Roger Waters chuckles at the idea that it might be appealing for him to go out on a stripped down, no frills tour of small theaters.
“What? Sit down with my acoustic guitar? No. That is an extraordinary talent that a lot of people have, but it’s not one of my talents,” says the former Pink Floyd songwriter/bassist/singer on the phone from Atlanta, a recent stop on his ongoing tour of Floyd’s classic album “The Wall,” which comes to Fenway Park on Sunday.
“That’s [the talent of], the now late very sadly, Levon Helm and it’s Neil Young and it’s John Prine and Leonard Cohen; those great singer-songwriters of our time who’ve illuminated our lives with such clarity and beauty without going into big productions. That’s not my forte. It always looked to me like my challenge when I went into rock ’n’ roll in the mid-’60s was how can we make this more moving? By making it more theatrical was my answer.”
And if making it more theatrical was the answer, then scaling up that theater to even bigger proportions makes complete sense to Waters, who has super-sized “The Wall” for stadiums and ballparks.
Not merely a rock concert, the show, which re-creates the 1979 double album in its entirety, illustrates favored Waters themes of the cost of war, the politics of greed and fear, alienation, and the emotional wreckage wrought by familial, community, and global dysfunction in vivid and spectacular fashion, as a literal wall is erected in front of Waters and his band. Inspired by many things — among them his father’s death in WWII when he was an infant, and particularly obnoxious fans at a Pink Floyd arena show in the ’70s — “The Wall” has endured, and the 68-year-old Brit is thrilled that it continues to resonate with audiences.
Q. I have to confess that upon hearing that you were mounting this show in stadiums and ballparks, one of my first thoughts was how funny it was to be doing this piece, which is in part about alienation and distance and was partially inspired by your disgust with big shows, in such huge places.
A. Isn’t it? You know, it goes to prove the point that we’re all capable of growing and developing as we get older. There’s not much to be said for getting old but I do think it brings a certain measure of perspective and sometimes even a bit more wisdom then one had when one was a teenager.
Q. Does the fact that we’re still grappling with so many of the same issues and themes the album addresses ever bum you out?
A. It does, but now that we have the Internet and given that we can communicate much more efficiently than we could 50 years ago, it does seem we, the great unwashed, may be getting a better chance to make our minds up about things and decide whether or not we want to trickle lamely down the drain of consumerism, or whether we want to stand up and make this world a better place not just for our children and their children’s children, but their children and their children.
Q. How is it different for you to be playing outside?
A. It’s very, very exciting playing outside. We played three nights ago at Wrigley Field and it was one of the most magical nights of my life. It just looked so beautiful. In fact, after the show I was moved to get one of the Live Nation guys to get a local radio station on the phone because I just wanted to call them up and say, “That was great.” And I did, through a haze of Pinot Grigio [laughs]. So I can’t wait for Fenway Park, which, I gather, is a similar ballpark.
Q. Which also already has its own rather famous wall.
A. Well the show that we’re doing [in Boston] will be different in one respect. There’s a speech that I make before a song called “Run Like Hell” that appears behind me in huge graphic letters. Part of the speech is, “Are their any paranoids in the stadium tonight?” And we’re changing that to “ballpark” for Boston because I gather you chaps are quite sensitive about the fact that it’s a ballpark and not a stadium.
Q. It looks like you’re having a lot more fun onstage these days. Are you?
A. Yeah, these shows have been terrific fun. We’ve been so warmly welcomed everywhere. And it’s been so clear from the response of the audience that I and the whole team have produced something that moves people deeply. And it’s so important to every man and woman on the tour that that’s happening.
Q. You have played this show many of times now. You probably think you’ve experienced every perspective there is to have on “The Wall.” Have you encountered anyone who has offered you a new way of thinking about it?
A. This just popped into my head. There was one show, it must have been near Frankfurt or somewhere near one of the hospitals where soldiers come after Iraq or Afghanistan and there were some vets in there. One guy was older, he looked Vietnam period. He didn’t say anything and he stood back. And he didn’t want a photograph and he didn’t want to chat but I noticed him standing there. But then, just as I was leaving the room to go and do the second half he sort of half stood in my way so I stopped . . . I can hardly tell you this, and he looked me straight in the eye and he said, “Your father would be proud of you.”
A. I know I’m welling up telling you. I just had to go “wow” and try and get over it before [singing] “Hey You.” The fact that this guy who has been through it — clearly, he had those eyes — would be thoughtful enough to say that to me in that moment was very moving.
effects. Sarah Rodman can be reached at email@example.com