Sun Feb 19 15:48:34 EST 2012

Roger Waters - The Wall (Live)

Earlier this week, I saw Roger Waters performing "The Wall" live, something I never thought I'd be able to see. Pink Floyd's "The Wall Tour" ran between 1980 and 1981, and I'd resigned myself to seeing occasional bits of footage on classic album shows and such. I had high hopes going into the concert hall, and wasn't disappointed.

The concert was the most intense out of any show I've seen. Waters has moved beyond his frustrations with the audience that spawned the original album, and the show emphasised its anti-corporate/anti-government message to compensate. Some of this was well done, but some of it felt arbitrary. In "Goodbye Blue Sky", Gerald Scarfe's original animation is replaced by a computer-generated version, with the flying white crosses replaced by planes dropping corporate and religious logos from their bomb bays. It could've been a powerful image, but the symbols weren't well chosen. The religious symbols didn't fit the anti-corporate message, and the corporate logos were those of Shell, McDonald's and Mercedes-Benz. More consumer brands would've worked better, given how much advertising everyone is exposed to.

The presentation of the concert in general has been updated to match the message. The puppets made a return, upgraded with LED-arrays for the eyes. The wall itself is used as a canvas for some very impressive projections. At one point, each brick showed the face of a dead soldier. At another, it was sheep with iPod earphones jammed in their ears. The wall would appear to open up, disgorge a strange, gollum-like creature from its depths and slam shut. For some reason, a new version of the "crossed hammers" logo was used here and there, and I can't figure out why. Moving videos of US servicemen surprising their children with their unexpected return gave extra weight to "Bring the Boys Back Home". My seat was on the second row from the back, so I couldn't see all of the detail. Such a shame.

Waters' voice has lost some of its range but none of its passion. He stops the show just before "Mother" to point out that he'll be playing alongside a recording of "that fucked up old Roger Waters from so long ago". He then pulls off the double-tracked piece with each track over 30 years apart, a pretty impressive feat.

Throughout the first half of the show, the wall is built up, one brick at a time. Even though I knew what was coming, it was still quite confronting to see the light cut out from the final hole in the wall, sealing the performers away from the audience. The performances of "Hey You" and "Comfortably Numb" were beautiful, with "Hey You" coming from behind this stark white wall which exploded into colour during the guitar solo of "Comfortably Numb".

Unlike most other concerts, there was very little audience interation. No call-and-response, no audience sining, nothing like that. That's fine by me, because interaction would not have made sense. Although the personal alienation theme of the original album was muted, it was still there and would've clashed with any audience participation. When "In the flesh!" came around, Waters came on stage with a prop tommy gun and pretended to open fire after the "if I had my way, I'd have all of you shot!" lyric. The crowd cheers, but that's the point in the film where Pink turns into the Dictator, an unfeeling puppet-master playing the crowd for his own ends. I wonder how many in the audience realised that.

For an encore, they played three verses of "Waltzing Matilda". I'm not sure else would've fit. To play any Pink Floyd song would not have sat well next to The Wall, which stands alone as a complete concept.

I kept the ticket as a memento, but being the absent-minded twit I am I put it through the wash.


Posted by Jack Kelly | Permanent link | File under: miscellaneous