Friday, August 5, 2016
ROGER WATERS: THE WALL
(September 2015, U.S.)
The concert motion picture has been all but dead in the 21st Century. What little there has been has (tragically!) given us the likes of pathetic teen heartthrob flakes like Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus. We were, of course, also given RUSH: BEYOND THE LIGHTED STAGE (2010), but that's more of a documentary on the great band rather than a full-force concert experience. ROGER WATERS: THE WALL is not only a spectacular concert film taken from his 2010 stage tour of Pink Floyd's THE WALL album (which I saw, by the way!), but also a side look into the depth of the man himself, and often brings back memories of Led-Zeppelin's 1976 film, THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, in my opinion. And in case you think I'm cheating by posting a blog for a concert you may think was a straight-to-disc release, you're wrong. ROGER WATERS: THE WALL had (very) limited cinema screenings in London and America before it's DVD and Blu-Ray release, so it counts (so there!).
THE WALL has had quite a journey since the album debut more than thirty years ago. First a breakthrough double album and a relatively small 1980-1981 in which the band only performed the album itself. In 1982, it was an Alan Parker film that blew the mind and the senses. On July 21, 1990, it was a one-time live performance (with guest artists) in Berlin to signify freedom, unity and the demise of tyranny following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The most recent tour from 2010-2012 made, perhaps, the strongest and harshest political statement of anti-war during a time of global conflict and the threat of terror. Roger Water, THE WALL's original creator and also a known pacifist, staged one of the most ambitious and complex rock shows I'd ever seen that run for just under two hours. The film, directed by both himself and Sean Evans, gives us the concert in its entirety, but also breaks periodically to allow us to travel on the road with Waters from France to Italy as he searches to reconnect himself with the father he never knew, Eric Fletcher Waters, who was killed in action during World War II.
The film begins rather poetically and quietly with just Waters himself standing in a cemetery and playing the instrumental of the final song of THE WALL, "Outside the Wall", much in the way "Taps" might be played at an American military funeral and in a way that starts things off with a degree of sadness. But those of us who know the original album well also know that this, in a way, is a prelude to what will eventually explode into the opening song, "In the Flesh?", which is just how the show opens. The concert moves well at an energetic pace not only complimenting the original album lineup, but also the enthusiasm (if not madness!) of Waters and his performers. Unlike the original stage show of 1980-1981, the brick wall that is progressively built up brick by brick also serves as a screen to not only flash the original animated images of Gerald Scarfe, but also still pictures and films of real life people who have died as a result of war, as well as heartfelt anti-war messages. Here's a sample of some of the screen graphics and stage productions...
It's some of the darkest music that Pink Floyd ever produced, but it also knows when to be fun, as well, most notably when "Another Brick in the Wall-Part 2" is joined by a group of children on stage who sing and dance along with the second verse of the lyrics, "We don't need no education" as sung by British children on the album. It's also during one of the album's strongest rock anthems, "Comfortably Numb" (my all-time favorite Pink Floyd song!) that you really learn just how strong a following Pink Floyd has had over the years all over the world. Watch the audience closely during this song and you can see and feel the heart, soul and passion they exhibit as they sing along with the lyrics. The guitar solo, whether done by David Gilmour or a substitute guitarist, is always a riveting and climactic experience in what I can only describe as "guitar Heaven"!
If you've ever really followed the career of Pink Floyd and particularly Roger Waters himself, you'll know all-too-well that the man is not exactly your classic happy-go-lucky type. The man has moods, has anger and very often appears as constantly brooding throughout this film. Even as a man who is now a grandfather himself, he still cannot seem to come to terms and let go of the loss of the father he never knew. The 1983 Pink Floyd album THE FINAL CUT was practically written about nothing else. I suppose one can truly never get over going through life without a father, but it seems to have been the definitive staple of Water's entire creative career. Callous and insensitive as it may seem, one can't help but want to cry out, "Enough already! Get over it, man!" Roger Waters remains one of rock's greatest musical geniuses who gave us historical albums like THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, WISH YOU WERE HERE, ANIMALS and THE WALL, in my opinion, but I suspect I would not want to meet the man in person. If I was lucky enough not to immediately be told to "Fuck off!", then I'm sure the entire encounter with him would be a depressing state of affairs. No thanks!
Favorite songs performed:
"What Shall We Do Now" and "Comfortably Numb".