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Roger Waters: The Wall Live


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Roger Waters and Sean Evans
Roger Waters the Wall

It is interesting how things from a distant past still resonate deeply with people even decades after they were first made and introduced. Pink Floyd's seminal album The Wall (EMI, 1979) was the pinnacle of this band's career, both artistically and commercially, arriving as a culmination after a decade of meteoric successes with one of the most successful recordings of all time, the hypnotic The Dark Side of the Moon (EMI, 1973) and Wish you Were Here. (EMI, 1975) It was bassist and songwriter Roger Waters' legendary fertile imagination that again yielded this phenomenal blockbuster in 1979. The wall became a metaphor for the intimacy the band had lost when it became a stadium attraction and turned into an epic ode to postwar alienation. It was the band's most ambitious undertaking, musically, conceptually and concert-wise. Under his leadership, the band would set out to achieve a herculean task in the form of a record, a theatrical performance and ultimately, a feature film. Pink Floyd's past albums featured musical contributions by all of the members, but lyrically, musically, conceptually most of it was Waters' ideas. On those albums, he busily exorcised his ingrained demons expounding through the records on gloomy human themes rooted in the grief for his father's death in WWII when he was just a three months old. It could be said that this record was his first solo record due to the deeply autobiographical subjects ingrained in the songs. This resulted in building of a wall as a symbol of denying and avoiding painful aspects of our existence, something that is shared by many people.

The Wall story is a complex one and during different times, different aspects of it have risen to the surface. From a rock star's alienation as best portrayed in Alan Parker's film to symbolizing political divisions, as when Waters staged the performance of the Wall in Berlin in 1990, on a location that was known as a no man's land between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate where the Berlin Wall once stood and divided the East and the West. What The Wall, its songs and messages mean today, both to its creator and the audience, it can be best seen and heard in Roger Waters The Wall Live documentary. Doubts and fears are deeply ingrained in the story's core and those have become even more evident because of the newly found context reflected in a world overflowed with distrust and paranoia. With the gigantic upsizing of the technical aspects of the concerts with stadium sized dimensions, the many stories that are layered within this complex work of art now tell a story about the whole wide world for the entire world.

Premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2014, on the 29th of September 2015, this part concert film and part documentary was screened at hundreds of cinemas worldwide in a one-off occasion for a single day screening. Directed by Roger Waters and Sean Evans, the concert footage was shot during the three-year tour which saw Waters performing the Wall to enthusiastic audiences worldwide and it is simply spectacular. Relying heavily on several on-stage and off-stage cameras, the film provides extended close-ups of the band members in action. The audience gets the front row spots and throughout it is literally in the thick of it. The opener "In The Flesh" resembles more like a political rally than an ordinary concert, with Waters' dressed as a military leader while the crew members are dressed in special ops gear and overlooking the crowd. The editing is superb especially when the footage moves from ruminations about Waters' family life to concert footage or to intensify concert effects. The sound effects of Stuka warplane (German attack airplane) attacking the audience combined with light effects, pyrotechnics and animation, it literally transports people in attendance on to a battlefield.

More than any other incarnation of The Wall, this documentary goes deep into Waters' core motivations as an anti-war activist and social commentator. The concert footage is interspersed with vignettes of Waters, who now closely looks like actor Richard Gere, going on a pilgrimage to war cemeteries in Europe including the grave of his grandfather who was killed in WWI as well as the memorial in Azano in Italy where his father was killed in 1944. Both his grandfather and his father were killed when their offspring were three months old. There is a moving scene when Waters all in tears reads the letter of condolence signed by the King that his mother received where she was thanked for the sacrifice she has made. In a way, Waters is connecting his grief with the grief of people today who are victims of political, commercial and religious interests. He and his family were also a victim of foul plays by politicians that resulted in two WW.

The scene when bombers drop various religious symbols and company logos carries powerful messages of direct causes of wars and conflicts, or the modern day aerial footage of American choppers "lightnin' people up" on the street of Baghdad for no obvious reason achieve a strong effect. Simply, these images of violence and victims are spread all over the gigantic screens in an attempt to turn people's attention to misuse of power. Waters criticizes politicians and warmongers for their increased use of violence and fear. This is exemplified by the children's choir wearing t-shirts with "Fear builds walls" message as they sing "Another Brick in the Wall." In this foul world, fear, political hypocrisy and demagogy, recession and poverty serve as bricks of a wall that has to be torn down. The initial personal story which reflected the alienation and the insecurities now receives a boost as it merges with a severe critique of modern day ills such as wars, capitalism, consumerism, and corruption.

The whole film combined is a gigantic entertainment juggernaut, but Waters is a master of making massive events an intimate affair. The technology of today is what has allowed him to stage the show more effectively. But in amidst the whole theatricality, The Wall documentary is a surprisingly intimate, thought-provoking and human thing.

The Wall Live
Legacy Recordings

Released in various formats, as a two-CD, triple-vinyl, and digital format, the track listing of Waters' The Wall Live closely follows the original 1979's The Wall album. The selections were masterfully culled from the 2012-2013 tour which at the time was the biggest tour by a solo artist. During that tour, he played well over 200 shows and the tour was seen by more than 5 million people. Produced by Nigel Godrich, renowned for his work with Radiohead and Paul McCartney, this live rendition of Pink Floyd's masterpiece is nothing short of a brilliant. It easily transports you into the concert's first rows offering a taste of the excitement and electricity that hovers in the air.

It was Roger Waters and Pink Floyd who began performing an entire album live starting from Waters' all-star performance of The Wallin Berlin in 1990 and the Gilmour-led Pink Floyd released a live version of Floyd's masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon as a second disk on their Pulse live album. Also, this is not the only live rendition of The Wall as the band released Is There Anybody Out There?, a fantastic live album assembled from the band's tour in 1980-1981. Waters' band is great and a fine example of great musicianship although at moments may lack the edginess of the original band. Even though most of the time it is a faithful track —by track rendering of the original The Wall album, the details reveal all kinds of tiny embellishments and intricacies within the original arrangements which may not be evident on first hearing. Those carefully interwoven details are one of the strengths here and they refresh the songs which are well too known and makes them more than a mere replication of the songs. There is a new song with a strong anti-war message, "The Ballad of Jean Charles de Menezes," and two songs which were not on the studio album as were pulled in the last minute: "The Last Few Bricks" and "What Shall We Do Now?"

The Wall live merges the powerful sound of the studio album's production while maintaining the feel of a live show. Taking into account the storied history this music has, its complexity and the expectations accumulated by years of listening that come along, the live expose of the Wall is really a Herculean task. With it, Roger Waters continues to remind fans why he is still around and why he is still relevant.

Tracks and Personnel

The Wall Live

Tracks: In the Flesh?; The Thin Ice; Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1); The Happiest Days of Our Lives; Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2); The Ballad of Jean Charles de Menezes; Mother; Goodbye Blue Sky; Empty Spaces; What Shall We Do Now?; Young Lust; One of My Turns; Don't Leave Me Now; Another Brick in the Wall (Part 3); The Last Few Bricks; Goodbye Cruel World; Hey You; Is There Anybody Out There?; Nobody Home; Vera; Bring the Boys Back Home; Comfortably Numb; The Show Must Go On; In the Flesh; Run Like Hell; Waiting for the Worms; Stop; The Trial; Outside the Wall

Personnel: Roger Waters: bass, lead vocals, acoustic guitar, trumpet; Graham Broad: drums, percussion, ukelele; Jon Carin: keyboards, lap steel guitar, programming, high-String guitar, acoustic guitar,electric guitar, lap Steel; Dave Kilminster: guitars, banjo; Snowy White: guitars, bass; Harry Waters: Hammond organ, keyboards, accordion; G. E. Smith: guitars, bass, mandolin; Robbie Wyckoff: lead vocals, percussion (songs or parts of songs originally sung by David Gilmour); Jon Joyce: backing vocals, percussion; Kipp Lenno: backing vocals, percussion; Mark Lennon:—backing vocals, percussion; Pat Lennon: backing vocals, percussion.

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