Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Wall

Roger Waters: The Wall Live
HP Pavilion, San Jose, California

December 7, 2010

Because of my FM Radio Classic Rock upbringing it was hard to ignore the hype around this tour… but the steep ticket prices made me say "Oh well..." and I had a flashback to the hyped up, expensive, but underwhelming Rolling Stones show I saw back in 2005. However, The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways and an hour before show time we were at Will Call picking up comp tickets. Thanks to The Talent for hooking me up!

Tonight's show was the 2nd of 3 Bay Area shows (1 in Oakland and 2 in San Jose) and it was also the 61st Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was also the day before the anniversaries of the murders of both John Lennon and Dimebag Darrell (It's trippy that both of them were shot on the same date, right?). Before the houselights went down a couple of Lennon songs were played over the PA… but they didn’t play any Pantera. I guess Roger Waters is as sick of hearing 'Walk' as I am.

I’ve never been a Pink Floyd aficionado so I was gobsmacked to learn that one-time Thin Lizzy guitarist Snowy White would be onstage and has been a long time member of Roger Waters’ band. He also performed with Pink Floyd in the 70’s and on some of the original Wall concerts in 1980. How did I not know this before??! My Inner Music Geek is a poser.

I went into the show with preconceived ideas about what it was going to be like. I was expecting the show to be somewhat cheesy and overblown. I was expecting myself to have a detached experience because how "intimate" could such a massive arena show be? I've been going to concerts for well over half my life at this point and I've seen it all, man... or so I thought.

To my surprise, seeing The Wall live was the complete opposite of my expectations in almost every way. Eventhough we were up in the nosebleed seats, it was like watching an amazing theater production AND a mind blowing concert experience. There was more pyro and drama during the opening sequence of 'In The Flesh?' > 'The Thin Ice' than I've seen during entire concerts, including a plane "flying" across the arena to crash into the stage at one point!

Holy Shit!
(Photo courtesy of Photo Ray)

I thought the performance would be a straight clinical run through of the album. However, a couple of times Waters paused to address the crowd in such a personable and humble way that it gave the massive show moments of intimacy and personality. His intro before 'Mother' about the course The Wall has taken over the past 30 years was really cool and the performance of the song (with vintage footage of himself from 1980 performing the song projected across the entire stage) was a haunting audio / visual time machine.

The fact that the album's story about self-imposed isolation from society still resonates so profoundly 30 years after its release speaks volumes; the more things change the more they stay the same. It was also profound for me that a performance of this ALBUM has been drawing such big ticket sales and it seemed like everyone around me was completely mesmerized and caught up in the performance. Despite being up in the nosebleed section, there was barely any of the idle chatter and short attention span crowd behavior that usually accompanies a massive arena show like this. It was inspiring to see so many people getting caught up in the performance of an ALBUM that obviously meant a lot to most of them, especially when we live in a time in Music History when singles rule and albums are a dead art form. Either that or they were all tripping on some good acid or stoned on some prime weed.

It's very hard for me to write about this show because it was so visual and was an astonishing mix of modern digital technology and video combined with old school theater production. Dude, they actually BUILT The Wall onstage brick by brick! Once The Wall was completed (at the conclusion of the song 'Goodbye Cruel World') it acted as a massive video screen for the rest of the show.

'Another Brick In The Wall' in San Jose
(Photo courtesy of Photo Ray)

I marveled at how any band could possibly pull a show off of this magnitude. Usually my Inner Music Geek notices details of a production as they happen, but the production of this show was so seamless it appeared to be magic at times. Props appeared out of nowhere. Waters and the band emerged to perform on the audience side of The Wall seemingly from out of nowhere. Guitarist Dave Kilminster appeared on top of the wall to solo during 'Comfortably Numb'. The choreography and precision of the production was staggering... and the performance of the iconic songs was flawless.

"Teacher! Leave them kids alone!"
(Photo courtesy of Photo Ray)

Dude, I guess Pink Floyd really were an amazing band. For the newbies: I don't have the time or brain cells to explain what The Wall "means" or "symbolizes" or "represents"... All I can say is that seeing the album performed live was like having one of your most disturbing and haunting dreams brought to life. It... was... mind blowing.

'Outside The Wall'...

Another thing that blew me away during the night was how brazen, ballsy, and aggressive the bootleg t-shirt vendors were selling their $20 tees (which compared to the $40-$45 official tees). The pirate vendors were swarming everywhere: in the restaurants / bars near the venue, on the sidewalk in front of the venue, and even INSIDE the venue! BALLS!

I tried to do a merch audit but gave up, but I think if you bought one of every The Wall Live t-shirt alone you would have paid around $480. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. I've listened to The Wall album all the way through twice since witnessing this show and I still don't have my head around the concert and what I saw... Mind blowing.

Click HERE to see Photo Ray's shots from the night!