I’m not really one for “classic rock.” The genre is still alive and, in 2012, producing music that at some point in the farther future may well considered “classic;” it seems a bit early to be proclaiming music that will stand the test of time. Thirty years is not a long span; we’re still within the lifetime of three of the four musicians who comprised Pink Floyd when The Wall was released in 1979. One of them, Roger Waters, brought a crack band (with no other members of Pink Floyd) and a frankly astonishing stage production to Vancouver a few days ago for a show at BC Place, at which the entire album, originally two LPs, was performed.
In great physical and musical shape at 68—he sings and plays bass—Waters managed to humanize the whole heavy album; he was clearly having a great time. It’s been ages since I heard this music; I was sixteen when it was released, so it brought back a lot of memories. In general Floyd hasn’t aged as well for me as some of the other bands of the era, but there’s some great music here. I was always surprised that critics didn’t seem to notice how the album stood out from the rest of the band’s work: it is not only more musically varied than their three preceding releases, never mind the less conventional work that preceded those, but also has some really tuneful compositions: not just the hit “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” (I prefer parts 1 and 3 myself), but “Mother,” “Hey You” (performed here behind a completed wall so the band was totally hidden), and “Comfortably Numb.” Not to mention a few good rock tunes, “In the Flesh,” “Young Lust” and “Run Like Hell.” And not all the rest is filler. Even “The Trial,” a sort of show tune, worked pretty well as Waters mimed and performed various voices.
The themes of the work have, by Waters’ own admission, been broadened from his own original alienation and dissatisfaction with superstardom, and there were a lot of effective and affecting themes of exploitation and commercialization depicted visually. The sets and visuals are breathtaking. It’s almost impossible to describe in words the scale or indeed the beauty of the sets and in particular the images and animations projected on the wall and on the screen behind it. For once, exorbitant ticket prices seemed justified: it must take an awful lot of people and effort and money to pull this off and cart it around the world.
The crowd seemed a bit less enthusiastic than I would have expected, especially given the quality of the show and performance. But one thing I found interesting was that in the age of the Internet the general population seems better informed than I believe they would have been twenty or thirty years ago: clearly everyone knows who Roger Waters is, while during Pink Floyd’s heyday it would only have been the hardcore fans—like me—who knew the members’ names. If this show returned (I missed it in 2010), I’d go see it again; and I can’t say that for many concerts. On the other hand, I’m not that much more likely to go back to this music regularly now. Even if I still had my vinyl copy from ’79 (sadly, lost in a divorce), I don’t have a record player. But I did call up a few of the tunes on YouTube in the days following the show. At any rate, thank you Roger and all involved for a great night.
Photos © 2012 Stella Regina