Monday, May 21, 2012

Roger Waters "The Wall Live" at the L.A. Coliseum (May 19, 2012)

There's a theory that only a certain number of incredible things can happen to any one person in a given day, but I don't subscribe to it. I think an infinite number of amazing things go down all the time, and Saturday's experience for Kat and I at Roger Waters' "The Wall Live" is a good example of this theory.

The Warm Thrill of Confusion, That Space Cadet Glow
We took off from home toward downtown very early. This turned out to be a blessing, but not for the reasons you might think. Traffic on the Harbor Freeway on the way in at about 5PM was surprisingly very light, and we arrived at the L.A. Coliseum and parked without incident. There was a very interesting crowd gathering there. Pink Floyd (and therefore Roger Waters) attracts a really wide variety of people and age groups. One thing that is very pleasing to me is the number of high school and college age people we saw there. Roger's music crosses generations, and seems especially relevant today, given his refocusing of the socio-political aspect of "The Wall". As we cruised through the parking lots, the people around us were old and young, drugged and sober, straight and gay, wealthy and not-so-wealthy, and mixed in racial makeup. That's a good thing to me.

Kat and I are generally pretty happy people, but being in front of the stage at "The Wall Live" was one of our happiest moments.

Goodbye Blue Sky
When the gates were about to open, Kat and I went toward the entrance. The moment we first walked out of the tunnel onto the field area and saw the stage and the wall structure was one I won't soon forget. However, we still had to figure out where our seats were; due to some ordering confusion, we'd ended up with wheelchair access seats, and neither Kat nor I have any disability. One of the security staff -- to whom I am eternally grateful -- recommended that we seek out one of the ticket hospitality desks to see if they could exchange them for more standard seats. We strolled up to the area, and after awhile of explaining the situation, they gave us new tickets. We were literally first in line at the hospitality desk, and if we'd arrived any later, there's no way that the next thing that happened would have ensued.

Empty Spaces
The first good sign I got was when we entered the stadium again and a security guy glanced at our new tickets. "Field 2? Whoooo!" he exclaimed as he waved us on, and Kat and I went down the stairs to the field, then toward the stage. And we kept going. And going. The next thing I knew, I was entering that holiest of holy places, the set of seats in the front and center of the stadium. Kat and I have since decided that we quite possibly had the best two seats in the entire Coliseum. We were close enough to see the facial expressions of Roger and his band, and yet far enough back to see the incredible spectacle of the stadium-sized wall. More on that later.

I think if we were ever going to have the best stadium show seats of our lives, this was a good time for it to happen. Top photo by Kat.

Holy shit, these are our seats?!?! YEAH!!!!! Photo by Kat.

Seriously? We're actually sitting here?

Waiting for the Worms
After all the running around for the tickets, Kat and I got some food and drink and relaxed for awhile. In fact, we relaxed longer than we'd expected; the concert didn't start until 45 minutes after the scheduled time. It wasn't a big deal. I suspect that in typical LA fashion, so many of the seats were still empty right at 8PM that they held out the start of the show. Traffic was kind of a nightmare right around the Coliseum, so it's not a surprise that the stadium didn't fill up until later. But fill it did. And then, the show started.

Local kids join Waters onstage during "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2). Photo by Kat.

With Your Ear Against the Wall
The first error you can make in thinking about Roger Waters "The Wall Live" is that it's a rock concert. Granted, there's an amazing rock concert that happens along with the context of the overall show. It has Waters sounding stronger vocally than I've ever heard him before, and being a shockingly animated and engaging front man, staling the length of the hundreds of feet of stage throughout the performance. It has a cast of supporting musicians who do a perfect job of bringing the music of The Wall to life flawlessly. The sound system was without a doubt the best I've ever heard at an outdoor stadium show.

Beautiful Kat smiles at me as we return to our seats during the intermission.

The Hammers Batter Down The Door
But the music was just one aspect of Waters' masterpiece of live performance art. The titular wall itself acts as a projection screen for 42 high-definition projectors, and purely from a graphic/aesthetic standpoint, the look of the entire stadium was jaw dropping. But it wasn't just a batch of pictures and animations; Roger Waters has brought out The Wall this time for a specific reason. He says:

30 Years ago when I wrote The Wall I was a frightened young man. Well not that young, I was 36 years old.

It took me a long time to get over my fears. Anyway, in the intervening years it has occurred to me that maybe the story of my fear and loss with it’s concomitant inevitable residue of ridicule, shame and punishment, provides an allegory for broader concerns.: Nationalism, racism, sexism, religion, Whatever! All these issues and ‘isms are driven by the same fears that drove my young life.

This new production of The Wall is an attempt to draw some comparisons, to illuminate our current predicament, and is dedicated to all the innocent lost in the intervening years.

I found that the messages of the show were very much in line with my own guardedly-positive outlook of life, and it added tremendously to the experience.

One thing that particularly impressed me: during the second song of the night, Waters was singing "The Thin Ice", and there was a problem with the PA and the stage monitoring. A notorious perfectionist, he stopped the song for a few minutes while the tech crew rectified the situation, and started again. That told me of his complete commitment to bring this show and its message to all 50,000+ of us in the exact way it was meant to be delivered. I loved it.

Are All These Your Guitars?
Given its task of replicating The Wall on a note-for-note, sound-for-sound basis, the band was incredible, and merit some well-deserved recognition and kudos. Three guitarists -- Dave Kilminster, Snowy White, and the always excellent G. E. Smith -- were employed to fill in for the absence of David Gilmour. Kilminster handled most of the lead guitar work, but all three were fantastic. Graham Broad handled drums very well, while Jon Carin and Roger's son Harry Waters were respectively excellent on keys and organ.

Some special credit has to be reserved for the vocals. Obviously, Waters himself handled the majority of the lead vocals, as per the album, but the parts sung by Gilmour were handled adroitly by relatively unknown singer Robbie Wyckoff. There were also four backing vocalists who did an amazing job (those of you who know me and my music are aware that I have an appreciation for good backing vocals). Jon Joyce was joined by the singing family comprised of Kipp Lennon, Mark Lennon, and Pat Lennon (the latter three known as a local folk band called Venice).


You Are Only Coming Through In Waves
I won't go through the experience of "The Wall Live" in any more detail than I already have. If you need a more clear picture of what it was all about, look at some of the videos below... they're all from the show Kat and I saw Saturday night (thanks, people who put them on YouTube) and mere words don't do justice to what we saw.

The bombastic start of the show.

This video of "Mother" was shot from almost exactly where Kat and I sat.

We get machine-gunned by Roger Waters during "In the Flesh".

You can see some of the amazing wall projections during "Comfortably Numb". Watch at about 5:20 for a particularly cool one.

All Alone, or in Two's, the Ones Who Really Love You, Walk Up and Down Outside the Wall
Kat and I had an interesting conversation when looking back on the show immediately afterwards. It's probably more telling than anything else I can say to describe it.

ZAK: What was your favorite part?
KAT: All of it.
ZAK: Yeah, me too.

When the show was over, I felt like I'd fought 10 rounds in a boxing ring... but happily so, and sad that I couldn't fight some more. Photo by Kat.

The show finally ended at about 11:30, and we made our way back to our car, and then enjoyed the hour-plus that it took to get out of the parking lot and back to the freeway. But it didn't matter; both Kat and I knew we'd had an experience that was far beyond memorable. It was something we'd never again replicate, nor would we want to. It stands alone as a singular amazing memory that will last a lifetime.

No comments: