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May 2011

Pigs might fly: Roger Waters and David Gilmour reunite on The Wall

Sean McManus presents a photo essay of Roger Waters 2011 tour of The Wall.

When Roger Waters announced he would tour one last time to present The Wall, the tour included six dates at London's O2. David Gilmour had agreed to perform Comfortably Numb on one date of the world tour, to return a favour after Roger Waters had performed with him at a small charity gig. The date of the cameo wasn't announced in advance, so it was all down to luck. Attending the London gigs was probably a good bet, though. I attended the concert twice, including on 12 May 2011 (the second London date), which I've documented here.

"Big Mother is watching you" says one of the slogans. The original wall was an insular piece about a man screwed up about his relationships, and the loss of his father in the second world war. The new wall makes a stronger political statement. After Waters sings "should I trust the government?" the words "No Fucking Way!" appear, one at a time, on the wall beside him. The bombers now drop religious symbols, currency signs and the logos of oil companies, car makers and fast food outlets. Most movingly, after a tube train rattles across the wall, the face of Jean Charles de Menezes fills the video screen.

The show features giant puppets of the wife character, the school teacher and the mother.

At the end of the first half, the wall stretches across the arena. During the intermission, stories are projected on to the wall about those lost to terrorism and war, submitted by family members to Roger Waters' website.

At the start of the second half, the wall is fully built across the stage. "Hey You" is performed with the band hidden from view. Amusingly, there are two spotlights behind the wall, one on the left for the singer, and one on the right (shown here) for the guitarist during his solo. This song embodies the show's concept most perfectly, but it's difficult to listen to live music when you can't see the performers. Thankfully, this is the only song performed from behind the wall.

We all knew that David Gilmour had promised to play Comfortably Numb on just one night of the world tour. We didn't know it was tonight, though, until Gilmour appeared on top of the wall to sing his first line, after Waters' first verse. The place went wild. I never thought I'd see Gilmour and Waters share a stage, but tonight I won the golden ticket.

After the pillars rise up, the flags of the hammer guard appear to unfurl down them. The video effects are incredibly sophisticated. At times, the whole wall appears to rotate through 360 degrees, bricks pulse and pop out in 3D, and bricks break away and fly into the distance. Each brick is added in darkness, and then the projection fades in on that brick, making the bricks seem to just appear out of nowhere.

Waters and Gilmour performing "Comfortably Numb" together? Pigs might fly! This pig emerged from over the wall and took a circuit around the arena. Earlier in the show, the video screen showed the towers of Battersea Power Station, with a pig passing slowly through them.

Tear down the wall! The wall collapses, with cardboard bricks bouncing off the stage and being caught by roadies in the pit before the bricks can fly into the audience. After the wall has fallen, the company takes to the stage to perform "Outside the Wall". For one night only, David Gilmour joins Waters on mandolin, Nick Mason brings a tambourine and Roger Waters plays trumpet.

A film of The Wall concerts, which includes footage of Roger Waters visiting his father's grave, was released in 2015 and is available now on DVD. You can see my photo of the stained glass window from the Dark Side of the Moon reissue here. See more concert photos here.

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