Five minutes into Roger Water’s live performance of his popular Pink Floyd rock opera The Wall, at the conclusion of “In The Flesh” a replica Ju-87 German bomber flies across Yankee Stadium and crashes on the stage. The audience of 30,000 something, admittedly contact high on the weed being smoked by white boy bozos all over the place, gasp as one. The technological wonder of the decade had arrived, alright.
Well beyond simple worlds like self-interested, Pink Floyd’s The Wall was a very popular, badly written ode to solipsism. In 1980, Pink Floyd took their 40 foot Wall on a 31 date tour of the States followed by Roger Waters bassist and songwriter and singer leaving the band, a terrible movie and the Wall in mothballs.
In 1980, 8 months after the collapse of the USSR, Roger and an all star cast performed the musical at the Berlin.
In 2007, Rogers toured behind Pink Floyd’s earlier and superior Dark Side Of The Moon and the time I saw him, at MSG, was superb.
In 2010, he took The Wall out of mothballs and has toured with it, intermittently since then.
As Waters came to perform his musical again, he discovered he had a problem. It was so self-obsessed it was remarkably stupid. A boy named Pink Floyd, loses his Dad who dies in a dog fight during WW2: the first of a brick that builds a war between himself and the world.
1. His mother smothers him.
2. His teaches don’t teach him.
3. He becomes a rock star and his fans hassled him.
4. His wife leaves him.
Finally, in a mock trial, he breaks down the wall and rejoins society.
This is nonsense of an high order. At least Pete Townsend hid his emasculated egotism and fears in a deaf, dumb and blind boy, Waters is too prosaic in his imagination: everything is in your face. It appeals to people because they think it hides deep truths but it doesn’t really. It rewards distraction with the semblance of insight.
Waters must know this in the deepest recesses of his brain, so instead of really performing the Wall, he dips back to the fall of the Berlin to tack on visual complements tackling terrorism and fascism. How good is this? Waters concept of political discussion is to add “Not bloody likely” to the “Mother, should I trust the Government”. Really, Roger, really? Who needs to be told that? Even the fatheads who wouldn’t shut up during the show don’t need that.
The 140 minutes including intermission show at Yankee Stadium Friday night was a technological wonderland of sights and sounds during the first half, as the wall builds between Waters and the band behind him. From the Word War II aerial dogfight to the local children’s chorus (in “Fear Is The Brick” tees on “Another Brick In The Wall”, from Rogers harmonizing with himself on 1980 singing “Mother” -an awful song, by the way, to the constant building of the structure till there is only one brick left for Roger to peer out, the first half was a mix of the astounding and confounding. The sound was just amazing. Everything gets lost in the open air but nothing got lost Friday night, it thrilled the ears with a mega sense of detail (if you see what I mean). But the ideas are so weak and the songs boil down to “Wall” sung over and over again. Is there a worse song then “Young Lust” in the Floyd oeuvre? Maybe, but not on the bigger albums. At Yankee Stadium, hot looking half naked Jerry Hall (excerpted from the movie) projected on the wall and GE Smith’s best playing of the evening (Smith isn’t Gilmore but he isn’t bad) doesn’t come close to saving it. With the exception of a brutally effective “One Of My Turns” half hearted come on to a groupie, musically it ain’t happening.
During the intermission, pictures of civilians lost to state terrorism, requested by Waters on his website and now show for all to see makes a valid point without having the slightest thing to do with the evening. Earlier he had dedicated a new song to Jean Charles de Meneze, a Brazilian national who was shot in the head sixteen times by UK police after being mistaken for a terrorist. As Waters notes, “there is still nobody willing to take responsibility for this”. All well and good, but this has very little to do with the Wall. If Waters wants to make a musical about state terrorism he can be my guest. I’d pay to see it. But what is he tacking it on to a bunch of crappy songs performed in a visual miracle performance for?
After the intermission, the wall is completed and the set gets better. Somewhere round the two thirds mark, Waters goes from “Vera” to “Bring The Boys Back Home” to “Comfortably Numb”. This is the evenings high mark. On record the first two of these songs made zero impression on me but on stage the match of form and content is very moving. Using film of American soldiers returning to their families from Afghanistan, Waters leaves the conservative elements in his audience flat footed. It is highly nuanced and very sad, very all are punished. “Comfortably Numb” is just about perfect and the following “In The Flesh” and “Run Like Hell” are Waters best moments as a singer, he ravishes the frankly naff “Hell” and it is one of the few times, Waters isn’t simply dwarfed by his surroundings.
After “The Trial” the wall toppled down and I ran for the exit.
In the end, the problem here was the music. If you can imagine the music without the stagecraft, the wall would have toppled before intermission. It simply isn’t all that great. Sure, “Brick” and “Numb”, and an incessant motif, are good to great but this is two hours worth of songs summed up in 7 minutes.The playing is great but anonymous. It reminds me of McCartney in 1989, here he had a buncha sidemen play note perfect versions of his old songs.
But visually, it is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. The visual projections, the 3D animations, the pig on leave from Animals, the stupendous great wall. The mixing of State terror and self terror, the mazing sound. This was something that should be seen. Plus, it might be the wrong place, but he has a point about State Terrorism in this Orwellian century of ours.
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