In watching Roger Waters saunter across the stage during his current presentation of The Wall, perhaps the most striking thing about him is he seems so genuinely affable. Body language, facial expressions and exclamations to the audience suggest he really is pleased to be here and anxious to connect with the masses.

Quite a turn around for a performer/composer who got the idea for this iconic rock opera some 33 years ago after becoming disillusioned with the vast, impersonal, commercialized, egotistic scale experienced by major touring acts. This is a man, after all, who admits to spitting at a fan during a performance back then and who fantasized about lobbing bombs into the auditorium.

The central idea of The Wall — that of alienation, of being constrained by barriers — is permeated with nuance. It’s a psychological statement as well as a political one, sociological as well as personal. And Waters has exploited that flexibility over the years by adding elements. There’s a backdrop, for instance, of portraits and personal details from the never-ceasing roll call of victims of war. Soldiers killed in action, such as his father, are memorialized along with human rights martyrs. Local kids wearing tee shirts emblazoned with “Fear Builds Walls” troop on stage to sing one of The Wall’s perennial anthems, “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.” A motto-inscribed inflatable pig buzzes the floor seats, reminiscent of the one that hovered over London’s Battersea Power Station all those years ago when Waters was an integral member of Pink Floyd. Who could miss the message? War, what is it good for? And, at the root of that, restrain your socio-political minders.

Despite familiarity (and its transition from a Pink Floyd to a Waters production), The Wall still packs quite an impact. The best of the songs combine mesmerizing riffs, melodies, themes and catch phrases with a power and universality that make The Wall a signature work for this era. Critics may caution that its material is overly juvenile, but who among us is not influenced by childhood experiences? And how often do those authority figures of early years morph into the tyrants of adulthood?

Could this be the final outing for Waters’ rendition? No matter, one can well imagine his creation being a fixture for generations to come.

At its conclusion, the bricks that separate the audience from the musicians tumble down with symbolic finality, and Waters and his accompanists file out of sight for a well-earned rest before assaulting the next arena. The scale of the operation is indeed impressive. Quite a contrast indeed with Floyd’s early years when oily bubbles in a slide projector constituted the state-of-the-art light show.   

Meanwhile, we who watch and applaud filter out to buy our $30 souvenir hats and $40 tee shirts. Underlying it all is a faint suggestion that, as in Waters’ long-ago audience-bombing fantasy, “people getting blown to bits would go absolutely wild with glee at being at the centre of all the action.”

Us and them? Maybe that’s just the human lot.