- May 9, 2003
Roger Waters The Wall Blu-ray Review - Recommended
Roger Waters The Wall is built onto Blu-ray and offers home theater viewers a chance to experience one of the greatest rock concert experiences ever created. Fans of Pink Floyd and of Waters will want to grab this Blu-ray – it is a wonderful document of the concert tour for The Wall, and it will give many people around the world a truly remarkable rock and roll evening. The high definition picture here is exemplary and the sound is reference quality. There are two sound mixes here – one in Atmos and the other in Linear PCM – both of which are worth a full listen. While there is an extended amount of time spent dwelling on Roger Waters’ personal issues here, the presence of the full concert makes this an easy disc to Recommend for Purchase.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English Dolby Atmos, English PCM 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Other
Run Time: 2 Hrs. 13 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 12/1/2015
The Production Rating: 4/5
“It was just before dawn one miserable morning in black ‘forty four
When the forward commander was told to sit tight when he asked that his men be withdrawn
And the generals gave thanks as the other ranks held back the enemy tanks for a while
And the Anzio bridgehead was held for the price
Of a few hundred ordinary lives
And kind old King George sent Mother a note when heard that father was gone
It was, I recall, in the form of a scroll, with gold leaf adorned
And I found it one day in a drawer of old photographs, hidden away
And my eyes still grow damp to remember His Majesty signed with his own rubber stamp
It was dark all around, there was frost on the ground, when the Tigers broke free
And no one survived from the Royal Fusiliers Company Z
They were all left behind, most of them dead, the rest of them dying
And that’s how the High Command TOOK MY DADDY FROM ME”
-Roger Waters “When The Tigers Broke Free”
Roger Waters The Wall is a wonderful way to experience one of the most ambitious rock concerts ever conceived. Built from the 1979 Pink Floyd album The Wall, this concert is a touring version of the full album, including some song material that did not fit onto the actual album. The concert is a complete experience, wherein a wall is constructed literally between the band and the audience over the course of the first half of the show, and then serves as a massive projection screen for the second half of the show. The music itself continues to hold up, particularly if you’re a Pink Floyd fan or just know this album in particular. The new movie here contains the full concert, and adds in multiple documentary scenes of Roger Waters travelling through Europe to the burial sites for his grandfather (killed in World War I) and his father (lost in the Anzio defense described above in World War II). The documentary footage ends with Waters arriving at the Anzio memorial and playing his trumpet, just as he does in the closing moments of the concert for “Outside the Wall”. The documentary footage is alternately moving and distracting, depending on where we are in the journey, but the concert footage is jaw-dropping. As a fan of the band and the album, I can attest that seeing this presentation is really the next best thing to actually having attended the tour. The picture quality here makes it possible to have a full experience of all the pyrotechnics and projection of the stage show, and the sound quality will literally immerse your home theater. Without reservation, I Recommend this disc for purchase.
A LITTLE HISTORY. The origins of The Wall stem from two primary sources. The first source has been shown to be the growing alienation that Roger Waters and his bandmates in Pink Floyd were experiencing throughout the 1970s as the phenomenon of their band grew larger and larger. After the mega successes of The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here (both inspired by the loss of Floyd’s original leader, Syd Barrett), the band came out with the higher concept collection, Animals, in 1977. The concert tour for this album, including a large inflatable pig being sailed above the audience’s head, involved the largest crowds the band had ever faced. Rather than inspire the band, this situation actually depressed them, likely due to many of the fans being more interested in the pyrotechnics or simply being too mood-enhanced to really appreciate the music. (More casual readers may recall Pink Floyd as a progressive rock band, tending to appeal to people who like a more psychedelic experience.) Things came to a head in Quebec, where Waters infamously scolded the audience and then spat on them. Realizing that this was not a positive sign, Waters decided to explore this situation in his writing.
MORE HISTORY: Waters’ focus for the 1979 Pink Floyd album was the loss of his father in a pointless battle in World War II, and how that loss informed Waters’ continuing alienation from everyone – his friends, family, bandmates and even his fans. All of the experiences he was racking up – his father’s death, his issues with schoolteachers, the copious drug use, even the growing fame of Pink Floyd – could be seen as bricks in a wall he was effectively building between himself and the rest of the world. The Wall, then, is an expression of that alienation, and it is an expression of protest – against the fascism of world leaders (as perceived by Waters) that sends people’s fathers away to die, and against the fascism of the music industry (again, as perceived by Waters) that insists that the performer provide entertainment even if they have to be drugged to the gills to get through it. It’s an angry album, no question about it. Familiar figures in the songs are threatening, sometimes downright evil. The basic story of the album follows Pink (ostensibly the main character for the band in general but really standing in for Waters) as he deals with the loss of his father to war, with vicious schoolteachers who beat the children (“The Happiest Days of Our Lives”), with a dominating mother who smothers him (“Mother”), and with his own growing alienation from the rest of the world. Things get uglier as he cuts himself off from his family and begins lashing out at people in a convincingly scary rage (“One of My Turns”) when he isn’t sitting alone in his hotel room getting lost in that hopeless little screen (“Nobody Home”). In the second half of the story, he’s completely lost himself, alternately performing in a drugged stupor (“Comfortably Numb”) or leading crazed attack anthems (“In the Flesh”, “Run Like Hell”) that sound less like rock songs than fascist revivals. Things culminate in his mind in a self-immolation (“The Trial”) where he effectively condemns himself to be exposed for essentially being a scared little man in the middle of a giant construction of his own making. The whole thing ends with a bit of a dirge, a plaintive appeal to humanity (“Outside the Wall”):
All alone or in two’s, the ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall
Some hand in hand, others gathered together in bands
The bleeding hearts and the artists make their stand
And when they’ve given you their all
Some stagger and fall
After all it’s not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger’s wall.
STILL MORE HISTORY: When it was released in 1979, The Wall was another huge hit for Pink Floyd, driven partly by the charting success of songs like “Another Brick in the Wall pt 2”, which features the notorious chorus: “Hey, Teachers, Leave Those Kids Alone!”. The band set out to take this album on tour, performing the complete album in order, while a massive stage show went on around them. This show involved the construction of a complete wall between Pink Floyd and the audience, with projected images going onto the wall as it went up, until it filled the stage. Sadly, the concert was only performed in four cities, with 31 performances spread between 1980 and 1981. Most fans were never able to see this concert. Further, the technology to capture the concert in its fullness on video wasn’t really present. Attempts were apparently made at various times, and some of this footage can be seen in various places today, including on the Immersion Box Set of the album released a few years ago. But there was never a full record of the concert of any quality that the band would ever consent to releasing. Further, the album and tour for The Wall was the moment Pink Floyd reached a breaking point. By the time the album was finished, keyboardist Richard Wright was no longer a full member of the band. Over the next couple of years, the band’s infighting became toxic. Their last album, The Final Cut, wound up as a combination of leftover tracks from The Wall and then-current political musings by Waters. The band did not tour to support that last album, as they effectively broke up in the process of recording it. In a sense, the album really serves as a first solo album for Roger Waters. In the years that followed, Waters would go on to record a few solo albums (The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking, Radio K.A.O.S. and Amused to Death) while the other band members went between solo projects and occasional Pink Floyd albums without Waters (A Momentary Lapse of Reason, The Division Bell). The acrimony between Roger Waters and Floyd’s lead guitarist David Gilmour, continued for over 20 years. Somewhere in the midst of this, Waters held a celebrity concert of The Wall in Berlin, to commemorate the falling of the Berlin Wall – but this was a one-off.
A TAD MORE HISTORY: A few cracks began to show in the wall between the former bandmates in the mid-2000s, particularly when all four members of Pink Floyd agreed to perform together at Live 8 in the summer of 2005. While it was clear that the band could never get back together again, it would seem that they were at least able to finally be civil with each other and perhaps let go of some of the anger from the old days. Waters appropriately and admirably voiced his appreciation for Richard Wright when the keyboardist died in 2008.
LAST HISTORY: In 2010 and approaching the age of 70, Roger Waters arranged for a new tour of The Wall, now to utilize the most current technology and cover far more dates than the original early 80s tour had managed. Over the course of three years, from September 2010 to September 2013, Waters and the touring band played 219 dates, mostly in North America and Europe, but allowing a far greater number of people to experience the full grandeur of the concert experience. He also arranged to have the concerts digitally recorded, both for the audio and the video – thus allowing the creation of the movie under discussion and preserving the experience for all time. As an added bonus, surviving Pink Floyd members David Gilmour and Nick Mason appeared onstage for parts of the May 12, 2011 concert at The O2 in London. As seen in the footage of them onstage and off, it would seem that they were happy to be together again, if only for a single evening. And Waters is certainly happy with the outcome of the tour, as the movie plainly shows. He wound up with a hugely profitable concert tour, and with a solid record of what it was like to play and experience this album live.
Roger Waters The Wall is probably a bit of a reach in the possessiveness of the title. It might be more accurate to call it, Roger Waters’ Tour of Pink Floyd The Wall, but that would probably be a bit too long of a title. The lengthy travelogue sections and the visits to the various graves are sometimes moving, but mostly seem to consist of Roger and his travelling companions rambling on at each other in the car while the viewer waits for the next big number to hit. On the other hand, the record of the concert itself is fantastic. Given that record, and given the exemplary picture and sound, this is an easy Blu-ray to Recommend for Purchase. If you’re a rock fan and you don’t have this, please take my word for it – this is worth your time.
Roger Waters The Wall was released on Blu-ray and standard definition as of December 1st. The DVD is a single disc affair, containing the movie and travelogue footage in standard definition, along with three brief bonus features. The Blu-ray ups the ante considerably, with a two-disc release. The first disc holds the movie and the same bonus features in solid high definition. The second disc adds another 80 minutes of bonus features, including the David Gilmour/Nick Mason appearances at the 2011 O2 concert, all in high definition. Given the strength of the high definition picture and sound, it’s a no-brainer to go with the Blu-ray release. I should note that there are two other editions of this release out there. One is a Special Edition available at Amazon, but this just adds a booklet and different packaging. The bigger edition being made available now is coming directly from Roger Waters, via his website. He is selling a Super Deluxe Edition for $500, including a 4-record set of the concert, a 2-CD soundtrack, a large book and a 3-disc Blu-ray set that includes this release and adds in a 3rd disc with a new documentary and a conversation between Waters and Nick Mason. Yes, you read that correctly – they want 500 bucks for this. Frankly, I would recommend the Blu-ray at hand here – it’s available for under 20 dollars now and you get a heck of a bang for your purchase.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
Roger Waters The Wall is presented in a 1080p AVC 2.40:1 transfer (@ an average 32 mbps) that does amazing things with the concert footage, captured at night on digital cameras. The picture here is a marvel – you can see all kinds of detail, and you get a full image of the projections on the stage Wall that at times appear to be three-dimensional. Given that attempts had been made in the past to capture this stage performance without success, the new work here is a marvel.
Audio Rating: 5/5
Roger Waters The Wall is presented in two sound mixes, both of which are in English. One is a Linear PCM 2.0 mix (@1.5 mbps) which is clear, and a pleasure to hear. It’s a solid CD mix of the concert and well worth hearing. But then we get to the other mix – you know, the one in Dolby Atmos! Which is where I tend to say things like WOW. For my own home system at 7.1, the player and receiver downconvert the Atmos mix to a Dolby True HD 7.1 mix (@6.3 mbps, going up to 7.4 mbps for the bigger moments). Listening to this mix in 7.1, I can only say that it really does put you in the middle of the concert – this is a LIVE mix, with the instruments clearly differentiated, and with the sounds of the crowd and the atmosphere playing out through all the speakers. There are also directional sounds coming from the stage – of planes flying overhead, helicopters, etc. And there’s your subwoofer, which will get a huge workout from all the bass here. The sound mix does well in the quieter travelogue scenes as well, one of which is actually backed by the instrumental music that goes with the unused Wall song I quoted at the top of this review, “When The Tigers Broke Free”. This is reference quality sound, no question about it.
Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
The Blu-Ray presentation of Roger Waters The Wall comes with bonus features, a few of which are available on the movie disc.
A Visit to Frank Thompson (4:58, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON DVD & BLU-RAY) – This is a deleted moment from the travelogue part of the movie, wherein Roger Waters visits the grave of Major Frank Thompson, a poet and soldier who died in Bulgaria in 1944. Waters reads an account of Thompson aloud and leaves a wreath of flowers for him.
Time Lapse: Athens (6:26, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON DVD & BLU-RAY) – This is a time-lapse of the construction of the stage at an Athens arena where it was performed – I believe in 2013. It’s an indoor arena performance, and you can see it go all the way from early construction to the performances themselves.
Time Lapse: Buenos Aires (4:14, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON DVD & BLU-RAY) – This is a time-lapse of the construction of the stage at one of the outdoor Buenos Aires arenas where it was mounted in 2012.
Driving (6:38, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – Here’s a few minutes of deleted footage of Roger Waters’ travelogue across Europe. Bits from various conversations in and around his car are shown here, accompanied by a quiet background of Albinoni’s Adagio.
Facebook Films (57:54 Total, 31 Parts, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This is a collection of 31 of the Facebook Films released online by Roger Waters over the course of the three-year tour. Most of the parts only run a couple of minutes, but they do cover a lot of ground, including a discussion of the 1982 Alan Parker film, and some behind-the-scenes footage of the David Gilmour/Nick Mason appearance at The O2 in 2011.
“Comfortably Numb” Live at The O2 with David Gilmour on May 12, 2011 (8:19, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This is the complete performance of “Comfortably Numb”, with David Gilmour performing his trademark guitar work for the song atop the stage wall, in place of the usual touring guitarist. (Gilmour performs the song live, although he did pre-record his part of the "Is There Anybody Out There" opening. As Vincent notes below, Gilmour actually transposes some of the lyrics from the first chorus into the second chorus, which is fairly unusual for Pink Floyd in performance and a good catch by Vincent.). The sound for this song is Linear PCM 2.0 at 1.5 mbps.
“Outside The Wall” (8:50, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – Here’s the complete coda to the show, with Roger Waters playing trumpet, and with David Gilmour and Nick Mason joining in the song with the touring band. There is an extensive curtain call here, with Waters acknowledging his old bandmates. The sound here is again Linear PCM 2.0 at 1.5 mbps.
Digital Copy – Instructions are included in the packaging for downloading a digital copy of the movie to your laptop or portable device.
Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English, Spanish and about 20 other languages, including most European languages and several Asian ones. A full chapter menu is available for the film, broken down appropriately by song.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Roger Waters The Wall provides a perfect record of a legendary rock concert in performance, albeit with a few asides while the movie travels across with Waters and company. Given the solid picture and sound, and given the strength of the music and the concert, it’s one of those titles that is a no-brainer to Recommend for purchase. Fans of Pink Floyd likely already have it – but if you haven’t grabbed it, I strongly recommend that you do.
Reviewed By: Kevin EK
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