Roger Water’s The Wall

Posted on August 2, 2012

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I had never been much of a Pink Floyd fan.  Although I loved a lot of the biggest British Rock bands from the 60’s and 70’s (The Who, Stones, Zeppelin), Floyd were always a little too spacey for me.  Since they didn’t interest me much beyond “Wish you were Here“, I never knew more than the basics about their inner workings.  Roger Waters was a name in the band, they released The Wall in 1979 (a huge hit) and then he left the band.  There was a good amount of discussion about it in the music press b/c they fought over the Pink Floyd name and legacy.  When it was resolved in the mid-80’s, the remaining band members kept their name and continued to be hugely popular.  Roger Waters seemed to retreat, licking his wounds and was only remembered by the most die-hard Floyd fan (who knew he wrote most of the material and was the creative force behind the imagery).  Now, 30 years later, Waters has made a massive comeback, bringing the Wall concert up to date and taking it on tour around the world these past two years.  The show which followed the outline of the album, featured very impressive technology, staging, sound and props.  Waters acts as the emcee, singer, band leader, lead actor and narrator.  3 million people  bought tickets and now that it’s run has ended, the tally sits at $350 million!

I’m pretty skeptical that anything so commercially successful could be any good but the reviews have been remarkable; one Post reporter called it the “best arena concert I’ve ever been to. Period.”  When the tour came to Yankee Stadium in early July, during an intense heat wave I thought about going.  But, the weather and high price of tickets on Stubhub caused me to drop that idea.  Anyway, I’ve watched the opening song “In the Flesh” several times and continue to be impressed.

The sheer size of the wall, the design, the props, the choreography, wearing a full length leather jacket in 100 degree heat……wow!  The concept of “The Wall” was based on his life and self-awareness at the time.  The Wall was a metaphor for all the barriers he faced in his life (I think).  It’s come to represent more than that (as all great art should) and now seems to be more universal, a commentary on the walls in our world, put there by religion, race, culture, etc.  Waters is trying to express a lot here and it’s not always easy to pin down but I give him credit for trying.  However convoluted, it touches on themes (war, authoritarianism, emotional distance) that much of the public has little interest in.   He’s an outspoken atheist and that certainly plays a role in his choppy worldview, but in today’s stupid and vapid culture, he comes across as positively brilliant.  Listen to any part of this interview conducted by the supposedly intelligent (but definitely perverted) Howard Stern for example …..

it’s like night and day, a first grader interviewing his teacher.  Waters has also spoken out against the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians and has called for a cultural boycott of the Jewish State.  Whatever your view on this is (sounds harsh to me since all governments are dirty), it is  brave.  Speaking out against Israel in any capacity is guaranteed to bring repercussions and you will be called anti-Semitic by powerful people.  He seems to not be too bothered by it and obviously reads more than most of his peers.  So, count me a fan (w caveats).

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