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Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Look At Roger Waters The Wall Live: By One Bleeding Heart and Artist

Pink Floyd's The Wall is one of the most stunningly epic concept albums of all time. I had the great pleasure (and insane excitement) to see Roger Waters perform it live at AT&T Park in San Francisco on May 11th, 2012. (Warning, there be "spoilers" here).

I grew up listening to The Wall, and I liked the music, even if I didn't understand the themes until I was much older. I remember quite vividly, deciding to give it a quick listen when I was in high school—and it hit me full force. I sat in one place for two hours, just listening, suddenly immersed in the complexities of one character's descent into madness and isolation.  

In the music of The Wall we see life for the character Pink: the loss of his father in World War II and the world's violence and corruption, his overbearing and overprotective mother, the sadistic teachers and bullies at his strict boarding school, his unfaithful wife and ruined marriage, the drugs and excesses of touring in a band, the crazed rabble of unthinking, blindly following fans—all of this forms, brick by brick, a mental Wall that separates Pink from the real world as he descends further into madness. The music asks one question at the end: is bringing down this mental barrier for him a blessing for moving on, or opening a sore on an already festering wound?

The concert was huge in scope, from the 40 foot Wall on the massive stage, to the 100 foot projectors projecting scenes on the wall, it was simply breathtaking to see it rendered so omnipresent and inescapable. As the show progressed, we see almost invisible stage hands adding bricks, slowly obscuring the band and our protagonist until at the end of the first half, when Waters sings "Goodbye Cruel World" we see the last brick fall into place.

The show opens with a re-enactment from Spartacus, before in a burst of pyrotechnics to make any pyro like me go into fits of hysterical joy, the show begins with the doll of Pink falling from atop the Wall. Then "In The Flesh" starts so suddenly that I was physically startled and Waters emerges to be given Pink's neo-fascist Hammer uniform and he launches into the song.

For most of the show, the Wall shows us pictures of fallen soldiers, civilians cruelly killed for no reason, and during "Mother" when the lyrics ask "Mother, should I trust the government?" the Wall displays "NO FUCKING WAY" in answer. It is also during "Mother" that Waters plays a duet with himself—in the background on the Wall is a younger version of Waters playing "Mother" in a rare 1980 version of the song. Before he started Waters said to the audience, "At the risk of being narcissistic, here is a younger, more fucked-up Roger playing the song." More narcissistic than a two-and-a-half hour rock show about your life? JK, Roger. Just kidding.

During "Goodbye Blue Sky," which is one of my favorite songs on the album, the Wall shows us a huge squadron of identical fighter airplanes bearing bombs—bombs in the form of Christian crosses, Stars of David, dollar signs, Mercedes-Benz symbols, the Shell Oil logo, the Sickle and Hammer, and the Crescent and Star. Symbolism which isn't subtle—and isn't meant to be.

During "Vera," we're shown scenes of children being united with their veteran fathers coming home from duty, scenes which make "Bring The Boys Back Home" all the more powerful. Ahem, I may have teared up a little...

We see the terrifying animation scenes from the original 1980 movie dispersed throughout the show, but especially during "The Trial." The iconic male and female shaped flower battle-sex sequence from "Empty Spaces" was duplicated on the big screen, while their coiling roots grew on the Wall, until both wilted and decayed. It was as disturbing live as in the movie.

By the time we reach "Run Like Hell" Pink's neo-fascist persona is in full force, and the show is ramping up in energy. The giant, inflated flying pig floating ominously around the stadium suddenly took a nose-dive into the expensive floor seats. After the crowd descended on it, grabbing and hitting it in the almost blind and mindless fury that the Wall rallies against, the pig-wranglers got the crowd to let go and once again hurled it into the air, though it blocked my view of the stage for a little while.

By the end, I was eagerly shouting "TEAR DOWN THE WALL" with the other thousands of screaming fans. And the Wall fell down before my very eyes in a great and terrible rumble that shook the stadium seats.

I'll admit that at first I was tiny bit disappointed that the show was more about Big Government, Big Corporations, and anti-war propaganda than what drew me to the album in the first place—emotional isolation and crippling psychological despair. It's apparent that at nearly 70-years-old, that Waters has moved beyond that younger, more fucked up version of himself and is looking at the world and its fucked-up-ness instead. I just went with it, realizing that many of these elements were very present in the album, just and I should just sit back and take it all in. I actually loved the show, and it will be one of my cherished concert moments—perhaps as the greatest concert I have ever, or will ever see—if anything just from the sheer dazzling auditory and visual onslaught of one of the greatest albums of all time.

So ya', thought ya', might like to—go to the show? YES! Go now. Run like hell to get tickets. You better run.


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