Saturday, December 11, 2010

Concert Review - Roger Waters The Wall

I saw Roger Waters’ The Wall in San Jose last Tuesday and it took me a few days to put ‘pen to paper’ because I wanted to let it all soak in. Of course as expected the concert was unlike anything I have ever seen. I think the photos I took will do it far more justice than a detailed description but here are some thoughts:

Musically, Waters stuck to the script. There were the same extended pieces that the Floyd did back in the 1980 shows (three solos at the end of Brick 2 instead of one, the extended Mother solo, the ‘A Few More Bricks’ medley). These were included to add more time to the concert and allow more time for the Wall to be built. It was great to hear a really true rendition of the album with all of the music pretty much as I knew it.

His band was great – Snowy White and G.E. Smith on guitars. A younger guy who did the leads, who was a little over the top rocker-style for me, but played Gilmour’s parts very faithfully (on a Tele no less). Waters had a number of vocalists including a guy who did nothing but sing Gilmour’s parts. And of course Rog played loads of bass.

But truthfully I was not watching the band. They are all dressed in black and on a visual level, they are totally secondary to the Wall, the props and the amazing, amazing visuals that were broadcast onto the Wall itself. The Wall had an almost fluorescent glow to it all night when it was just being backlit. But most of the time, amazing videos were beamed onto the Wall, which then became basically a 240-foot long movie screen.

I mean, these visuals were insane and led the audience on everything from IMAX-style nausea-inducing 3D to transforming the arena much like the use of different movie sets would – look at my various photos below and you will see what I mean about how the Wall itself was the star of this show.

The props were all there: the enormous marionette teacher for Brick 2, the plane flying into the Wall at the end of In The Flesh?, the giant inflatable Mother, and of course the flying pig, which roamed the rafters of the arena during Run Like Hell. Rog used a number of videos from the Wall film, including the parrying flowers from What Shall We Do Now? and the whole The Trial sequence. It was great to see that original, grainy film animation and that Waters did not try and ‘update’ (ruin) it in any way.

One thing that was different was Waters himself. He admitted more than once during the show that when he wrote The Wall 30 years ago he was an ‘angry young man’ and even went so far as to say he didn’t feel that way anymore and was really happy to be playing the show for us. Which is great for Waters, but I kind of missed the angry, tortured guy in some of the gut busters like Don’t Leave Me Now and Nobody Home. He was almost campy in those songs and it didn’t work as well, but shit I wouldn’t wish him sorrow for my enjoyment, so what the hell! I am just glad to see this show.

My buddy and I were saying that The Wall stage show is an amazing concept that we really sort of take for granted because it’s been around about 75 percent of the time we’ve been alive. But what an idea, and to come up with this in 1980! Image the band meeting: “So we build a wall. In front of the band. After the first set, the audience can’t see the band at all. We have giant puppets and a flying pig. At the end we topple the wall into the audience and that’s it – no encore. Holy f’ing shit.

Thematically the visuals were true to the original themes of alienation between nations, people and institutions. Lots of imagery of the recent wars and the men and women lost in those wars and how senseless they are – driven by greed, and ideological and religious jockeying. On his Facebook site, Waters had asked people who lost loved ones in wars to send photos and information prior to the tour, and he used at least a couple hundred of those images over the course of the night.

I have heard that the crux of the story for Waters is the song Bring the Boys Back Home and I have to say that this was the only part of the show that gave me a giant lump in the throat. In Vera, he showed slow-mo footage of little kids in school classrooms in surprise reunions with their dads and this one girl’s face went from surprise to elation to just a waterworks as she jumped into her daddy’s arms. It may be the one image I always remember after the bitching animations and flying pigs and planes fade from my memory. It was heartwarming and heart wrenching at the same time when you really get to the emotion of what these wars do to little kids. I found someone's video of it and posted that below the photos.

So anyway, the North American leg of The Wall tour is almost over and I am damn glad I saw it. Here are some of my snaps for those interested:

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