They cut the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in half. Many teams have tried, of course, but it took Roger Waters, his band of merry musicians and a literal army of crew folks to do it. They had no choice, for on May 19, 2012 there would be a rock spectacle like no other, and it would take a backstage area the size of half the Coliseum to do it.
To be fair I did not see the U2 360˚ Tour… a miss of spectacular proportions on my part and another missed concert to add to my list of live music regrets. This list HAS to stop growing!!!
According to some crew guys we were chatting up in the parking lot, that show had 150 trucks. The Wall only had about 70… I am blanking on the number they said… sorry, guys… but I’ll tell you, seeing the rows of 18-wheel rigs was a sight. Rob thought it was a truck yard at first, as there were just so many.
Usually the field is swathed in Trojan red and gold… but last night it was brick white, red and black… and a whole lot of grey. Seeing the Olympic torch ablaze was exciting and a beautiful and powerful site. The size and scope of this show is almost beyond words. The sound was perfect, probably the best I have ever heard. The walls of speakers, including the surround system that hung in cages from the back of the stadium were all crystal clear, which made the sound of helicopters, planes and machine guns that much more powerful.
A model plane flew from the back and onto the stage, causing a huge fireball. It was met with more pyrotechnics that were both real and projected, as amazing visuals and mind-blowing psychedelic images flashed across the wall that literally divided the stadium. And the pig… yes, a pig literally flew over and all around the crowd. More on that later.
Roger was in strong voice, as were my boys from Venice (Kipp, Mark and Pat Lennon)… Yet there were some major technical difficulties off the bat that literally forced Roger to stop in the middle of “The Thin Ice”, saying he could not hear himself and that there was something going on in the house. After about a ten minute delay and an apology from the man, he started from the beginning of the song and continued without issue.
This was one of a few things that broke the magic and messed with that proverbial fourth wall… which is a strange thing in itself. Rock and Roll is a live venture and shit happens… and of course the artists usually talk directly to the audience… but stopping mid-song snapped a dream like state. And so did the almost 9 pm start time, when tickets said “8 pm Prompt.” Sadly this was probably done for the LA audience who often trickle in after a show has started and leave before it is over.
The other issue was that we were sitting in what should have been an ideal row, the first row of the middle section. Yes, there was plenty of leg room but also an endless parade of vendors with large cardboard pretzel signs, glow-in-the-dark lemonade and people who clearly have no thought or knowledge of concert etiquette. This was only exacerbated by the extremely tall guy in front of us who sat “on top of” his seat like a five-year-old kid because, as he said, he “did not fit.” That in turn prompted us to sit at odd angles or stand, which then prompted the guy behind us to ask, “Are you guys gonna stand all night?” Granted he had two kids with him, but this was a Rock n’ Roll show people! Respect your neighbor and act like the real and righteous rockers you should be! To our credit, we sat whenever we could.
Although, there is no way I would sit for “Comfortably Numb”, one of my favorite songs of ALL TIME, an amazing thing to behold and a huge crowd rouser. Seeing vocalist Robbie Wyckoff (doing David Gilmour’s parts) and guitarist David Kilminster’s searing solo on top of the wall was an image I had seen before, but live was even more brilliant and amazingly powerful.
So now to the part that scares many folks… the politics of it all. Clearly, it has to be said. This is not a show you can simply look at as music and lights, as Waters himself is setting up very specific scenarios and notions. I have read his writings, I know his politics or at least some of them, and many of his thoughts are in direct conflict of what he himself preaches. He is most certainly a rocking contradiction.
War is bad, yes. The government cannot be trusted. I agree wholeheartedly. Beware of the police. Certainly videos on You Tube and the local news seem to support this, but I have always respected those with a badge. Then again, I am an average white guy who has had virtually no run-ins with the fuzz and have a very different and perhaps idyllic perspective on a lot of things.
Which country or religion seems to cause most of the turmoil? Well, let us just say that Roger and are I do not see eye-to-eye on this at all. I don’t even know if we are in the same stadium on this, but I would sure love to sit down and chat. Someone with beliefs that strong can be a great unifier, but I am afraid that the wall cuts both ways.
Roger Waters has an edge. Roger Waters has anger. Roger Waters has quite an ego and is all Rock G-d, self-proclaimed or not. His gestures are big and bold and he speaks from a very specific point of view. While he certainly tries to incite and rally the crowd, it is not coming from as unifying a place as say, Bruce Springsteen. I will admit that I felt a bit threatened. While he has crosses and crescent moons falling from the skies, there seems to be a preponderance of Stars of David… and when the pig starts to fly, one of the first things I noticed was how big and prominently the Star of David was featured on the chest, along with corporate logos like Shell.
Yes, this is a Rock n’ Roll show and can be looked at it on that level alone… but one cannot and should not ignore what Waters is saying both here and in his own writings. I find it one-sided and dangerous… and yes, even ignorant of reality and fact. I am strongly and fiercely opinionated. I do not hide that. But I also pride myself on being a student of history and getting to the truth… or at least as close as you can get… and not falling into propaganda and misinformation. If someone has a stage and a megaphone and a wall of speakers, they can say whatever they want… but don’t they have a responsibility to present both sides? Wouldn’t it be better to be a great unifier and bring people together? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to truly knock the wall down instead of building up another?
I feel a bit odd delving into these other areas while reviewing a show I really loved… but this is not just any show… this is The Wall.
The concert was amazing… a visual and aural masterpiece… a spectacle the likes of which I will probably not ever see again… unless U2 figures out a way to top themselves. I was amazed and blown away… I was mesmerized. So I will choose to take it as that and revel in that… and anxiously await the time I can sit down with Roger and have a nice chat. It could happen.