Friday, May 11, 2012
Better than: Every previous Pink Floyd-related tour. No, really.
Apparently those epic theatrical extravaganzas mounted by Pink Floyd in the 1970s and '80s -- with their massive film projections and towering marionettes -- just weren't getting Roger Waters' message across to people. Ever since Pink Floyd released The Wall in 1979, untold numbers of the band's fans (and I've talked with more than a few myself) have mistaken the album's goose-stepping second half as a latent embrace of xenophobia. So when choosing to rebuild The Wall for the 21st Century, Waters simply dispensed with subtlety altogether.
Oh, sure, the concert's monumentally huge, flag-swinging rallies reminiscent of the 1936 Nuremberg Zeppelinfeld remain in play. The Wall's powerfully iconic -- and undeniably alluring -- Marching Hammer imagery is all over the tour's souvenir merch, too. And who doesn't love sleek 'n' snappy uniforms designed by Hugo Boss?
What's different about this new version of The Wall, however, is its endless visual denunciation of politicians who'd seek to exploit such militaristic pomp for their own profit. The song "Mother," for instance, has now become a metaphor for the paranoid nanny state where surveillance cameras follow your every move. (Big Mother is watching you!) When that song's lyrics beg, "Mother, should I trust the government?," there's a pregnant pause during which monolithic video projectors paint a 100-foot graffito that screams NO FUCKING WAY across The Wall in red. At other times in the show, quotations denouncing war are juxtaposed with footage of battles and massacres -- like a sequence where American helicopters gun down Iraqi civilians in the street -- to create a raging indictment of imperialism so obvious that even the drunk douchebags in the audience get sobered- and shut-the-fuck-up.
But it's the "Fallen Loved Ones" segments -- when fan-submitted photos of family members killed in action are projected on The Wall -- that are most powerful. These aren't intended to glorify army heroes who gave up everything for The Great Cause; on the contrary, they're incriminations against the cowards in High Command, in Congress, or in Parliament who casually sent those men and women to their deaths in the first place. The "Fallen Loved Ones" projections also turn The Wall itself into a double metaphor: It's still a physical symbol of alienation, but now The Wall can also be a load-bearing form of support whose annihilation -- when blasted away by warmongers launching attacks from afar -- only serves to increase isolation and rage.
It's this overt political symbolism that makes the new version of The Wall seem so much weightier than before. The original record was the private scream of just one man: Roger Waters. Now The Wall has become global in scope. Waters' 1990 staging of The Wall in Berlin also had political overtones, of course, but too many celebrity guest stars diluted that show's potency; it ended up like an episode of The Love Boat (with Nazis!) rather than a unified kunstwerk. The Wall v3.0, on the other hand, is masterfully focused. From the graphics inspired by lefty street artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey -- to the animated projections of warplanes dropping corporate logo-bombs -- to the straight-up declarations of disgust for jingoistic hawks and profiteers -- Waters' once-personal agony has been expanded into powerful humanist outrage. For the duration of The Wall's current incarnation, the "bleeding hearts and artists" can almost feel like they're winning.
Read more after the jump.