Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Wall Revisited

Roger Waters and band perform “In the Flesh?” at Fenway Park, 7/1/12.

So after a 32 year hiatus, I caught my second performance of Pink Floyd’s The Wall last week. Of course, a bit has changed since the first time. Back in February 1980, it was the original full (though not necessarily chummy) Pink Floyd putting on what seemed at the time a highly theatrical rock concert in the canyon-esque confines of the Nassau Coliseum.

This time, of course, it was Roger Waters solo – OK, plus the backing of 12 hired guns, including a few recognizable names (G.E. Smith, Dave Kilminster and Snowy White on guitars), who were obviously more beholden to do the master’s bidding than his former bandmates. It was also staged in gargantuan proportions at Fenway Park (one of a handful or two ballparks to host Waters’ extravaganza of sight and sound this summer).

In fact, songs and a bit of the storyline aside, the two shows are largely incomparable. Floyd’s original was epic in its majestic power and artistic reach. Waters’ new version is a bombastic sensory overload. Even the themes have evolved, with the modern rendition emphasizing the anti-war and Big Bro gov. aspects to far greater extent, while downplaying the personal paranoia and psychosis storyline of the original.

Yes, there were puppets, though fewer in the outdoors stadium, perhaps for fear the wind would set them careening around the city. Yes, there was projected animation, much more of it, in fact. That's because there was a whole lotta wall to fill. The Wall itself had to be three to four times the size of the original arena version, running from foul ball territory in left field all the way to Fenway’s famed centerfield triangle. The Green Monster was dwarfed.

The stage itself extended forward nearly to the infield dirt between second and third bases, leaving just a smattering of people in front of the stage since the Red Sox don’t allow concert fans to tread on the diamond itself.

Forty-two projectors flashed some familiar but massively expanded visuals on the Wall stage left and right, as well as on Floyd’s old circular screen above the drum riser and even on centerstage itself when the wall was completed, with portions opening up to reveal glimpses of the band behind during the second set.

The visuals were constant and relentless. At times, they even overshadowed the massive sound, something that never really happened the first time around. In fact, the whole show exuded a dense, busy and freneticism that was not there in the first, but undoubtedly fitting for of our times.

Of course, even without David Gilmour’s searing guitar and sonorous singing, there were musical highlights (though the famed “Comfortably Numb” wasn’t one of them – that classic just isn’t the same without ol’ Dave singing his parts and wailing that epic guitar solo from atop the Wall. Waters and Co. did, however, deliver rousing versions of “In the Flesh,” “Another Brick in the Wall,” “Empty Spaces,” “Young Lust” and others. Thankfully, the Brechtian climax of “The Trial” seemed a bit abridged. All in all, Waters’ Wall is still a spectacle worth seeing – even from the other side of 30 years.

Roger Waters and band perform “Young Lust” at Fenway Park, 7/1/12.

See “Another Brick in the Wall,” too. 

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