Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Roger Waters Performs "The Wall" - A Review

I was lucky enough, or maybe stupid enough, to be in the front row for the Sunday, October 3rd show at the Boston Garden. The concept of stupidity is related to the price of my seats.

I must admit up front that The Wall has been my favorite album for many, many years. If I had to guess what album I've listened to the second most times in my life, I'm not sure what it would be. But, there's no doubt that I've listened to to The Wall more times than any other album.

At first, I wasn't even going to go. From Pink Floyd, it was only Roger Waters in this show. In the 1990s, I'd seen the rest of Pink Floyd in Oakland, and it was a really good show, but without Roger Waters, it wasn't really Pink Floyd. And, despite the fact that The Wall is really Roger's album, it still wouldn't be Pink Floyd. But then, I read an article/interview about the tour in Rolling Stone, and the next thing I knew, I wanted to go.

Being the all or nothing type of person that I am, I decided that if I was going, I wanted good seats. After all, in some ways, I'd been waiting 30 years for this show. I looked around the internet for tickets in either Montreal or Boston. I found out that the third and last show in Boston still had front row tickets available, but for quite a premium.

Before this show, the most money I'd ever spent for a concert ticket was $95 to see CSNY right after Neil Young released Living With War. That show was worth the money. But, this show was going to be 3.5 times as expensive if I wanted to sit in the front row. And, I had to buy two tickets. Even if I was stupid enough to spend almost $350 for a concert ticket, I still needed to find someone else that stupid.

Luckily, one of my skiing buddies (I'll only use his initial here, which sounds a lot like his name), J, was just the guy I was looking for. An ex-college roommate (and best man at my wedding), who happens to live near Boston, offered to put us up for the night after the show. And then, he got us some great seats to see the Yankees play the Red Sox on the last day of the regular season. Suddenly, this day was getting really expensive. And really memorable, even before it happened.

After the baseball game, J and I got some food with my friends from Boston and then we headed to the Boston Garden. We got our tickets and headed inside. When we got to our seats, I was amazed. It really was the front row. I kept worrying that I'd misunderstood and paid a fortune for a seat in the front row of the back section. But, the stage was right there in front of us.

There wasn't a whole lot to the stage at the start - the big circular screen in the center, the instruments for the band, and the beginnings of the wall to the left and the right.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the show itself. The band was excellent, although it seems like it took at least three people to replace David Gilmour between his guitar work and his vocals. The vocalist did a great job though.

Musically, the show was very true to the album, with a few additions and some changed lyrics. There were some clear messages during the show that weren't necessarily part of the original album or at least weren't as big a part of the album. There are many references to the stupidity of war, and some icons on the screen (red icons dropping from a plane, apparently as bombs, but shaped as religious and corporate icons) blaming religion and corporatism for wars. There were many messages about NOT trusting the government ("Mother, should I trust the government?" "Hell No!").

And, as the first set progressed, the Wall was gradually being built. Some highlights of the first set included the pyrotechnics after In the Flesh. The final burst sent a wave a intense heat right to our seats. Giant "puppets" appeared for Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2, and of course, the Mother puppet during Mother. One of the coolest things was the exact timing of the construction of the Wall. As each brick was put in place, the constant animation that was projecting on the wall would be expanded to the newest brick. The timing of everything was very precise.

At times, brief obituaries were shown for soldiers and civilians - some who had died in WWII, and others who have died more recently in Iraq or Afghanistan or even London. As the first set neared its close, the wall was completed and we went to an intermission. During the intermission, the wall was covered with more brief obituaries:

The third side of the album (yeah, I'm old) might have been the least interesting, in some respects. Yet, it contained a lot of animation and film on the wall, with mostly Roger singing in front of the Wall while his band was behind the Wall. It's not that I don't like the music. I love it. But after the theatrics of the first set, this was kind of tame.

The most poignant moment of the entire night was during Bring the Boys Back Home. A film was projected on the Wall that showed what appeared to be an American girl in her school classroom. She had a look on her face that can't even be described - something either amazing or horrible had rendered her absolutely speechless and incapable of emotion. Finally, she stands up and runs across the room to hug a soldier, presumably her father. This scene had me on the verge of tears, mostly for how emotional it was, but also because it reminded me of all of those reunions that never have taken place. The never-ending cost of war in terms of human lives remains unfathomable to me. Some live. Some die. Everyone suffers, it seems, except the people who make the decisions. But, enough of that subject.

The third side of the album ends with Comfortably Numb, just an amazing song. It was done by Roger Waters in front of the Wall with the David Gilmour replacement above the wall on some scaffolding. At least that's how I think it was done; it was hard to see from where we were.

On the fourth side of the album, thing get a little weird. The Waters character, Pink, has a meltdown of sorts, perhaps a psychotic episode, and believes he is performing in some neo-Nazi type of band. Regretfully, my few pictures of this sequence didn't come out too well. My friend J has some good photos from this part that I might add later. At this point, the band formed in front of the wall, as the "surrogate band" for Pink, who the audience is told isn't well. It all went down like some sort of musical Nazi rally - a very important part of the show, and a connection to the death of Roger's father in WWII while Roger was a child. This all takes place in 3 songs - In the Flesh (part 2 - the same, yet different, song that opened the show), Run Like Hell (Roger claimed this was for all the paranoid people in the audience) and Waiting for the Worms. Run Like Hell is one of the better known songs from the album and is a great follow-on to In the Flesh, part 2.

At this point in the show, I have to admit that I was feeling kind of sad. The show had been great, but it was almost over. Only 3 songs to go, with one of them painfully short. In the first song, Stop, Pink decides that maybe hiding behind the Wall wasn't the best decision. Adultery, overbearing teachers and mothers, the loss of his father, and the success of his band, which pushes him to large impersonal arena shows, have been too much for him. But, maybe some spark of humanity remains, and in Stop, the possibility is suggested: "I wanna go home; take off this uniform and leave the show".

Then, comes the climax of the show - the Trial, with the Judge, and testimony from the teacher, the mother and all of the other characters in the story. If Pink had had his doubts about the Wall, the verdict took care of that for him: "Tear Down the Wall!" There were some amazing graphics through this part of the show, and then suddenly, the wall toppled towards the audience. Security guards protected people in the first few rows by deflecting cardboard "bricks".

And then, just the denouement - the band in front of the exploded wall, singing a short but simple song that ends with the phrase "After all it's not easy, banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall". The band took their bows and filed offstage.

So, was it a good show? A great show? I say yes on both accounts. But, I'm biased. It's my favorite album of all time and an amazing band played it really well. Roger's voice is still quite good and he has assembled a great team to play the music and to stage the show. It is an amazing experience - the story itself, the construction and destruction of the wall, the use of video and other effects - just amazing.

I'd gladly see it again. I think any Pink Floyd fan who didn't hate the Wall (and there were quite a few of them) should see the show. In the story/interview in Rolling Stone, there were comments that this might be it for Roger and touring. This isn't just a concert. It's a show. An amazing spectacle. And, it was worth every penny I paid for it.


Laurel said...

Nice job on the review! I know almost every song you mentioned and you gave great discriptions of what was going on on stage, so I could really get a good picture of what the show was like. Sounds like it was a great experience.

Jeff said...

Wow... sounds like an awesome show. Thanks for putting up the review & photos.

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