As anyone who has been through one can tell you, divorce is hell. Even the best of intentions can be misconstrued and formerly happy people are turned into miserable combatants. I would imagine if that divorce was played out in the public eye with the press from two continents watching every move, that would make the situation so bad that it would leave scars that would take decades to heal. And that is about the best way I could encapsulate the disbanding of the once super group formally known as Pink Floyd. In 1985 when the band broke up, a long legal battle issued between Roger Waters and co-frontman David Gilmore. The end result of that divorce was that Gilmore got to keep the band and the name, but Waters got The Wall.
And that brings me to the other night. As I sat in my seat at The United Center here in Chicago looking at a semi-constructed white brick structure, I wondered if the soon to be theatrics were really going to be worth the lofty price tag that was attached to the event. Not that I paid that price. If I had not been invited and been taken care of by some friends and a certain lovely, blond librarian, Roger Waters presents The Wall Live would not have been on my agenda for a Thursday school night. But by the looks of the sell out crowd, I would say a number of people thought the $75 to $225 price tag was worth the chance to see this rock spectacle, considering that the ticket price for the original 1980 tour was only $12.
This is the point where I need to be reminded that I am almost ten years older than Maureen. I was just a freshman in high school when The Wall was first released. That would have put Maureen in about the first grade. It gets too uncomfortable if you think about it too long. But the point is that her appreciation of the music of Pink Floyd is about on par with my appreciation of Beverly Hills 90210. I didn’t see the movie version starring Bob Geldof until I was in college, and only because me and a few friends thought it would be a good idea to get stoned and head down to the student union and watch it on free movie night. It wasn’t. Obviously whatever we were smoking was just not strong enough. As a movie, The Wall sucked. So why did I then twenty-five years later without the benefit of any mind altering methods other than two Harps and an overpriced margarita, want to see this production? Quite simply because of the music.
The show actually started before the lights even dimmed. A homeless man wandering the audience with a shopping cart full of trash while audio clips from the past thirty years of music, movie, and news played over the speakers. Waters had said in Rolling Stone that we wanted to make the music relevant to today, and not just be about his life as he originally wrote it, and for the most part that is what he did. In one of the more touching moments, he showed videos of soldiers returning home from the Iraq conflict during the song Bring the Boys Back Home, and his anti-war philosophy is over obvious but fits in well with the Orwellian vision of the show. Complete with flying pigs and forty-foot puppets of The Teacher and Mother. But the true star of this show is The Wall.
Throughout the first half of the performance, between explosions and the original animation by Gerald Scarfe, the wall is built brick by brick. Each one coming to life as part of the projection show as they are snapped into place. Slowly the giant structure cuts the audience off from the band that continues to play on behind the over powering monolith, and when the second half starts up with Hey You, the performers are still trapped behind The Wall. For me, the highlight of the night was Comfortably Numb. It is probably an easy choice given it is possibly one of Pink Floyd’s best recordings, but it was also staged well. Waters in front of The Wall singing the main vocals, while Gilmour’s replacement, a young L.A. singer named Robbie Wyckoff, handled the chorus from the top of The Wall along with Dave Kilminster who finished the song with the guitar solo silhouetted from a back spotlight.
The end of the show, much like the movie, dragged a bit with too much of the same animation from the movie being projected across giant bricks, including the infamous marching hammers that goose step like nazi guards, worms and other creatures that morph into various sexual creatures, and poor Pink, the blob of a humanoid figure who is the protagonist of the whole story, trapped behind his own wall in his mind. But when the show ends with the wall tumbling down towards the audience, even Maureen managed to slip and admit that it was a bit cool. Overall, I enjoyed the night. Other than the fact that I seemed to blend in a little too well with the older hippy crowd. It was nice to hear the old music being performed live, and the production was well done. Roger Waters looked great, and for the most part performed great. Although it really wasn’t a Roger Waters show, more of a Roger Waters production. But I was glad I got a chance to see it and be a part of the experience.
Thanks, Babe. I owe you one chick flick date.