01 March 2012
From The Wall to Waltzing Matilda
When I was a teenager I had the pleasure of watching what, in my opinion, was the greatest concert of all time. The concert was by a group called Pink Floyd (you may have heard of them!) and they performed the whole concert to their latest album release at that time called, quite simply, The Wall.
Over the years I have raved to my friends about how good the concert was, as well as the album, and that if they ever got the chance to see it live then they should go. Since I saw The Wall in concert, Pink Floyd have gone into a permanent hiatus and their talismanic bass player, Roger Waters, went his own way. As such, The Wall has never been seen on tour in its entirety until very recently.
Roger Waters has been touring the world with an updated version of The Wall. Now when I heard he was bringing this $55 million dollar show to Australia I was very excited. Having remembered at how amazing the original show was, I was very keen to see how it would look like nowadays. Also, given that Waters is now aged 68, there would possibly not be too many opportunities in the future to relive one of rock music’s spectacles.
A couple of weeks ago he arrived in Sydney, which for once was not raining! Now for those that have never seen, or heard of The Wall I should give a brief description of what the show entails.
As the group are performing the songs from the album, a wall is gradually being built across the stage until during the song “Goodbye Cruel World” the band are totally void from sight as the last brick is put in place, with them behind this large monolith. During the second part of the show, songs are performed within parts, on top of and outside the wall. I can’t remember how many bricks there were but it was more than 400 from memory. During the whole concert there are so many things going on like a plane crashing into the wall, pyrotechnics, floating pigs and other floating characters, and the most stunning animation being broadcast onto the wall. Oh, and then there’s the fantastic music and songs too!
The concert started with the soundtrack to Spartacus. Suddenly a tall, slim and grey haired man walked onto the stage, started to play bass guitar and singing the opening verse to “In the Flesh”. Roger Waters was here to rock! Then the first of many special effects took place as a World War 2 style plane flew into the Wall and exploded into flames. At this stage the concert was very similar to what I had seen all those years ago. I was keen to see how the show would differ from my memory of it. I didn’t have to wait long to see how it had been enhanced.
The album itself, with its cryptic lyrics, is multi layered and can be interpreted in many ways. In brief, it is sort of an autobiography of Roger Waters. From his father being killed in World War 2, to becoming a rock star with fame and fortune and then being insulated within this false lifestyle, hence the Wall. It is also a sarcastic look at how governments and big corporations treat us lesser mortals as a mere number, a disposable entity or more aptly “another brick in the wall”.
The animation throughout the show projected a number of activists and innocent people who were killed, either standing up for their rights (think the Arab Spring), or fighting and being killed in a pointless war that their government had sent them to (think Gulf War part 2). It showed details of who they were, what they did and how they died.
Two pieces of animation stuck in my mind and probably always will. As bombs were falling from a number of war planes they were instantly turned into crosses symbolising death of people. It was very poignant. The second was how some other planes were releasing things that became logos of well know corporations and eventually they ‘filled’ the wall. It just showed me how companies control and enwrap ourselves with their products to satisfy our ‘consumerism urges’.
At the halfway mark, when the final brick went in, there was a 15 minute interlude. Projected onto the wall were pictures and details of activists who had fought for their beliefs. By now it was obvious that the updated version of the show had quite rightly, given events of the past few years, an activist theme.
The second part of the show was just as spectacular and jaw dropping. The songs by now were sarcastically touching on racism and fascism that has been a scourge on society, and the prejudice that exists everywhere.
Finally, after some great synchronisation singing with animated characters, the Wall came tumbling down. Even now I am not sure how the Wall was made to collapse, but it was very impressive.
At the end of the concert, Roger Waters announced to the audience that the group was going to sing one more song. He said it was “your song”. I started to cringe thinking that the national anthem was going to be sang after such a powerful and though provoking concert. Fortunately, it wasn’t the national anthem. Instead he started singing “Waltzing Matilda”. Not just the first verse which most people know, but the whole song.
It was an amazing finale to an amazing night. From ‘The Wall’ to ‘Waltzing Matilda’. Now, only Roger Waters could get away with doing something like that!