It was to be the concert of the year for me. Roger Waters. And without a doubt, not only was it the concert of the year - but it for sure was the concert of the decade for me. That sums it up. Period.
Without question, times have changed for Roger Waters. He’s changed with them. Perhaps even ahead of him. Some 32 years ago, the anemic-looking Pink Floyd singer and songwriter wrote a rock opera about a character named Pink, based on himself. It chronicled his journey into abandonment, and deep despair through the building of a now-iconic metaphorical wall which we know all know. That wall has been torn down, time and time again, but its legacy is taller than the wall ever was.
I remember being twelve years old at the time. My parents were out for the evening. I was alone in the house. I played the LP and I felt fear for the first time while listening to “Is there anybody out there?” It scared me – that was 34 years ago. It still scares me when I hear it.
Waters and his backing band performed the 1979 album in its entirety (the order of the songs were changed though, which I found weird- in a refreshing kind-of-way, actually) last weekend in Toronto - accompanied by dramatic visual effects that have given the music and lyrics an almost new meaning. After the concert’s intensity and before Waters left the stage, he reflected on who he was those many years ago. That brought closure for me. I loved that.
The Wall is a record (do I sound old fashioned by calling it a record?) that has grown up - but not aged. More than 30 years after its release, it’s evolved from a story of conflict, misery and alienation to an all-out assault on war, capitalism and poverty. (Reminds me of the Occupy Wall Street idiots). I would argue that it’s more relevant today than it ever was.
The faces of those who died in global conflicts were flashed onscreen throughout the show. Violent yellows, reds and greens were used to create uber-disturbing and thought-provoking visuals spelling out anti-government, anti-capitalist and anti-establishment messages splattered across the wall – a larger-than-life stack of giant bricks that would be built higher and the higher (and sometimes lower and lower) and form the backdrop for the entire musical extravaganza that was. To note - as a proud card-carrying, very pro-Israeli Jew, the harder I looked for supposed anti-Semitic and anti-Israel messages, the more I concluded that there is indeed none to be found.
Waters introduced himself with a bang during the opening track, “In the Flesh”. He came in strong – and I like that. The rich smell of pot smoke from the packed house - and vodka of the concert-goer next to me drifted gently into the air as the audience clapped along to the pounding, ever-recognizable disco drone of Pink Floyd’s school protest song, “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.” You don’t get much more classic than that. Ever!
The wall was rebuilt until a solitary gap remained and Waters peered through, (bathed in a sensual blue light) to say goodbye to the cruel world and end the show’s first half. It was an awesome first half – if I am to critique anything, I’d say it was not loud enough for me. I like to be enveloped in sound, hugged. Almost sensually caressed.
He returned from intermission with Hey You, now hidden behind the fully built wall. Haunting!
Soon came Comfortably Numb with its wicked guitar solo, originally performed by Waters’ former bandmate, David Gilmour. I missed him, however the hired musicians excelled – hardly even missing David’s gentle finesse on those strings.
Waters pulled out all the stops in part two, as he shot a fake machine gun into the crowd (all part of his assault on war, capitalism and poverty) and unleashing a giant floating warthog (a more-menacing version of Pink Floyd’s classic flying pig). He played one classic song after another. Each one rising in intensity. A select few of The Wall’s songs featured scenes from the 1982 film adaptation. Included in this was the famous scene of the flowers simulating intercourse. Unforgettable – and unforgettably vivid.
Waters’ 2012 version of The Wall talked a lot about the ideas of war and state terror. He dedicated a song to a Brazilian man who was shot in the head when London police mistook him as a terrorist. He also spoke of a journalist and his assistant killed by an American airstrike in Baghdad. Yet with slivers of hope, the wall’s carefully choreographed animation also depicted moving scenes of returning soldiers hugging their loved ones. That was the good news after all the bad. It was like the audience needed that – I sure did!
Roger Waters’ The Wall Live is an old tale with a new agenda. While he may have torn down his own wall, he now he sees a bigger one behind it. And he’s lost none of his massive influence.
A spectacular light show. A spectacular music spectacle. Regrets? That Waters did not draw some materials from his two cultish solo albums, “The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking” and “Radio Kaos” – both of which (while not in the same league as The Wall) are awesome in their own right. Fitting that into the Wall theme may have been hard though.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
You know, there’s something that’s been bugging me the past few days. I think we all get that way from time to time. And only just a few minutes ago, I managed to put my finger on it and identify the source of my buggery (if there is such a word). It’s the Nik Wallenda walk across the Niagara Falls last weekend. It’s really everything about the walk that irritates me to the hilt. It’s freaking ridiculous this whole thing.
Now, there’s no question that Nik is not only extremely disciplined, but he’s also courageous. No, make it that he is balls-of-steel courageous. It really is incredible that he did what he did. He has tremendous skill, (as if tight rope walking is in great demand.) Congrats Nik!
Like, does anyone know any companies looking to hire a tight rope walker? I don’t think so! If you do, let me know, won’t you?
I digress. Let’s get back to why I am so irritated
1. Wallenda estimated his history-making, walk by way of a cable strung over the brink will cost about $1.2 to $1.3 million. That includes fabrication and installation of the custom-made steel wire, permits and security on both sides of the border, travel and marketing.
Sheesh --- you’re blowing this obscene amount of money on a 550 feet walk while more than 60% of the world’s population starves. Are you freakin’ nuts? Furthermore, as of press time, I believe that Wallenda has no idea who will pay this bill. Taxpayers? The rich? The poor? Hell if I know!
2. “We need stuff like this,” Wallenda says. “We need things to encourage people that the impossible is actually possible.”
Again Nik --- hate to bust your balloon. While you are very talented and brave, encouraging the world that the impossible is possible by making a walk across the Falls, is akin to encouraging a crack addict to set a world record for crack-snorting. We really really do not need stuff like this to encourage an-already sick world that it can be even more sicker.
3. But not everyone was impressed … “It was slow and boring,” said Kim Deenie of Niagara Falls. It wasn’t exciting because he wore the harness. Daredevils are supposed to do things that risk their lives.”
Yeah right Kim, let’s take the harness off why don’t we. And let’s watch this very talented idiot (a husband and father of two kids) fall to his death if he falls --- that sounds like a fun Friday night doesn’t it?
4. Just prior to the event, Dino DiCienzo, president of Canadian Niagara Hotels said there were a few rooms left at the Sheraton Crowne Plaza and Skyline Inn hotels operated by the company. “Definitely, we’ll be sold out’” he said, adding the average price for a room is 15-20% more than a typical Friday this time of year.
Money’s money Dino. And I appreciate that you gotta make money – in fact, there’s nothing wrong with making money. However, raising prices for such a silly event, really is not cool. Niagara Falls is expensive enough to begin with (trust me, I was there a few weeks ago – and paying $22 for one hour of parking, even makes Toronto look cheap).
I think John Law, a reporter with the Niagara Falls Review said it best … “If this thing was any more drawn out, we’d be doing stories on his shoelaces. We were starting to see the guy in our sleep — Wallendreams"
If you think I'm being a crusty old curmudgeon, just let me know.