Among those who've seen The Wall Live multiple times, a review of one of the many shows on this epic tour is likely to generate pretty diverse responses. Over time, some aspects of the show have changed: while the tour was tailored for arenas in 2010, by 2012 the production had morphed into an incredibly different animal – one bound to set a whole new standard for rock concerts (or any type of concert for that matter) and which has resulted in two different types of shows running concurrently: there are those who are still partial to the intimacy of the arena production, which continued running in parallel with the stadium shows this year, while a fairly universal view suggests the stadium version of the show will be exceptionally difficult to top or match for years to come and is the one that takes the prize. Add to that mix the fact that where you're sitting can affect the way you receive the audiovisual impact of the show's effects and you create a situation where no one particular perception of the show can adequately describe the 'general' view of the audience or match everyone else's impression.
This review of the two New York City shows (both stadium shows) reflects two different perspectives: from each the floor and the highest stand seats (next to the surround sound speakers): New York's Yankee Stadium, with its state-of-the-art design (the new Yankee Stadium just opened in 2009) delivers the perfect setting to test the boundaries of Waters' perfectionism. By all measures, Yankee Stadium delivered and Waters should be satisfied with the end result. The audience certainly was.
Whether you were in the stands or the floor, the show's surround sound system delivered. A trademark tour item for Floyd and its solo members for many years, one of the biggest challenges the Gilmour-led Floyd wrestled with on tour in 1994 (for example) was establishing a desirable balance among all its surround sound speakers: if you were anywhere near these during those 1994 shows, you'd hear the bulk of the concert's sound projecting from the stage at one volume level while the background vocals (and special effects) projected by a surround sound speaker over your head (if you were unlucky enough) at another volume level altogether. This created a strange dissonance that The Wall Live tour has managed to overcome and balance with more modern technology. In fact, it seems anywhere you sat at Yankee Stadium you could really absorb what Waters had envisioned for this show and tour without problem: no matter where you were, you could close your eyes and feel like a helicopter was really landing in the venue during Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2).
This doesn't mean there weren't imperfections: others who've attended multiple shows felt Yankee Stadium's acoustics generated too much echo. Each venue has its disadvantages – but it's quite difficult to gauge the degree to which these imperfections are detected by each person. This may be especially true for fans that've attended the show just once and are swept away by the special effects, lights, fireworks, and – on this particular evening – an incredible performance.
Despite this specific criticism, the quality of sound and projection delivered at Yankee Stadium was extraordinary: it's quite possible the two nights at Yankee Stadium can be counted among the best during this tour and that those who've only see the show once – even twice – were unlikely to find any palpable issues, including some of the echo problems cited by more seasoned Wall concert-goers.
Three band members stood out in New York City: Dave Kilminster, G.E. Smith, and Snowy White really elevated the show far beyond expectations: these are three guitar players whose skills have combined and blend into a unique wall of sound that has really come to characterize Waters' production. This powerful composition of guitar sound is a treat that only comes with great band chemistry. Whatever it is, Waters has put together three incredible musicians whose combined effort gives this touring version of The Wall its own texture.
What goes largely ignored here is what each guitar player brings to the table: Snowy White is a veteran partner of Waters' whose blend of the 'technical' and the 'instinctive' serves as a foundation for the band's two other guitarists; Dave Kilminster delivers a very technical and structured sound that is well-suited to the large amount of guitar solos he delivers throughout the show… G.E. Smith – an adopted son of New York City – delivers a bluesier and more traditionally American sound to the band that gives Waters' solo version of The Wall a character of its own, in some respects quite distinct from the original Pink Floyd production.
One of the most outstanding moments during these performances in New York City came, without doubt, when each of the three guitar players took time to deliver their individual guitar solos during Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2): if there's a point in the show in which you get to sample what each guitar player brings to the table, this would be it. All this said, the biggest challenge is clearly on Dave Kilminster: if any fan is asked what the most important solo during The Wall is, chances are they will respond with Comfortably Numb. Kilminster's work is moving – and despite following the general melody and construction of Gilmour's original solo for the song, somehow Kilminster has reinvigorated the solo and added tonal muscle to it. This doesn't diminish any of Gilmour's work – but provides a basis to appreciate Kilminster's talents while paying tribute to one of the greatest rock compositions (and guitarists) of all-time.
Given the iconic status of the song, Kilminster has essentially been put in the hot-seat (or hot platform) above the wall. In New York City it was clearly evident that the guitarist has developed a unique presence and following among Pink Floyd and Waters fans: the crowd's response to Kilminster when he finished playing Comfortably Numb made it evident that he has mastered the piece by infusing his own powerful voice through his guitar playing.
Overall, New York fans gave Waters and the band a warm reception – the crowd was keenly involved in those noticeable peak moments during the show: In the Flesh, Another Brick in the Wall (all parts), Young Lust, Comfortably Numb, and Run Like Hell. One especially emotive moment during the New York shows that really resonated with the crowd and clearly gave people a reason to stand with goose bumps was the stretch between Vera and Comfortably Numb. It may be the anticipation for Comfortably Numb – but to some degree the audience in New York City must feel a visceral connection to the footage of soldiers returning home to their families and the message projected on the wall in that time. It is, after all, ground zero for much of the foreign policy that has tormented and divided both Americans and the world since 2001.