"Lights! Roll sound effects! Action!"
The call echoed through the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. as Roger Waters, former singer and bassist for Pink Floyd, began performing The Wall amidst a furor of fireworks and cheers.
The show lasted two hours and delivered the 1979 rock opera in its entirety complete with the construction of an onstage wall. During the first half of Waters' performance, workers could be seen stacking large white blocks that eventually spanned the entire 20,000 person arena and stood over two stories high.
By the show's halfway point the wall was built, fully separating the band from the audience. Waters used the wall as not only a barrier, but a large canvas to display images and animations telling the story of Pink, a rock star who separates himself from the outside world.
The Wall is known for its strong anti-fascist, anti-war and anti-hate political messages. Slogans like "Big Brother Knows Best" and "iLearn, iBelieve, iKill" flashed upon the wall. During "Goodbye Blue Sky," digitally animated airplanes appeared dropping crosses, dollar signs, Shell gas logos and other images like paratroopers.
Images of war and loss also appeared on the wall. Pictures of war and terrorism victims flashed upon the screen; the displayed victims ranged from a firefighter who died in the 9/11 attacks to an American soldier who died on Normandy beach in 1944 to a young Iraqi boy killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the song "Mother," Waters asked the question "Mother should I trust the government?" and answered his own question when the phrase "No F---ing Way" appeared inscribed on the wall.
Waters let his trademark inflatable pig fly during the concert. This pig was black, had glaring red eyes and large tusks and had "RNC" written on its forehead, a reference to the Republican National Committee.
Large, two-story tall puppets appeared during the show to personify characters in the storyline. A sinister, freakish schoolteacher descended from the arena's rafters during "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2." The schoolteacher was met by a group of actual schoolchildren on stage wearing shirts saying "Fear Builds Walls" who angrily shook their fists as Waters sung "We don't need no education / We don't need no thought control." A monstrous, mantis-like woman also descended during the song "Vera."
The wall, of course, had to come down. As "Tear down the wall!" sounded throughout the stadium at the end of "The Trial," the white blocks fell, landing haphazardly around and off the stage.
Waters performed flawlessly in spite of his 67 years and band of just 11 pieces. Even when he double-tracked the first performance of "Mother," originally performed solo at Earl's Court in 1980, he sounded just as he did 30 years ago.
The show never had a dull moment. The music, the props and the images were all put together perfectly to awe any spectator, Pink Floyd fan or not. Crowds left the arena that night speechless, marveled and mind-blown.