What better place to see Roger Waters’ “The Wall” than in the shadow of one of the most famous walls in American sports? By this I mean Fenway Park’s “Green Monster” the 231-by-37 foot wall in left field. Usually host to the thuds of baseballs, on Sunday, July 1, the green monster felt the much lighter impact of music notes as former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters brought his show about repression and rebellion to Boston.
I confess that I am not a huge Pink Floyd or Waters fan. This is not to say I don’t like the music, because I do, but I much preferred Paul McCartney at Fenway two summers ago. I think McCartney is the greater talent, though this is like comparing Batman to Superman: Superman may be stronger, but both are pretty awesome.
While I am partial to McCartney’s music, “The Wall” was a far superior “show.” McCartney engaged the audience with his music and song, but Waters dazzled: The Wall’s set design, pyrotechnics, laser light show, and props all gave it the feeling of a true event.
A wall of white blocks formed the centerpiece of the show. At the outset, miniature airplanes zoomed overhead and crashed into it; throughout the concert it morphed, providing a canvas onto which were projected an array of animation, visuals of Waters and his band, and other images.
Roger Waters has not lost any skill as a performer; his voice, and the crispness of the music, remain exceptional. The large and hard-to-miss downside of “The Wall”, however, is its politics.
I knew next to nothing about Waters’ personal stance before this show. It is clear that “The Wall” was, and will always be, about resistance to governmental tyranny and bourgeois culture. That aspect has been part of its enduring appeal. Still, there is a difference between the cocktail of idealism and naiveté that “The Wall” serves up and reality.
When “The Wall” crosses into the real world from the realm of art and fancy, it crumbles. At one point during the show, a giant inflatable pig was released over the crowd. Painted on the pig, among other things, was the image of “capitalism” being shot in the head, and the phrase “1 percent”, a clear reference to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
I paid $300 for my ticket ($250 for the ticket and close to $50 in fees) and had to stand most of the time, to my annoyance, while folks in the cheap seats were able to remain seated. Comfort aside, if $300 for a floor seat is not aggressive capitalism, I don’t know what is. Furthermore, I’m willing to guess that Roger Waters is firmly within “the 1 percent”.
The inflatable pig, after making the rounds, started to deflate, and fans grabbed at it until it disappeared. I don’t know if this was supposed to happen, but if not, perhaps it’s a metaphor for something…
In addition, whatever you think of George W. Bush and his Afghanistan/Iraq policies, you have to be brainless to think flashing his image next to those of Mao and Stalin is appropriate. Although I didn’t poll audience members, a feeling of “play the music and spare us your politics” seemed to pervade the crowd.
It was, after all, an older audience. Maybe 20 to 30 years ago, the politics of “The Wall” resonated with them, but the people who turned out for this show were not teens or 20-somethings anymore. They have children and responsibilities of their own. They know the truth of the world a bit better and don’t need propaganda forced on them.
Indeed, wasn’t that the original point of “The Wall” – that propaganda attempts to make you “comfortably numb,” an automaton that governments and corporations can manipulate? Has “The Wall” become what it spoke out against? Perhaps Roger Waters should read “Animal Farm”.
If you can set the politics of “The Wall” aside, it provides a wonderful evening, and Fenway Park continues to impress as a concert venue. Personally, I’ll always cherish the Green Monster, and it’s no surprise that the seemingly immovable wall built for baseball dwarfed the one that was there for only one evening.
Roger Waters and “The Wall”
For my 57th birthday we went to the astounding Roger Waters show at the Verizon Center in Washington. It was a show, not a concert, a multi-sensory experience. Between the lights, music, projected images, and Waters himself; who played guitar and sang every song, there was almost more stimuli than could be assimilated in two and a half hours. Not to mention that a large brick wall was built across the entire stage until it was, at least, 40 feet high and opaque.
I first heard of this project in the spring while watching a “60 minutes” interview with Waters. He spent a few years putting it together and did it righteously. Pink Floyd broke up in the early 80’s but, despite “60 minutes” usual probing, Waters did not want to delve into that. When his show was in London, however, David Gilmour, Pink Floyd’s co-front man and co-writer, appeared on top of the Wall playing his most famous guitar solo from the album.
We didn’t get that but what we saw was phenomenal. During the show, The Wall was built, brick by brick, but most of the time your attention was elsewhere. When you looked again at a particular area, where you formerly could see the band, several sections were now solid white bricks. On the Wall were projected films, animations, vignettes from martyrs, and light show effects that were all integrated with the theme of the music.
The Wall in the show and on the record represents fear, alienation, the heroism of those that challenge authority, and the presence of authority in humanity’s everyday existence. The show was cohesive to the story’s context while seeming fragmented at the same time. Waters accomplished this by making his transitions sudden at each new song while blending it with the theme within a minute or so. To call “The Wall” a rock opera is not succinct, it is more like a Picasso painting; parts that hang together in the frame of the subject. Alienation and antiauthoritarianism are contained in the structure and the lyrics.
I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan, owning all of their albums or CD’s and listening to them over and over. Once I won a reel-to-reel tape deck and stereo playing backgammon; their records were recorded on 6 hour tapes and I passed many a lonely (and alienated) hour in the barracks with my headphones on. I never had the liner notes, however, so I sang the words as I thought they were.
At the show you could hear the audience singing the words, just under the music from the stage. They probably did read the lyrics and were singing the correct words. It added an interactive element, more so than when some performers stop singing and hold the microphone out for everyone to sing familiar parts. It was not altogether noticeable because the sound was superb, vibrating my seat while also echoing off the concrete wall one row behind me.
I purposely paid attention to the under-singing as it was an intimate and soothing element. It helped to reconcile the hostile and disarming images and music until they were pacified by the Wall coming down at the end, due to the counterforce of concerted and resolute actions by the resisters of authority.
I did not “attend” or “see” a show on July 12th, 2012, I experienced something I don’t think will be duplicated in my lifetime, at least to me. In fact, on the ride home I learned from my wife and daughter that I did not literally see all that was presented. They each recounted a particularly moving series of images of fathers coming home from conflicts and surprising their children. The children all ran into their fathers’ arms and were lifted up in welcome. I didn’t know what they were talking about. Having missed this seems both important and trivial. The experience was both overwhelming in scope and completely fulfilling.
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