by Ed Lopez-Reyes for Brain Damage
Every tour has a discernible ebb and flow, usually commensurate to the degree the band will improvise and change sets from day-to-day. On one end you have the likes of a Grateful Dead tour (and its latter-day imitations), each night boasting a different collection of songs reflecting the band's mood, while on the other end you have a tour like Roger Waters' 'The Wall Live,' in which the set has to follow a rigid structure throughout.
In the latter type of show, execution becomes quite seamless over time and it becomes harder to detect a vibe unless you've seen the performance a few times: it's been known for some time now that Paris would be the last gig on this mammoth production, so expectations were high and many were curious how Waters and his band would deliver or whether the show would be noticeably different in any way.
Three things stood out during this performance: first, the band seemed to have been given latitude for improvisation; secondly, the show's delivery carried punch and was consistently strong – remarkably so; thirdly, strong emotions finally pierced through the 'wall' of professionalism during the last quarter of the show: not impeding its more than well-practiced, choreographed, and familiar effort but lifting it to a fitting height as three years (anniversary years, that is – technically the tour spanned four years) of colossal work came to a close in front of an enormously moved and enthusiastic audience.
One could suspect that Waters has an affinity for French-speaking audiences. Among this tour's strongest shows are its two continental finales: an American finale in Quebec City and (now) a European one in Paris – in both cases, the audiences were incredibly passionate and it may be that Waters has developed a keen sense of audience/performer rapport within this particular cultural boundary.
Whatever it is, Parisians all poured into Stade de France like this was their first 'Wall' show – and for many it may have been, but for a tour that has been around the block a few times now it would be surprising if the 72,000 people in attendance (according to reports) were all new to this – it definitely felt like it, however, and this set the stage for one of the most powerful performer-audience dynamics – not just on this tour but for practically any.
Among the most aggressive and notable improvisations this evening: drummer Graham Broad's fills were epic – and it must be stated that, out of this outstanding team of musicians, Broad deserves a great deal of credit for pulling this musical narrative together with some of the most powerful and elegant live drumming you could possibly witness. On this evening in Paris it was evident Broad was giving it his all.
Both Robbie Wyckoff's and Waters' deliveries were sprinkled with moments of uniqueness that were palpably from the heart: Waters' parts sounded particularly different at certain points, giving new texture to bits and pieces that have always begged for something more… like those moments when an extended note evokes a chilling and goose-bump-inducing vibe in the audience. Paris was full of these moments, which is what makes it one of the most remarkable evenings a fan could have been a part of (and which could assuage concerns over the balance of pre-recorded bits during the show).
Throughout the night it seemed the very distinct musical personalities of Dave Kilminster, Snowy White, and G.E. Smith were strongly evident – of all the performances witnessed this side of the 'wall,' Paris boasted some of the most unique-sounding guitar deliveries with Kilminster's precise technical approach, White's wall-of-sound delivery, and Smith's bluesy edge all as pronounced as ever. It was evident by the time the first fireworks went off that this band had grown confident over the last three years – given the weight of the musicians behind the original 'Wall' it was great seeing Waters' band take latitude over this work by projecting itself into it like it hadn't in many or all of the shows preceding it.
Another noticeable item: this must have been one of the loudest 'Wall' shows on this tour – it may be that the French take a more liberal approach to ordinances or that the stadium's relative isolation from more suburban and residential areas allows for greater agency over this – it just seemed to make the performance that much more powerful.
So was there anything particularly different about this show, something fitting for the end of such a grand thing in Pink Floyd's history? There was no special appearance (despite Nick Mason’s presence at Stade de France); there were no additional fireworks, no special songs like in Australia's and Mexico's encore bit. But about the time Waters raised his fists and slammed them on the wall for 'Comfortably Numb,' lights beaming over Kilminster as he performed another perfect solo, there was an escalation in audience response: it felt like the audience was beginning to grip tightly onto something that was truly coming to an end.
This was noticeable through the rest of the show but it was at the very end, when Waters spoke and mentioned that this was definitely the end of this tour and quite possibly the last time 'The Wall' would be performed in its entirety, that a very powerful feeling swept through this entire stadium: clearly this audience didn't want to let go. Unlike many, if not most previous nights, as the band waved goodbye, took a bow, began to walk to the harmony of "Outside the Wall," and disappeared behind the stage, a notable difference was that it didn't sing during those last few seconds backstage as it usually did. Instead, it just finalized the instrumentation for "Outside the Wall" – something that, somehow, in some difficult to describe way, was quite fitting for the end of this tour. There was something emotive about the fact that there was no vocalization over the melody during those last few seconds of the show.
With that, the lights at Stade de France flickered as the stadium fired illumination up again and security began prodding everyone out. Many audience members stood there, taking it all in for as long as they were allowed to – others reached over the front row barrier for pieces of 'The Wall.'
You could sense many walking away wondering whether it had been enough. Somehow it makes sense that it came to an end this way. There was not much more to be said – just the question of what it will be like to tell future generations of this incredible spectacle that sojourned the world, closing yet another chapter in Floyd history as it moves closer and closer to an inevitable final curtain call for the band's history as a whole.