For those who are either native Bostonians or adopted sons and daughters of Beantown and its surrounding areas, Roger Waters' 'The Wall Live' at Fenway Park was as much about 'The Wall' as it was about Fenway itself. New England states tend to share their team spirit: Fenway is home to the Boston Red Sox. Revered as a sacred, historic place from the lighthouses of Maine to the casinos and mansions of Connecticut, it's the one house of worship that cuts through religious, ethnic, racial, and social classes in the region.
For those unfamiliar with Fenway and its beloved baseball team, you should know: people pay megabucks to sit in some of the most charmingly uncomfortable seats, sometimes directly behind a pole (yes, with a fully obstructed view); the space between rows is so narrow there is absolutely no way one can leave their seat without creating a ballpark wave – or at least something that resembles one from a distance.
In this context, the announcement that Waters would be playing at Fenway was met with a mad planning rush: inevitably, the architecture of the park meant some seats would be substantially better than others and most people realized there could be production challenges, particularly with respect to sound. Buying seats when the show was announced (during the Holidays) meant working around tight budgets.
The sighting of the actual 'wall' at Fenway was tricky: while the 'wall' would normally sit opposite home plate in most ball parks and stadiums (the batter's area, for those who don't follow baseball: the very tip of a relatively triangular playing field), at Fenway the stage had to be placed somewhere along the Park's left field due to its odd architecture. Compared to other baseball stadium shows, Fenway's 'wall' was smaller than most: Fenway is the nation's oldest ball park in use, and is second-to-last in attendance capacity. Given the geometric oddities and the challenge that fitting this production into Fenway presented, it was difficult to expect a perfect show: once you walked into Fenway you could tell that the speakers were placed in areas that (though probably equidistant from each other) were bound to create echo and other acoustic challenges.
Despite all of this, the performance began and ran smoothly all the way through. In the Flesh will always be remembered as one of the most epic moments in the show: even though someone who hasn't seen it might consider it anti-climactic to peak during the opening track, the overall thread of the album and the live performance carries this momentum forward throughout.
It should be pointed out that there has been vast improvement in several key areas of the show that cement this momentum: when Waters' band played the TD Garden in Boston in the fall of 2010, the show's props, pyrotechnics, and sounds were nearly perfect but there was something perfunctory about the overall performance. In this return to Boston, the band deserves significant praise for the way they've fleshed the show out – paying particular attention to nuances that make the performance distinctly theirs: Robbie Wyckoff in particular has come to own his parts during 'The Wall', emancipated from any sense he's been hired to mimic David Gilmour. Mother and Comfortably Numb are two particular songs where Wyckoff shines.
While many, many fans (particularly older fans) struggle to accept the professional musicians that have become part of the overall Pink Floyd universe since Waters' departure from the band in 1985 (either touring with Floyd or its related solo acts) it may be, in all truth, time to recognize where these musicians' efforts to fill big shoes and further develop Floyd's sound in any of the aforementioned capacities have met or surpassed expectations. On this leg of The Wall Live it is Wyckoff who deserves a great deal of credit for pulling things together: and Boston was a particularly bright moment for the singer from Los Angeles (by way of Traverse City, Michigan).
Considering the evening's seamless performance, it should be stated that Fenway had the potential to cast the type of spell Wrigley Field did on Waters and the band a month before: Wrigley and Fenway share similar traits. The parks have a considerable and special history in each of their respective cities. No doubt, in Chicago this nurtured a vibe Waters felt compelled to acknowledge publicly: following Wrigley he made time to call a radio station to say so. It would be interesting to know whether he felt the same way about Boston.
Boston may never know… but for local Floyd fans, there's no question there was something incredibly emotive about seeing The Wall performed in such a treasured place. Waters did make a special nod to Red Sox Nation on this historic Fenway evening: before performing Run Like Hell he altered the script projected on the 'wall' and asked: "are there any paranoids in the BALL PARK tonight?!" Picking up on this local subtlety carries significant stock with local fans, who refuse to refer to Fenway as a stadium… it is, after all, Boston's BALL PARK.
There were some criticisms. Evidently, the quality of the sound depended on where you sat: something to be expected at just about any venue this size or one restricted by architectural oddities like Fenway's.
Another legitimate gripe was raised by WAAF personality Matt Leonard (host of Brain Damage) who observed that the footage being played on the extended walls in the stadium shows is fine but a live feed from the actual show would be better: particularly when local school children come on stage to join Waters during Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2). The footage being used was filmed in Athens (and was actually originally intended to be recorded at the O2 Arena in London – which was a disappointment in and of itself to fans there) during the 2011 leg of the tour. Leonard is no stranger to shows on this tour: his criticism is not only fair but probably shared by those who've attended multiple Wall shows – not to mention the local children and the families participating in this endeavor throughout each city. The only identifiably live feed of Waters during the show takes place toward the end, just before the wall comes down – but the presence of any live feed means there's a chance any potential European dates in 2013 could accommodate this small but meaningful change to the performance.
In the end, it's been stated that Fenway Park has about 40-to-50 years of life in it before it has to be replaced. Bostonians and Red Sox fans across New England have made it exceptionally difficult – and with good reason – to replace Fenway despite previous attempts to do so. Walking away from Fenway on the night Waters played The Wall and seeing Mr. Screen through the tunnels leading to the grandstands [right] one couldn't help but realize this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the view through these tunnels will probably never be the same… and those tunnels won't be there forever either, unfortunately.
All pictures are courtesy of Marie Lopez (www.facebook.com/marielopezphotography). Marie is in the process of uploading a load of pictures to this Facebook page from a number of Roger's concerts, from the London O2 shows last year, right through to the Quebec City tour conclusion in 2012. Well worth a visit!