You’d be hard pressed to leave an integral performance of Pink Floyd’s The Wall and not be impressed. Not only by the music, which is of course excellent, but perhaps even more by the sheer spectacle of the show and the ultimately very left-wing, anti-war statement that it is, or at least has become over the years. Because The Wall, both as a concept (the idea of building a huge wall between the audience and the band famously sprouted when Waters spat a fan in the face out of annoyance) and a narrative, is as relevant today as it was back in 1979.
Having grown up on a healthy diet of Pink Floyd and the 1990 performance of The Wall in Berlin, I thought I knew what to expect when I went to the show in 2011, but nothing can truly prepare you for something like this particular performance. It’s big, bold and in parts more than a little disconcerting, and as such, a rollercoaster of emotions. Last night, just like in 2011, I found myself torn between shock and awe, even though, this time, I knew full well what I was getting myself into.
From the opening chants of “I’m Spartacus!” echoing through the hall, you’re in for a treat either way. Roger Waters’ twenty-first century version of his magnum opus is so ridiculously grand and over the top that it almost numbs the senses. Militaristic bannermen patrol the stage during In the Flesh?, as pyros set the stage alight, the sound of gunfire blazes left and right and the Stuka dive bomber flies into the wall. During the course of the concert, there is so much happening all over the stage, that it becomes nearly impossible to see everything the first time. There’s the aforementioned Stuka, the big schoolmaster puppet, Mother looming over the stage, the group of local school children during Another Brick In The Wall (Part II), the flying, inflatable pig floating over the audience; it’s almost overwhelming.
(video courtesy of Arjan van Duijn, used here with kind permission)
And then there’s the wall itself, slowly being built during the course of the first half of the concert, blocking the band from the audience’s view brick by brick, until nothing is left but a massive white brick wall. Luckily for us, the wall also functions as a screen on which pictures and videos are being projected. It’s a vehicle for the narrative, with the famous marching hammers during Waiting for the Worms, the fucking flowers during What Shall We Do Now? or the The Trial scene, and it’s testament to the quality of Gerald Scarfe’s animations that everything holds up so phenomenally well on this biggest of big screens. That same wall, meanwhile, is also a vessel for Waters’ more political, anti-war statement, and nowhere is this more apparent than during Run Like Hell, as the audience, cheered on by Waters, happily claps along with the music whilst images of Hitler and Bush are being displayed, and the leaked footage from the Baghdad airstrike, during which Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen, amongst seven other people, were infamously shot when their cameras were mistaken for weapons.
We are invited to clap along and we happily oblige, because we’re there to be entertained, are we not? It’s brilliant entertainment indeed, but it’s also amazing and masterfully executed satire. The Wall can be, and oftentimes is, a grim and dark place, sometimes bordering on the lugubrious. It has evolved from a story of individual isolation and into a mirror through which we are confronted with mankind’s dark side, and Waters pulls absolutely no punches here. By the time the wall comes down and the band rejoins on stage for the encore Outside the Wall, you really feel you have just come back out of a truly hopeless place. The Wall is an utter monstrosity, a feast for the senses and both a brilliant and horrifying experience. It’s also a damn good show, and, just like in 2011, the most impressive thing I have ever seen on stage.
- In the Flesh?
- The Thin Ice
- Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)
- The Happiest Days of Our Lives
- Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)
- The Ballad of Jean Charles de Menezes
- 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 (Part 3)
- The Last Few Bricks
- Goodbye Cruel World
- Hey You
- Is There Anybody Out There?
- Nobody Home
- Bring the Boys Back Home
- Comfortably Numb
- The Show Must Go On
- In the Flesh
- Run Like Hell
- Waiting for the Worms
- The Trial
- Outside the Wall
- Roger Waters – bass, lead vocals, acoustic guitar, trumpet on Outside the Wall
- Graham Broad – drums, percussion, ukelele on Outside the Wall
- Jon Carin – keyboards, guitars, lap steel guitar, programming, acoustic guitar on Outside The Wall
- Dave Kilminster – guitars, banjo on Outside the Wall, bass on Mother
- Snowy White – guitars, bass on Goodbye Blue Sky
- Harry Waters – Hammond organ, keyboards, accordion on Outside the Wall
- G. E. Smith – guitars, bass, mandolin on Outside the Wall
- Robbie Wyckoff – lead vocals
- Jon Joyce – backing vocals
- Kipp Lennon – backing vocals
- Mark Lennon – backing vocals
- Pat Lennon – backing vocals
Review by Ralph Plug