[Review] - Roger Waters: The Wall Live

So ya thought ya might like to go to the show...
Some years back, I made a list. Live music isn't really my thing. I love music, always have something playing in the background, but I've always been uncomfortable at concerts. I think it's because I like consistency. On an album, the music has been rehearsed, recorded, mixed, and printed into an exact form. The same is true of film. Editors have taken multiple takes, and produced the best possible product. Live events, concerts, stage plays, they thrive on spontaneity. From the artists, from the audience, from the instruments. It is unpredictable, and I don't like that. I like to see things coming straight at me, not from the side (all of the same reasoning can also be applied to raptors).

But I made a list. Of all the bands, artists, groups, and performers I felt I needed to see, at least once. And, considering that my taste in music runs from 1965 to 1988, some of these performers are getting on, and not going on the road as much anymore, if at all. But, due to a resurgence in the so called 'classic rock', I've been fortunate of late to catch many acts that I let pass me by in the past.

And now, my list is complete. Not really, but close enough for jazz (figure of speech: I actually can't stand jazz, for much of the reasons above). Because Pink Floyd, one of my all time favourites, doesn't exist anymore, but seeing Roger Waters perform The Wall in it's entirety was good enough.

Seven hells, it was, without hyperbole, awesome. It inspired awe.

Hit the jump for my review.

Roger Waters certainly doesn't seem to be a man on the brink of his seventies. His energy on stage, his enthusiasm for the music, and for the message, is that of a younger man. So maybe it's the energy of a revitalised man, for whom this tour (which is rumoured to be his last) is a final chance to make a difference through his art.

The Wall has stood the test of time as one of the great albums, possibly because it's message is a fluid one. The universal themes of isolation, abandonment and betrayal are ones that can piggyback any narrative, and can left the listener imbue them with their own personalise meaning. Waters originally wrote it as a statement about his life, and how, as he described himself, 'a fucked up little shit' felt disconnected with his own world. How the stage, that was originally meant to bring him closer to people, was holding them back. Now, 30 odd years on, Waters has a new statement he wants to make, with the same words. The new show is spectacularly anti-violence, anti-government, and anti-military. These aren't the songs of a young artist trying to connect with a disconnected audience, this is a wiser man pissed off at what has happened to humanity, and the world.

As in the original tour, over the course of the first act, a wall is built across the stage, cutting the band off from the audience. But, as troubles have increased, and time has moved on to new horrors, this new wall is larger, tougher, and built with blood in the mortar. The bricks are literally made from the dead, as images of people who have died in military conflicts from around the world, and throughout history, are projected onto each brick. A portion of the show is dedicated to a man killed in London. Throughout the show, undoctored, raw, violent footage of 'terrorism' is shown, terrorism here meaning the deaths of innocents by those in power. Even the staged materials are presented in a Tarantino-esque, ultra high definition way. It is a stark, brutal image that makes an impact on the viewer, and gives the songs a heavy new weight.

Photo from Wikipedia, by GabeMc
The show is a combination of the original tour, and the film, including several pieces inspired by the original illustrations by Gerald Scarfe, and whole segments of footage from the film, especially in the second half, when the wall is fully built. Modern technology has augmented them into clear, terrible images. The projections are more a part of the show then Waters at times, and are frankly amazing. Several times, the audience didn't cheer, didn't clap. they simply sat back and said 'whoa'.

The narrative structure of the album allows the show to build to several climaxes, and the set pieces accompanying these were remarkable. Another Brick In the Wall Part 2 was accompanied by local school children, whom Waters has nothing but kind words for. The most impressive feat in the first half is what Waters describes as 'an experiment in time travel', singing Mother in duet with footage of himself from the original Wall tour 30 years ago. His monochromatic image projected over him, silhouetted in single spot light, playing the two shows off one another. The most subtle, and most successful set piece of the evening though was the projections during the album's masterpiece, Comfortably Numb. Behind Waters, the wall twists into an Escher-esque white abyss, drawing tighter and tighter, until finally it shatters in a cacophony of colour.

Photo from Wikipedia, by GabeMc
The band was most excellent, with special mention going to Robbie Wyckoff, replacing David Gilmour, on vocals. Waters' voice is just as spry and capable as back in the day, but he gives the lead more often then not to Wyckoff, who is a little higher, and a little more playful then Gilmour on the album. But when belting out the chorus on Mother, or Numb, you don't care.

I can honestly say that the show has changed the way I think about the album, and I doubt I'll ever be able to listen to it again without strong sense memories flooding over me. I already have an emotional connection to Numb, but now the rest of the show is imprinted on me. Waters has taken a work of genius, and made it visceral, and abusive, and endearing. The crowd, made of equal parts hippies, older folks reliving the past, and children with the best parents in the world, each walked away changed. And good music should drastically alter you. It should mess with the chemistry, and make you weird in places you didn't know you had. Waters did it 30 years ago, and he's done it again.

Could have done without the thirty foot tall projections of naked lady-folk molesting themselves during Young Lust, though.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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