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Monday, May 14, 2012

Live Review, 5/11/2012: Roger Waters Takes a Stand for Bleeding Hearts and Artists Outside The Wall

Posted By on Mon, May 14, 2012 at 8:39 AM

RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick

Roger Waters

Friday, May 11, 2012

AT&T Park

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?

CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

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.

The Wall at AT&T Park on Friday. - JOHN GRAHAM
  • John Graham
  • The Wall at AT&T Park on Friday.

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.

RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick

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.

CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: I saw the David Gilmour-led version of Pink Floyd on its first tour without Roger Waters. As impressive and enjoyable as that laser-blasting spectacle might've been, though, it was hollow, flashy pageantry compared to the conceptual juggernaut Waters mounted tonight.

The show: In addition to the projections mentioned above, The Wall's theatrical elements include Gerald Scarfe's animated sequences from the original tour and movie (with the exception of "Goodbye Blue Sky," whose Union Jack and bloody crucifix images are replaced with new computer animation of bombers dropping religious symbols and corporate logos like ordnance); the infamous flying pig (now also scrawled with agit-prop graffiti); inflatable marionettes representing the stern mother, cruel schoolteacher, and wayward wife; crashing jet fighters; a chorus line of local schoolkids; a furnished hotel room that emerges from within The Wall; stadium-sized live footage of Waters in various stages of character development; a Waters "duet" with his younger self via projected film of a 1981 Earls Court concert; and more. Lots and lots and lots more.

Roger Waters' The Wall at AT&T Park on Friday. - RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
  • Roger Waters' The Wall at AT&T Park on Friday.

The sound: Stadium/arena shows usually have the worst sonics imaginable, e.g., drum kits sound like Decepticons fighting in a Dumpster, vocals become tinny and thin (when you can hear them at all), and half the band goes missing from the mix if you stand in the wrong place. The Wall's sound system, however, is astonishing. Quadrophonic speaker arrays turn the sound FX and backing samples into an immersive 3-D superstorm that attacks your ears from all sides, while the band performance itself is so clear and balanced that you can almost imagine you're listening through headphones in your living room. Only at 100 dB, of course, with giant puppet friends who dance for your amusement.

CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

The band: Augmenting Waters onstage is a mini-orchestra of session musicians. Noteworthy band members include lead guitarist Dave Kilminster (who impeccably recreates David Gilmour's original guitar solos), backing guitarist Snowy White (who toured with Pink Floyd way back in the day, including the original 1980 tour of The Wall), keyboardist Jon Carin (who's been in both David Gilmour's and Roger Waters' bands since the '80s), and co-lead guitarist G.E. Smith (the longtime Saturday Night Live bandleader who was once hilariously described as "Frankenstein with Dutch Boy hair" by punk band The Vandals).

Setlist after the jump

RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick

Setlist

First Half:

In the Flesh?

The Thin Ice

Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1

The Happiest Days of Our Lives

Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2

Mother

Goodbye Blue Sky

Empty Spaces

What Shall We Do Now?

Young Lust

One of My Turns

Don't Leave Me Now

Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3

Last Few Bricks

Goodbye Cruel World

Second Half:

Hey You

Is There Anybody Out There?

Nobody Home

Vera

Bring the Boys Back Home

Comfortably Numb

The Show Must Go On

In the Flesh

Run Like Hell

Waiting for the Worms

Stop

Trial

Outside the Wall

CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

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