Today is Saturday (just pretend; suspend your disbelief), and last night a Wall was built across the Manchester Evening News Arena. It stood strong and tall but after a brief but intense Trial the bricks tumbled and a man called Roger, who once hated his audience, embraced a crowd of thousands.
Robbie (Derogatory of Surreal Knowledge and Tactical Thinking, who took that picture up top) and I sat higher than Mount Olympus with only one row of seats behind us. We viewed the stage almost side on, and a huge hanging cloud of speakers obscured our view of the circular projection screen at the back of the stage. Having not had the foresight to bring binoculars or opera glasses we could barely make out the tiny dots representing band members. They resembled insects so much that maybe a magnifying glass or microscope would have functioned better.
Behind us (the only seats behind us) sat the two most annoying cunts (yes, that’s right!) in the building. The Wall was originally seeded in Roger Waters’ mind after he became severely grouched with the behaviour of indifferent audiences. This lead to him spitting on a particularly irritating Canadian in 1977... ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? Now, thirty-four years later on the near-side of the Atlantic Ocean, two pissed-up Scousers sat behind me and Robbie talking all the way through the fucking gig. One of them even shouted CHOOOON as the band began to play Mother. When they weren’t acting as if they were in the pub, such as when they were nipping out for a bifter; it became a little easier to focus on the mind-blowing spectacle of the greatest rock n roll show in history.
The Wall is a concept album about isolation told through the life of a young man experiencing the death of his father, an over-protective mother, bullying teachers, fame, drug addiction and overdose, a failed relationship and a string of empty sexual encounters, flirtations with fascism, delusions, and eventually full-blown insanity. Each of these experiences is Another Brick in the Wall he constructs to protect himself from pain, humiliation, love and emotional dependence.
Through the first half of the show a giant wall is constructed across the stage between the band and the audience. Grotesque puppets of a tyrannical school master, scorpion wife, and psychotic mother tower over the audience. Roger comes in front of the wall to sing a duet of Mother with a projection and recording of himself thirty years younger.
There is a cringingly stupid and artless moment during Mother, when after the line ‘Mother, should I trust the government?’ the words ‘No Fucking Way!” are projected onto the wall. The crowd obediently cheer, selectively ignoring the relative extreme luxury and freedom we live in.
After a 25-minute intermission the band plays unseen behind The Wall. A brick is removed for Is There Anybody Out There? and a section folds down revealing Roger sat watching TV in a hotel room. From here he sings Nobody Home, but graciously allows the audience to scream ‘I got thirteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from’. Only thirteen?
|Pig (A Different One)|
During Waiting for the Worms (possibly my favourite on the album, and one of the most lyrically difficult), after Roger uttered the line ‘Would you like to see Britannia rule again, my friend?’ a noticeably large portion of the crowd cheered. My heart sank. If the two twats behind us could so deeply misunderstand the concept of being driven to self-enforced isolation, could it be that many have mistaken the vicious ironic fascism for genuine xenophobia? Perhaps they were just playing along with the spectacle, but I dreaded such a reaction to the next line: ‘Would you like to send our coloured cousins home again, my friend?’ Fortunately I didn’t detect a cheer for this twisted sentiment.
The crescendo of the entire show is the musical The Trial in which Roger takes many roles with a dizzying array of voices, and Gerald Scarfe’s wonderful animation is projected onto The Wall. It ends with a mass chant of TEAR DOWN THE WALL, TEAR DOWN THE WALL, TEAR DOWN THE WALL, before the whole structure literally crashes forwards onto the stage and security pit. Then the band comes out to play Outside the Wall on acoustic instruments, and to say their goodbyes.
Despite the odd gripe mainly to do with our seats, the show was tear-welling and unforgettable, and I would happily pay twice as much to see the show again with better seats. Roger was everything you want from Roger; the musicians and sound quality were world class (obviously); the pig was actually flying with a little propeller and no strings; the guy singing David Gilmour’s parts was a better singer; and the whole production looked amazing.