It’s been a little while since I’ve been to any live shows so I was really excited to get to go and see Roger Water’s The Wall on the 30th anniversary of the album’s release. Some of you are too young to remember this amazing collection of theatrical rock music (some of you may not even remember albums) but Pink Floyd had played a major role in the shaping of my musical tastes and, in particular, the album The Wall.
Since I was covering the show for my day gig — a magazine for sound guys — I not only had access to sound check but I had a spot in the photo pit for an unprecedented and incredibly generous five songs (still no flash but that’s ok). I did have a little bit of an upper hand on the other photographers with me in the pit by having seen sound check (as well as chatting with one of the ushers at the foot of the stage that had a copy of the script with all of the visual cues for all of the pyrotechnics, etc.) which I needed because this was the first major show I was shooting with my new Canon 5D Mark II camera and I was a bit nervous. It was like strapping myself into the driver’s seat of a Ferrari and hitting the gas after only ever having driven a moped. Of course I had my trusty Canon EOS Rebel TXI camera with me just in case…
In the end I am glad I had both cameras as I was able to have two different types of lenses going: my big, heavy 70mm-200mm f2.8 lens I call Bertha on the new camera and a 24mm wide-angle on my backup. I ended up using the one with the wide-angle a little more than the other because there was so much going on onstage that I really wanted to catch as much of the spectacle as possible.
And wow was it ever a spectacle. If you didn’t see this show inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena you really missed out on one of the most stunning and spectacular shows I have ever seen. Basically Roger Waters and his massive crew (and 20 trucks full of cutting edge gear and staging) present the music of The Wall from start to finish, including much of the imagery from the 1982 live action/animation musical film of the same name, such as the animation from political cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe, and also including the building and knocking down of the Wall.
The “walk-in” music playing just before the start of the show served as a hint that Waters was using the very autobiographical story of the Wall to paint on a bigger canvas. We heard both Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Both are calls to humankind’s higher nature–one gospel and one secular. And the totalitarian imagery from the film that once served to illustrate Waters’ own personal, internal fears has been extended to comment on a shopping list of the world’s ills.
On his Website, Waters writes about what he was going for with this production.
I recently came across this quote of mine from 22 years ago:
“What it comes down to for me is this: Will the technologies of communication in our culture, serve to enlighten us and help us to understand one another better, or will they deceive us and keep us apart?” I believe this is still a supremely relevant question and the jury is out. There is a lot of commercial clutter on the net, and a lot of propaganda, but I have a sense that just beneath the surface understanding is gaining ground. We just have to keep blogging, keep twittering, keep communicating, keep sharing ideas.
30 Years ago when I wrote The Wall I was a frightened young man. Well not that young, I was 36 years old.
It took me a long time to get over my fears. Anyway, in the intervening years it has occurred to me that maybe the story of my fear and loss with it’s concomitant inevitable residue of ridicule, shame and punishment, provides an allegory for broader concerns.: Nationalism, racism, sexism, religion, Whatever! All these issues and ‘isms are driven by the same fears that drove my young life. This new production of The Wall is an attempt to draw some comparisons, to illuminate our current predicament, and is dedicated to all the innocents lost in the intervening years.
The show succeeded brilliantly and in terms of audio, lighting, video and staging it is easily the most ambitious show I have ever seen on a tour. Since I get to talk to the crew, I can give you some inside scoop you won’t get in other reviews. The 20 trucks full of gear I mentioned above takes a solid eight hours to load-in, set up and tweak for the room. The show goes more than two hours. Loading out takes four hours.
The Vegas show was the last — mercifully — of the “back-to-back” gigs on this leg of the tour. As I write this on Saturday night, the show is just finishing up in Phoenix. So, do the math. Show in Vegas ended at 10:30. So they finished abut 2:30 AM and had a minimum five-hour drive to AZ. That — accounting for the hour lost in the time-zone change — put them at the venue at 8:30 AM. That’s about an hour later than they usually start lading in to be ready for audio “line check” at 3 and sound check with the band at 4. Touring is not for the weak… Lots of work but what a show. Again, if you get the chance, go. This is as big a show as anything by Cirque and the music is way better.
On a different note: If you missed out on Domenick Allen’s performance a few weeks ago you have another shot to catch him onstage and for a great cause. Domenick will be performing his VINYL Rock Show to benefit Toys for Tots at the Hard Rock Cafe on the Las Vegas Strip on Saturday, December 11 at 8:00pm. This is a wonderful opportunity to be charitable and enjoy a rock ‘n’ roll show with a great band and other special guests. There are two ways to get in: either make a $20 donation or bring a new unwrapped toy but you better reserve your seat ahead of time because if it’s anything like his recent performance at the Suncoast Showroom in October it will sell out soon. Contact the Hard Rock Cafe on the Las Vegas Strip for more information. For my column and interview with Domenick Allen, click here.