So, as promised, my review…
The first show at Staples had left me a little empty to be honest. It was cool…but not really as cool as I’d hoped. The album source material was as strong as ever, the band was tight and note perfect. But, something was missing for me. I read lots of other reviews that uniformly raved about the show. I spent days trying to sort out exactly what I thought and why.
Then, two things finally bubbled to the surface that put it very much back into focus.
First, I went alone…this usually isn’t a problem for me and sometimes is almost the best way to see a show. But, this wasn’t a typical show. And ironically enough, seeing a show that’s all about being disaffected and cut off from the world is not the best idea to see alone…(duh?) It was a show to be shared, discussed and experienced with people because it surely provokes thought and discussion from all political and religious points of view. So….my bad, I shouldn’t have gone alone, (well, I did have 30 years of ghosts along for the ride, but we all have a few of those everywhere we go, don’t we?)
Secondly, Roger had recast the piece to make it more universal. Admirable, and worth talking about later in the review. But, in the context of a thirty year wait…not exactly what I wanted to see.
I somehow wanted to to be 30 years ago again…for Pink to struggle with his demons and finally be exposed as human. But, that wasn’t the show I got. I got a nuanced take on the all too common pain of senseless loss and killing in the name of a variety of causes. Truly, a very different take on the material that at first to me felt like why I was a bit let down by the show despite it’s technical wonders.
So, with these thoughts, I went to the Honda Center exactly two weeks later to see the second of my three shows. From the same show I got a very different experience.
First I went with a close friend from childhood. Someone who loved the material as much as I did and with whom I’ve shared a lifetime of experiences. Right off the bat I had someone now to share the cool stuff with, to nudge when something cool happened and to talk to at intermission. It opened it up for me the same way the reviews I’d read had. I started to recognize things in it that were different, not for the sake of being different but for very specific artistic reasons…okay, a bunch of the wow reappeared for me.
Second, I was in the 12th row. Suddenly the wall was even bigger, the scope was even grander yet paradoxically I could see faces and nuance that I couldn’t see from the back of the hall (even in a decent seat there.)
Third, I’d seen the “wow” tricks already, and I could focus more on story, plot and music.
I realized from this that the wall is one heck of a piece of art…and as such it’s meaning can change with context, time and the audience’s experiences they bring to it. Suddenly the changes to make it more universal made more sense to me. The voices and sounds (not just music, but effects too) drew me in. I watched Roger up close as he inhabited each of the voices at the trial, as he strutted as a dictator and as he ran at the wall to shatter it at the peak moment of “Comfortably Numb”. I realized that I was seeing the result of thirty more years of life experiences from someone who I think has written some of the most insightful lyrics in rock music. It was like having Charles Dickens read one of his early stories to you, or having Mozart conduct an orchestra of something he wrote as a child. You may not get the exact original copy given to you that day….instead you’ll get something that has evolved and reflects the additional life experience they bring back to the piece when they revisit it.
I figured out, I wasn’t ever seeing “Pink Floyd” doing the wall….that happened once and will never happen again. To have simply trotted out the original production and tried to copy it would have been a cheat of the audience and nothing that a “tribute band” couldn’t have done just as well. This was a new piece of music and theatre and it needed to be evaluated as such.
And yes, I found it thought provoking and moving.
I challenge anyone with a heart to watch the footage during “Bring the Boy’s Back Home” of returning soldiers holding their children and not get a lump in their throat. Of course, that was a scene that Roger was personally denied by the death of his own father when he was a small child and a subtle point made amidst the greater sweep of the story. Roger made a effort to hold up a mirror and show us the pain and loss caused violence, war and blind trust in any group, country or institution. A point he can clearly speak from personal experience about.
Technically, it was one of the two most advanced and amazing touring shows I’ve seen. Te other being U2’s current 360 tour. But, they are as different from each other as they are ambitious. While U2 reached for sheer spectacle by going completely over the top and building a stage that may never be equaled. Roger used the technology in a more specific and direct way to emphasize and illustrate the story he wanted to tell. I loved both shows and both are so far beyond with anyone else is doing that I’m not sure how long it will be before anyone comes close to these technically. Either show could have been done on a bare stage, but both were enhanced by the technology involved. And I think ultimately, the Waters show will resonate longer with me as a work of art than the U2 show which was just “cool” to see.
I should mention that I saw it a third time from back closer to where I sat at Staples on the second night in Anaheim (and the last night of the US tour). But, by then I saw it through different eyes and perceived it differently. I could watch the grandeur and yet have fixed in my minds eye the closer nuance I’d seen the night before. In fact, it’s one show that I think almost had to be seen from more than one spot to truly understand.
Some of the hightlights:
The opening is spectacular and over the top with bombast, fireworks and crashing planes. It teases the audience who are simply there for a “rock show”….then it all drops away to the delicate sounds of “The Thin Ice” to set the story and give context by showing not just the loss of his father (the first photo) but of so many lives lost since then around the world. Powerful.
A wonderful reading of the song “Mother” highlighted by Roger singing a double track vocal to a huge projection of himself singing the song in 1980 at Earls Court. His biggest nod to the past and history of the entire piece. His spoken comments making it clear that he feels he’s very much grown, learned and changed from the younger man who created the piece (with the rest of Pink Floyd) all those years ago.
As mentioned before, “Vera” and her empty mocking promise of “…we’ll meet again, some sunny day…” which then gives way to the projections of returning soldiers as “Bring the Boys Back Home” plays.
“Comfortably Numb” finds Roger pacing outside the now completed wall as his reality distorts and twists finally opening up to a blaze of color and emotion. But all of that is really just a masking the underlying pain.
The rush of the last portion of the show where the dictatorial Roger struts on the stage to “Run Like Hell” only to realize that he’s gone too far and needs to “Stop” the madness he’s swirling in. This leads to “The Trial” where he sings each part, recaps the story and is sentenced to be exposed while backed by Gerald Scarfe’s original animations blown up even larger and covered the whole width of the wall. When the wall finally falls it’s as spectacular a moment as you can imagine, the subwoofers rumbling around the hall and the bricks cascading down in front of us.
The last coda where the band comes out to play “Outside the Wall” and Roger made comments about his state of mind now as opposed to when he wrote the piece so long ago. It’s actually the perfect ending and makes sense in the context of what’s come before to end on such a personal and human note. It felt like his way of reaching out from behind the material and sharing with the audience a moment he couldn’t have when he was an angrier young man in 1980.
I guess the biggest thing is this was a concert that was all about thinking, reflection and telling a complete story. It was in a different class from pretty much anything else that I’ve ever seen. Once I finally “got it”…I really “got it”….a terrific experience in a year full terrific experiences for me. Just an amazing year. And, yes…I’m now over the regrets from missing the show in 1980. We all have to learn to put the past away and this show was my lesson to let it go.
A few photos tomorrow on my next post.