So ya thought ya might like to go to the show?

24 Jun

It’s taken me more than two weeks to recover from watching Roger Waters’ The Wall at the Joe Louis Arena, and not just because I finally shook off the contact high from the pot-laced stogie the guy sitting in front of us was passing around to his buddies throughout Act II.

The show was thrilling, eye-popping, visceral and awe-inspiring. The animation, both from the 1982 film version and the new stuff, was sharp and ominous. At 68, Roger Waters is in fine voice and in full command of the piece. And even though it took two men (Dave Kilminster on lead guitar and Robbie Wyckoff on vocals) to fill in for David Gilmour, the overall sound was as dense and dramatic as the original recording.

When the show came to the Palace of Auburn Hills last fall, by the time I looked into getting tickets they were well above our price point. “The only way we’ll be able to afford it is if I sell a kidney,” my teenaged daughter lamented, adding, “and it would have to be a kidney full of heroin.” Given that Mr. Waters made a gazillion dollars on the 2011 leg of the tour – fans having ponied up numerous kidneys full of heroin, no doubt – he saw fit to cross the US again this year. This time, Santa Claus got us tickets as our big present last December.

Sting in 1979 … attractive even when you can’t see his biceps

Opera, rock or otherwise, usually bugs me. No matter how beautifully performed or lavishly staged, the story rarely makes any logical sense and so the emotional wallop evades me. As much as I love to listen to Tommy, thematically it’s a mess. Its symbolism is either trite or opaque: what exactly was pinball supposed to mean anyway? Quadrophenia works a lot better for me because it wasn’t so symbolic and I could follow the basic thread of the story, with a little help from Wikipedia. It’s not as audacious as Tommy, though, so I’m not sure it would benefit from being staged. (Never saw the 1979 movie version, even though it was Sting’s film debut.)

The Wall, however, has never failed to fascinate and unnerve me in all formats. When I bought it in 1979, I’d shoo my parents out of the living room where our stereo system was so I could memorize the double LP with the door closed and the lights on. When I saw the film in college, I was so freaked out by it I spontaneously shrieked on the way home to my dorm. Even the Scissor Sisters’ doomsday disco cover of “Comfortably Numb” is unsettling.

Roger Waters accompanies a 1981 film of himself singing “Mother” as it’s shown on The Wall behind him

It started as Waters’ statement about alienation in the face of stardom. Now it’s morphed into alienation in the face of pretty much every aspect of modern life: totalitarianism, warfare, politics, marriage, education, commercialism, even helicopter parenting.

Thirty-three years after it was released, the music of The Wall is still scary, still alluring and still incredibly beautiful. It encompasses why rock music was invented: to rail against what is and demand that there be something better.

Now, please enjoy a snippet of the 1990 concert version of The Wall, staged in the former no-mans land where the Berlin Wall had stood eight months earlier. Waters and his Pink Floyd bandmates were on the outs, so he was the only one of the four to appear. He more than made up for it by casting an eclectic and inspired cast of musicians, including Sinead O’Connor and three-fifths of The Band, who performed “Mother”:

See you on the flip side …

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4 Responses to “So ya thought ya might like to go to the show?”

  1. Pam Houghton June 26, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    Interesting post…I saw a profile of Roger Waters recently on 60 Minutes. I was never a huge fan of Pink Floyd but can appreciate the artfulness of their work! Too bad you can’t dance to it! Or can you??

    • lpon45 July 5, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

      Not dancing so much – a lot of fist pumping and swaying, at least during the show I saw.

  2. Ovidiu Boar February 20, 2014 at 7:25 am #

    What a great post – I saw The Wall tour last summer as well and I’ve been meaning to write something about it ever since. There’s just to many thing to tell, the whole thing just blew me away. The ‘Mother’ segment (with him singing in duet with himself, as you mentioned) was something I’ll never forget.

    I disagree about Tommy, I think its plot works very well, especially when performed live. The ‘pinball’ thing doesn’t mean anything – just a bit of silliness in order to take the edge off. Sort of like how ‘Cripple Creek Ferry’ works on Neil Young’s ‘After The Gold Rush’, if you’re familiar with the album.

    But anyway, I agree that ‘Quadrophenia’ and ‘Wall’ work better. Also interesting to see that you bought the latter the year it came out.

    • lpon45 February 20, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

      Thanks for reading this and I’m glad you liked the post and the blog overall.

      Since writing this I saw “Quadrophenia;” there’s a Criterion DVD version that came out a few years ago. The music continues to be utterly transporting but the film … eh. Maybe at my advanced age I’ve turned into the equivalent of the old man chasing kids off his lawn, but throughout the movie all I wanted to do was shake some sense into Jimmy (“Keep your job, you idiot – how else will you pay for your pills???”)

      I was a bit of an early adopter for “The Wall,” and I have no idea why: my tastes went more toward Supertramp back then.

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