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Friday, February 11, 2011
Rebuild the wall!
I was in the eighth grade when I first heard about Pink Floyd. One afternoon in algebra class, I was sitting around with a group of my fellow students talking about music. At the time, I was big into Guns n' Roses and Z100. One kid mentioned the band and suggested that I give Dark Side of the Moon a shot. "Your parents will have a copy in their record collection. I guarantee it." He took on an aura of a monk passing down sage wisdom on a mountaintop.
Sure enough, my dad had a copy on both vinyl and CD. I remember putting it one night while I worked on my Project REACH diorama. The strange instrumental "On the Run," was like nothing I'd heard before and a far-cry from Bryan Adams' Waking Up the Neighbors, my favorite album OAT up to that point. I couldn't get enough. Within a month, I had devoured most of the band's discography and was running around school in a Wish You Were Here t-shirt.
The Wall was my favorite of the bunch and a perfect soundtrack for a moody adolescent convinced that John Lennon and Kurt Vonnegut were the most brilliant minds in human history. I desperately wished I had seen the band's disastrous 1980 tour to promote the strange concept album.
It was one part concert, one part psychedelic opera, complete with gigantic puppets, a floating pig, an exploding jet prop and a colossal wall set that was slowly constructed, brick by brick, by stagehands over the course of the first half of the show. It was too far ahead of its time and closed after a handful of costly performances.
Decades later, Pink Floyd mastermind Roger Waters opted to resurrect the show for a worldwide tour. I saw the Tacoma leg back on a rainy night last December and it was fairly mind-blowing, definitely the most elaborate concert I've ever seen. The giant puppets, the wall, the exploding plane and a revamped pig were all there, in addition to improved special effects. Roger's voice still sounded great to boot.
The best bit: the films that appeared on the wall during the show. Much of them consisted of dusted-off animations from Pink Floyd: The Wall, an impossibly depressing but rather brilliant film version of the album from 1982.
A quick plot synopsis: The Wall tells the tale of "Pink," the disillusioned lead singer of a fictional rock band. Ransacked by addiction, childhood trauma and his wife's affair with another man, he descends down a hallucinatory path of self-destruction and chaos, closing himself off from further hurt and the world at large behind a metaphorical wall. When his manager discovers Pink strung-out in a hotel room, he pumps him full of uppers and sends him perform at a concert where he imagines himself as a fascist dictator.
It's all incredibly preposterous and pretentious, I must admit, but acted out on stage with puppets and CGI weirdness, it's enough to make the cynicism of any classic rock fan melt in five seconds flat. For me, at least, the album is the final nail in the classic rock canon and a smart, vicious critique on the "Boomer Generation."
At the end of the show, after a strange animation sequence set to "The Trial," the wall explodes, sending its bricks across the stage. All things considered, the album and props would make a great, if weird, Broadway musical. At the very least, it would be a lot more entertaining than Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark.
Reportedly, the show will be filmed during a six show stint in London in May for a release on Blue Ray sometime later. Until then, here's a herky-jerky iPhone clip from the Tacoma show featuring "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2."