Since bringing The Wall back, Waters has done 150 performances that have grossed US$218 million in 27 countries.
It would be tempting to think that by now The Wall is a well-oiled machine with every element solidly in place, down to the last microsecond of music and pixel of imagery, but it’s still evolving, Waters said.
“I take a hard drive straight home from every gig and then look at it the next day or the next night, and I write notes,” he said. “I don’t think there’s been a single day where I haven’t changed something.”
Conceptually, too, the show has grown from its origins as a polemic largely about the angst of one particular rock star.
“The new incarnation of The Wall is completely unlike the 1980 version,” he said. “It’s developed into being much more of an international polemic, and it’s also much more moving,” he said, referring to images, many submitted by fans around the world, of family or friends killed in various wars over the last century.
“In those days it was about the internal struggle of me, when I was younger. It’s now much more about everybody else, much less about me, and what’s going on in politics, communication and all the stuff I care so deeply about. In consequence, lots of people in the audience weep. That makes me very happy, to be able to engage people to where they can empathize with others to the point where they weep.”
Ultimately, that’s the wall that Waters yearns to bring down with his ideas and his music, a campaign of engagement that often leaves him feeling another emotion he didn’t have much contact with three or four decades ago.
“As I sometimes say to the audience now, I’m so moved playing in these big places, being with a great band and seeing the audience’s response,” he said. “They get so emotional, and I’m so moved — I have to admit that 30 years ago I was famously hiding behind my own walls. I didn’t like being in big spaces with lots and lots of people. But in the intervening 30 years, I’ve changed.
“I’m not that miserable (expletive) guy I was then,” he said. “I could not be happier than I am now to be in that room, that space with those people, joining together in communion while we’re performing The Wall. It makes me inordinately happy. I’ve turned into a happy old codger.”