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Roger Waters On "The Wall"

Posted by Sarah Rodman  June 29, 2012 10:49 AM

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[AP Photo: Matt Dunham)

In today's Globe we have a chat with Roger Waters about his tour of "The Wall," which gets built this Sunday at Fenway Park. We didn't have room in the paper to include the entire interview so here are a few more edited excerpts from the conversation.

Q. Did I hear you say on Howard Stern that you watch a playback of the show every night?
A. Not always at night, though often I'm so full of adrenaline, and I need something to do, so often I do. In fact, funnily enough I was just looking at a bit of it before I looked at my watch and picked up the phone to call you.

Q. Does something different strike you each time?
A. Do you know,  it's a strange thing. Up until a few shows ago, I would make changes every day.  Recently, I've found myself thinking, "You know what? I think it's pretty good like it is."

Q. You mentioned feeling like there is a tipping point coming. Wouldn't it be great if you took that idea and put it into a new song? You're a little overdue.
It's funny you should say that. Whilst on the road over the last few weeks I have written a new song which I believe will be the centerpiece of a new album that will inevitably, philosophically be aligned to [my last album] "Amused to Death."

Q. I know the work itself is the point but do you take satisfaction in breaking ticket sales records and having the biggest, fanciest, coolest stage stuff and that sort of thing?
A. Yeah I do. I confess. I've never seen the show because I can't obviously. I've only seen it on little screens. But I've watched lots of rehearsals and I've gone to the very back of the ballpark to check it out and I stand there with [my creative director] Sean Evans and we sort of look at each other and grin and go "Wow, this is amazing." So yeah, I admit that I'm self-satisfied about it. It gives me enormous pleasure to be a part of it.

Q. There are a lot of themes running through the piece but how you feel about people taking it in purely as entertainment and reveling in the spectacle? 

A. Those people are damaged in some way and there's a lot of them and you can't blame them because that's how they've been brought up and how they've been indoctrinated. But I have to say at these shows, I think they're in the minority. I have vets to the show every night and I see 20 of them at halftime and we talk, and a lot of them say to me they wept [during the show]. And so do many people during these shows because a lot of it is very moving and I love that fact. And the people who are unmoved by it --and about one review in a thousand is cynical-- the only thing they can find to accuse the show of is it's too obvious. And they try to accuse me of being what we would call in England sixth form, of not really seeing the grown up picture, the reality of how things are. But they're just being cynical.

Q. Are you ever surprised at the loyalty and size of your fanbase? Because it's not an inexpensive night Roger, let's be honest.
A. Tell me about it. (Laughs.) Particularly the ballparks, I had no idea. There is no way I could do [just] a tour of the ballparks. I couldn't pay the drivers. I couldn't pay anybody. I would be out of pocket if I were to do a tour of ballparks. The expenses for this show are so enormous. And the thing with ballparks is you can't turn it around, so I can only maybe do one a week.

Q. And the people keep showing up, whether they're paying $80 for the seats far away or $250 up front.

A. But there's no bad seat in this show, I promise you.

Q. Does it just feel like a given to you that people are going to show up at this point?
A. It's not a given at all. I wouldn't have believed it. Before we started I had no idea that it was going to be as successful as it's been. I knew I had a great team, but in November 2009 when we set out on this mission we had a blank blackboard with a list of song titles on it: "Okay, what are we going to do?" So it was an extremely exciting period of time. But you have to really search deep inside yourself for the meaning in the songs and for how you feel about the world and human beings. So you've searched as deep a well of philosophy and commitment and politics you have inside of you. You need every single scrap of it to try and create something moving and we did.

Q. I've heard you've been working on a Broadway musical version of "The Wall" and may be collaborating with "Billy Elliot" playwright Lee Hall. Where are you in that process?

A. As soon as I finish this tour, I'm going to track young Lee down, and say "oy, where have you been?" (Laughs.) Because he's been everywhere. They've had "Billy Elliot" flying around the world so fast that I think he's been very taken with that. But I did meet him the last time we were in New York and we had a great dinner together, and he came to the London shows and he's still very enthusiastic and so am I, so I'm sure it's something that will happen, and I think the success of these arena and ballpark shows can only help the momentum of making something for Broadway.

Q. And then you don't have to do the work, you can just go and watch the show.
A. Yeah, I definitely won't be performing. (Laughs).

Q. You've done "Dark Side" and "The Wall," when are you touring "The Final Cut"?
A. (Laughs.) It's amazing how many of the vets bring that record in and say "This record got me through so much." It's had a remarkable influence "The Final Cut."

Q. People often ask why you choose not to do any other material as an encore to "The Wall" even though there's still time. Is it simply because it's its own complete piece?
A. It is a piece of work. It would be like putting on "The Tempest" and throwing a bit of "Merchant of Venice" into it. It wouldn't make much sense really. (Laughs.)

Q. What is it like to look over to see Harry playing in the band?
A. My son? Oh, it's great! I love watching him play. Although he's slightly too far stage left for me to be able to see very much of what he's doing because I'm prancing about in the middle. But I can hear and he's playing great.

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Sarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.

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