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“The Wall“ live – then and today

September 15th, 2010 Posted in DIMAVERY, worth knowing Tags: , ,

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the legendary live concerts “The Wall” in 1980/81, Pink Floyd’s creative head Roger Waters is going to travel the world one more time with his master piece. According to Waters, who turned 67 this month, it could be the final major tour. Concerts are also scheduled in Europe in summer 2011.

Pink Floyd have always been a bit different from other bands: When the quartet around singer and guitarist Syd Barrett came up in the mid sixties, they where one of the first bands with their own light show. At that time it was common practice that the concert organizers booked the bands and the light shows independently of each other. In the USA, there were some light shows that had the awareness level of a popular band. Pink Floyd integrated light in their shows quite early. They used all kinds of equipment that had been sorted out by theaters. The liquid slides used for the gigs at the UFO club were a symbol for the “Summer of Love” in London in 1967. As of 1969 quadraphonics became a substantial component of their stage show. With a device called Azimuth coordinator they were able to randomly pan sounds and instruments to loudspeakers placed around the hall. For the concerts to “The Dark Side of the Moon” starting in 1972 the show was refined once again: For the first time, specially designed films for songs like “Time”, “Money” or “Brain Damage” were projected to an enormous round canvas called Mr. Screen. During “On the Run” a burning airplane soared above the heads of the audience and crashed into the stage. And in order to even top that for the “Animals” tour in 1977, giant inflatable balloons portraying the main historical characters were put on stage. Previously, the legendary Pink Floyd pig had been on the album cover of “Animals”.

However, with the band’s rising popularity and the ever increasing venues, the distance between the band and the audience grew bigger. Roger Waters did not like this at all and thus swore to continue to perform only behind a wall at the tour’s final concert. From this craze he developed the concept to “The Wall” in 1978. For this he mixed details from his biography and that of Floyd founder Syd Barrett with several clichés of the rock scene to an angry and emotional plot. With each bad experience the protagonist immures himself more and more, until he is totally isolated from the outside world and came apart by his own thoughts. To effectively convey this concept on stage, the four-member band was complemented by a second surrogate band consisting of session musicians who wore rubber face masks and imitated the real band for the opening song “In the Flesh?” and then backed up the band for the remainder of the meticulously planned spectacle. For the second half of the show, the band was largely invisible, except for a hole in the wall that simulated a hotel room setting, where Roger Waters “acted out” the story of Pink, and an appearance by David Gilmour on top of the wall to perform the climactic guitar solo in “Comfortably Numb”. Other parts of the story were told by Gerald Scarfe animations projected onto the wall itself.

Roger Waters Pink Floyd 1980 part 1

As there was barely a hall designed for such a gigantic show in 1980, there ware plans to tour with a vermicular canvas tent. This structure should have been more than 100 meters long and 25 meters high and offer 3,700 square meters for an audience of up to 5,000 people. As the assembly of the equipment with a total weight of 45 tons was time-consuming by itself, they did not want to waste another day for erecting the tent. Thus only a few locations that were suitable for “The Wall” were selected. Among them were the Los Angeles Sports Arena, the Nassau Coliseum in New York, Earls Court in London and the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, which all had a 45-kilowatt PA system. Chris Thomas and James Guthrie, who had worked with Pink Floyd in the studio before, were at the mixing console. Only 24 hours before the first show in LA, the now world-famous light designer Marc Brickman got a call due to problems with the light effects. He used the opportunity as a springboard for his career, receiving numerous wards for his work afterwards.

Roger Waters Pink Floyd 1980 part 2

Eventually Pink Floyd broke over the megalomania of “The Wall” and the ego of the creative head Waters. The project, which was the central theme for the band from 1978 until the movie in 1982, was dominated by Waters as Pink Floyd desperately needed the revenues. They had been fooled by an investment swindler who lost more then 90 percent of their money. When tax back payment was due, the rest of the band had to do willy-nilly what Waters demanded. This also included that keyboarder Rick Wright had to leave the band after the tour as he provided little creative input. Even during the tour Wright only had the status of a session musician and did not receive a share of the revenues. However, this worked to his advantage since the tour closed with a serious deficit. Nevertheless, the loss was bearable for Pink Floyd as the double album with the massive hit single “Another Brink in the Wall” developed into the biggest success since “Dark Side of the Moon”.

Roger Waters Pink Floyd 1980 part 3

In 1990, Roger Waters repeated his show in front of several hundred thousands of people in Berlin. In 1989 he had joked that after the fall of the wall Berlin would be the perfect location for a repeat performance–and only few weeks later the wall did fall indeed. For the benefit performance for the Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief, Waters won a number of popular artists such as the Scorpions, Ute Lemper, Cindy Lauper, Marianne Faithfull, Bryan Adams, Joni Mitchell and Sinead O’Connor. At that time, Waters and his former band colleagues communicated only through their lawyers, thus David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright (back with the band after Waters’ leave) were not invited to the unique event. This major event was overshadowed by several technical problems, e.g. the PA’s delay towers temporarily broke down and had to be reconfigured at a vertiginous height. In addition, various artists forgot their lyrics. The particular parts had to be re-recorded at the studio for the live album and the video.

What will “The Wall” look like in 2010/11? It still remains a carefully guarded secret. The band will be similar to the Roger Waters’ last live setup and will only be complemented by additional singers. According to his own statements, Waters has been working for years on a Broadway version of his magnum opus but if other Floyd hits like “Money” will be part of the show, as announced for the musical, remains to be seen. What is certain is that the show’s anti-war aspect will play a major role in the remake. The death of Waters’ father in WWII in Italy will be part of the album and also an important brick in the wall. In the run-up to the current tour, Waters asked for pictures of fallen soldiers, which are to be shown on the wall during the show. We’ll know more after the opening concerts in North America before “The Wall” also comes to Germany in June 2011.


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