Last Night: Roger Waters at Toyota Center
It really is true what they say: You don't appreciate a performer until he's fired a machine gun at you.
They were blanks Roger Waters was firing during "Run Like Hell" Tuesday at Toyota Center. That's why this review isn't being filed from the Harris County morgue.
But it's almost overwhelming to imagine the kind of frustration and animosity both towards the audience and himself it must take for an artist to pantomime blowing us all away, so meticulously and realistically, as part of his performance. And that was probably the least overwhelming part of a production that requires 25 semis to ferry from city to city.
Some of the moral, social and political undercurrents of this version of The Wall -- everything from a photo collage of soldiers and civilians killed in various armed conflicts to the ad slogans and anticapitalist graffiti scrawled on the inflatable pigs floating overhead during the second act -- were even heavier than the music. And we're talking about a show that includes such towering, sinister symphonic-rock creations as "Empty Spaces" and "Bring the Boys Back Home."
Waters doesn't hate his fans, of course. He was quite genial Tuesday, in fact, breaking character for a moment to thank the audience and especially Ruth Verell of Houston's Meals on Wheels for Kids program. After some promoter dropped the ball, Waters said, she helped arrange the children in "Fear Builds Walls" T-shirts who had just assailed the insectoid 21-foot-high "Teacher" puppet during "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2."
It was almost too much. Sometimes I had to tune out what was going on on the wall -- bombers dropping everything from the McDonald's arches to symbols of the world's major religions, actual footage of two men gunned down in the Middle East, large swatches of Gerald Scarfe's animation from Pink Floyd The Wall -- and pay attention to the music.
Waters has the mind of a composer, the soul of a minstrel and the heart of a man who has felt a boot on his neck. Expertly played by his 11-piece ensemble (including former Saturday Night Live bandleader G.E. Smith), the songs amounted to almost two hours of music.