Color me impressed.
I’m not a huge Pink Floyd fan. I remember listening to Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall at my date’s house after Homecoming back when I was in high school, but I think that was the only time that I heard either of the albums in their entirety. I know the more popular songs, but have little to no familiarity with the deep cuts; if they don’t play it on the radio, I wouldn’t know it. More recently I saw the movie The Wall, but didn’t get a lot of it. As the only person in the room that wasn’t under the influence, I was annoying everyone with my questions about what we were watching. I was concerned with plotting while everyone else was interested in the “experience.”
So when Roger Waters’ production of The Wall rolled into town, I was kind of indifferent. I would have been willing to go if anyone had asked me, but I wasn’t going to go out of my way to be there. It was the night before the Aerosmith concert and I already had a busy weekend planned, so I figured it wasn’t something that I needed to see. I wouldn’t be missing much.
But then the reactions to the concert started rolling in over Facebook. A large number of my friends and acquaintances had gone to the shows in Albany and in Boston and uniformly all of them were raving about how amazing the show was and how it was one of the best concert experiences they had ever had. And much like with the show Revenge, the fact that so many people with vastly different interests and personalities were unanimous in their praise made me pay attention. I did a little research into the show to get a better idea of what it was all about and what I found intrigued me. Not only was Waters playing the entire double album, but the concert had a complex visual component as well. This was obviously not your average concert. This segment from 60 Minutes was especially helpful in giving me an idea as to what the show was all about (Thanks Mark!).
I began to worry that I had missed out on something groundbreaking, so I hopped on Ticketmaster to see if there were any other shows in the area that I could catch. Waters is 67, so who knows how much longer he’ll be touring; if I was going to see the show, the moment was now. Once I saw that the tour was making a two night stop at Yankee Stadium (basically my second home), my mind was made up. I was headed to the Bronx – only six days after I was there for Old Timers’ Day. Even without knowing all the songs by heart, I figured that with so much going on I’d be entertained regardless.
I didn’t plan on being as blown away as I was. This was not a concert; it was an experience.
Even before the show began, the Wall in and of itself is a pretty impressive structure. The thing is just massive.
Once it was dark enough, the show began. And from the first few moments, I was mesmerized. From a purely visual standpoint, this concert is spectacular. It’s going to be hard to going back to just watching a band playing on stage after this.
The Wall is not only a symbol for the evening, but the key set piece as it acts as a screen for images to be projected on throughout the evening that coincided with the message and songs that were being played. I found myself pretty much ignoring Waters throughout the show and focusing all my attention on the Wall; partially out of necessity as I was too far away to see him clearly, but mostly because the Wall was just so compelling. It demanded your attention no matter what it displayed. And what was shown on the facade was constantly changing – one moment it looked like a real wall, covered with graffiti and the next it was simulating an air strike. The most touching moment of the show came early on, when the Wall was covered with photographs of people who have lost their lives to wars – both civilian and military. It was a very powerful visual.
I’d love to say that I understood everything that was going on during the show, but I just didn’t. I understood the broad strokes of the message, but some of it was just beyond me. I think I got was important – to mistrust authority and the government, religion and capitalism as justifications for war and the indoctrination of youth. The show was anti-war generally, not the current war specifically. But there were stretches where I was definitely thinking “what is happening?” as I watched. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment at all – it all looked really cool even if I didn’t exactly get the symbolism.
While you could have gone just to enjoy the visuals, the music was great too. The man may be in his sixties, but Roger Waters can definitely still rock. I may not have been a huge fan of the songs before the show, but I left with a definite admiration for them and the performance. I particularly enjoyed “Comfortably Numb” and “Young Lust,” the latter of which I didn’t even know was a Pink Floyd song (or the actual title, for that matter). His supporting band was fantastic, which is not surprising as these were not studio musicians. He was backed up by G.E. Smith (former band leader on Saturday Night Live) and Snowy White (Thin Lizzy) among others. The more shows I go to, the more I realize that no one can rock out like the old guys. I may start just going to concerts that feature people over the age of 50 exclusively.
Some other thoughts:
- There was definitely a lot of people partaking in some herbal supplements during the show and I’m really curious how it looked to them. Some of the images were kind of trippy to me and I was stone cold sober; the hardest thing in my system was a lemonade. So I imagine this show was pretty fantastic for the stoners (said with affection, not judgment), based on the reaction of the guy sitting next to me who was smoking up throughout the show. He just kept pumping his fist and yelling “This is awesome!” every once in a while.
- I did find some irony in Waters criticism of capitalism and corporations while sitting in Yankee Stadium.
- Speaking of the Yankees, if I had been at a game instead of a concert I would have had amazing seats as I was about 20 rows behind home plate. Of course, the tickets would have cost three times as much if it was a baseball game (and the concert tickets were already not cheap).
- Waters generally played through without any interruption or patter with the audience. He did stop once to tell the story of one of the faces projected on the Wall – a young man who was killed in London on the tube because he was suspected of being a terrorist (he wasn’t). It was only a few minutes, but I could hear people kind of groaning during it. Hello – you are at a performance of The Wall. The whole thing is a political message. You knew what you were getting into.
- It was kind of nice to see so many families at a show together. That doesn’t happen very often. If you are considering going with your children, be aware that there is some cussing in the show and there is nudity in the images displayed during “Young Lust.”
- There is apparently not a lot of overlap between Pink Floyd fans and Yankee fans as there were a LOT of people on the train and in the stadium who were milling around looking confused. I actually wound up helping people get where they needed to be and answering questions, apparently because I looked like I knew what I was doing. That should make me an honorary Yankee employee, right?
- The flying pig that debuted in the second half of the show landed two sections over from me and the audience promptly commenced in destroying it. I hope that was built into their budget. The poor thing was completely gutted. I wound up watching that spectacle more than the actual show for a little while. Those people were ruthless. And I have no idea why I thought it was so funny, but I was cracking up when the pig ran into the foul pole as it was making its trip around the stadium. Maybe I had a contact high.
- I think more rock shows should incorporate giant puppets into their productions. Puppets make everything better.
- Local kids are brought on stage during every production to sing during “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2).” They did a great job.
- There are some weird people on the 11:30 pm train to Poughkeepsie. Not weird scary, just weird.
I am absolutely glad that I made the extra effort to see this show and would encourage everyone to check it out if you get the chance, especially if you are a Floyd fan. It was definitely one of the best concert experiences that I’ve had. If they were able to wow me – a non-Floyd fan who was sober – then they should be able to wow anyone. It was simply remarkable.
If you want to check out the concert, but aren’t able to do so in person, someone on YouTube has posted the entire Melbourne show. It’s not the same thing as being there, but it gives you a taste of what it is like.