Posts Tagged ‘Concerts’

Roger Waters is taking the behemoth that is “The Wall” out on a major tour. Waters gained custody of it in the Pink Floyd divorce settlement. Tickets for the Dublin show go on sale Thursday, June 3rd. Even if you’re not familiar with the album, or you are but you’re not overly impressed, I recommend going for the sheer spectacle of it. Also, this may be Waters last major tour. I’ve heard that one before many times from many artists, so I’ll believe it when the next tour doesn’t happen. But I digress.

“The Wall” is more theatre piece than rock concert. It raised the stage-show bar to a seemingly unreachable level. Indeed, Pink Floyd seems to have had a hard enough time getting that bar up there. The show involved a 12 x 40 meter wall composed of cardboard bricks, which was erected during the performance between the audience and the band. Giant inflatable puppets and menacingly nightmarish animation by Gerald Scarfe overshadowed the band, and they could not be seen for much of the performance. It was a major undertaking, so much so that it was performed only a handful of times in four cities, and the tour lost money.

This time around “The Wall” seems to be playing every large auditorium and hall that is used as a rock venue, so I have to assume Waters and crew streamlined the process a bit. I also have to assume that the technological advances that have been made in media will result in this show being even more effective than it was when performed in 1980 and 1981.

As for the music. It spawned a couple of singles: “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)”, which never made sense to me releasing out if its album context, and the lesser known “Run Like Hell”. It also contains one of the Floyd’s greatest signature pieces, “Comfortably Numb”.

As an album, however, “The Wall” works better as a concept. It is part cautionary tale about how our experiences build walls around us (in this case literally), and the cyclic nature of how that is perpetuated through generations. It is also part Roger Waters’ biography, as lived through Pink, the protagonist of the piece. “The Wall” has some good points to make, but it’s a bit muddled at making them. Taking this as four sides of vinyl, as originally intended, “The Wall” has a strong start through most of side one. It’s logically sound at presenting the experiences that become the bricks in the wall and, more importantly, it sounds good. And the final side works well. It is mainly composed of anthems for a new fascist order and culminates in a marvellously twisted show tune about a self-imposed trial, during which the protagonist finds himself guilty of losing his humanity. But the journey between those two points often seems disjointed, confused, and too often less than we’d expect from Pink Floyd musically. Does an album about the separation between a performer and his audience need to create a barrier between a performer and his audience?

In the end, “The wall” can be seen as the point when Pink Floyd collapsed beneath the weight of their grand concepts, or perhaps more accurately, Roger Waters’ grand concepts. What was once a collaborative band started to seem more like Waters’ auteur vision. On one hand, he brought to the band a demo of the wall that was reportedly longer than the actual album, which the other lads approached cautiously. On the other hand he chastised his band mates for not contributing more to the album musically. The band fell out with each other big time, to the point where Keyboardist and founding member Richard Wright left the band, although he was “hired” as a musician for the subsequent tour. He and the other three members of Pink Floyd arrived and departed each performance in a separate vehicle, and Waters stayed in a separate hotel. After that tour, all four band members of this classic Pink Floyd line up did not play together again until Live 8 in 2005. To be fair, that event seemed to draw a line under the past, and nobody ruled out the possibility of another one-off gig for a good cause. Sadly, now that Richard Wright has passed away, the chance to see them together again is gone.

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Who’s that knockin’ on my door? Why, it’s our old pal Rod. You know him: life of the party, cheeky and naughty but never vulgar, leading the sing-song, pulling birds as easily as he pulls faces. Completely harmless and, by today’s standards, quite tame.

When Rod Stewart takes the stage at Dublin’s O2 arena, where he also performed the night before, he looks tired, as you might expect for a man in his mid 60s. But a few songs into his first set, you begin to realize that the old locomotive is just building up steam, and once up to speed he plays the entertainer every moment he’s on stage. To facilitate that, he smartly paces himself with a break halfway through each set, during which time the band does its own number, and a ten minute interval at the halfway point, for a cup of tea and to soak the welts he now doubt has from smacking himself on the backside.

Ostensibly, this is the “Soulbook” tour, and there are a couple of songs from that album, such as “Love Train” and “Rainy Night in Georgia”, and the band fill it’s solo spots with “Keep Me Hanging On” and the instrumental “Soul Finger”. With a three piece horn section and three outstanding backup singers, this band seems designed for this material. However, this is primarily a best–of show, tracking the many phases of Rod down through the years. This band proves itself to be an extremely versatile and professional show band, equally at home faithfully reproducing the hits, regardless of genre, as they are with full-on Motown. They even manage to make the staged banter and set peices look loose and natural, if not spontaneous.

Meanwhile, the man up front is doing his best to energize this audience. And, at first, this audience needs some energy – half of them are middle age, and the other half are older, with an extra ten percent of twenty and thirty somethings thrown in just to balance out the room a bit.

Rod doesn’t just expect people to sing along with him. He demands it on nearly every song. This is not to cover up a faltering voice – the years have been kind to Rod’s pipes, and there is no noticeable hint of betrayal in that combination of velvet and sandpaper. No, he just wants to make sure everyone has a good time.

And of course the audience knows pretty much every song. It’s hard work getting this crowd going, and Rod occasionally chastises them for not showing as much enthusiasm as last nights crowd, especially in regards to the band, but eventually the effort pays off. During the last quarter of the show even the most inanimate of the sell-out crowd are at least mouthing the words, and by the time we arrive inevitably at “Maggie May” and “Sailing” most of us are singing at the top of our lungs.

Speaking for myself, it was a pleasant night that passed quickly, but it never really caught fire, with the possible exception of “Hot Legs”, during which Rod kicked so many autographed footballs to the crowd that I began to think there was one for everyone in the audience.

I suspect the ladies in the audience would be more enthusiastic with their praise. Quite a few took every opportunity to attract attention to themselves, even the motor mouth behind us, who seemed more interested in discussing her daughter’s exam grades and barbeque season, regularly cried out “I love you Rod” and “play Maggie May” starting with the second song through to when it was finally performed.

Rod tried his best to show all the ladies a little love. So of course this inspired some to try a little harder, and finally the knickers came flying onto the stage. No, wait, that’s a Celtic United scarf. Well, I did say it was a tame.

If you missed this knees up, you’ll get another chance on July 31st.