rogers singing through a bullhorn on a ferocious “Run Like Hell,” and yelling the theatrical lyrics to “Trial” before the grand finale.
In the end, the show relied perhaps a bit too heavily on visuals, and if you were there to see a seasoned band perform, you didn’t really get much of that.
Take that for what you will. Those who came wanting the visual experience of Waters’ “The Wall” in all its glory left extremely happy.