Friday, December 3, 2010

And the Worms Ate Into Our Brains: on the Roger Waters The Wall Live 2010-2011

I cannot speak for everyone. I will not. I will speak for myself. Not for the drunks. Not for the fools. Not for the douchebags who think that this is just music to get stoned to or that getting stoned is an end to itself. I will speak. I will comment.

The Wall was released by Pink Floyd in November '79. Roughly 3 years before I was born. The original tour was only 31 shows between '80-'81. (still unborn). It was performed by Roger Waters (he was no longer in Pink Floyd and they were elsewhere at the time) in 1990 in Berlin to commemorate the falling of The Wall. (Mother should I trust the government? I was six at the time.) There are/will be 100+ performances of The Wall Live. I am newly 27.

I love Pink Floyd. Or, I love the Roger Waters era, the four classics, and enjoy the rest. Those four albums resonate with me. I am not alone in this. The movie was a defining moment (in college, in Justin's room before he poured fruit punch over my head and Matt's alpaca comforter and we started drifting apart). I was late coming to music. Maybe that explains my anachronistic affiliations. It is what it is. I don't feel the need to explain myself. My guesses are the alienation and the vitriol, the madness and the quotidian. I wasn't listening to the album up until now. Rather a mix of my Recently Added folder. But maybe I should. Or maybe that's part of the problem.

The show was down in Lauderdale and we listened to Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown on the drive. I didn't want to be listening to anything too similar to the show I was about to enjoy. [I have, it would seem, lost my notes on the show - this will all be coming from memory.] The GPS kept trying to direct us down roads we didn't think were faster. I think it didn't want us to take the turnpike. Whatever. We got there fine. Early. Early enough that we walked past all the tailgaters, each and everyone one of them blaring the album from their tinny car speakers. There is a scene in PCU where Jeremy Piven reproaches Jon Favreau for wearing the shirt of the band he is going to see ("Don't be that guy." / "You are so fucking money and you don't even know it.") There were more of those guys at this show that I could count. (It got worse once people were able to hit the merch tables and then wear the shirt of the show they were at at the show they were at. Prices seemed to run ~$40 - $60 but how else do you fund a $60M production?). But those people, ultimately confused me less that the people blaring the music from their speakers that they were about to see live (and this was a show to see live). Even worse were the folks who played the album on their drive home. That perplexed me most of all.

Who are these people? was a recurring question. Tickets weren't cheap. And we were in the cheap seats. The seats where your options were having your view obstructed by projection equipment or hanging speaker towers. So who where these people?

Pink Floyd is a popular band. Was a popular band. (Hard to put the right verb in their since the band was legall battling over who could and could not use the name and doesn't technically exist anymore). Was so popular a band that Johnny Rotten had to hate them on principle. But that was a long time ago. I've seen Roger Waters live performing Pink Floyd twice now. But that's sort of the point, though.

Roger Waters, 67, is performing the music of Pink Floyd, the music that he cowrote 30 years ago.
The show was amazing. The visual effects (that we were able to see) were cutting edge. The combination of new and old animations by Gerald Scarfe were perfect. The move to increase the anti-war, anti-capitalist message over the message of postmodern alienation was on point and thus fell on deaf ears.

After all, who are these people? Kids who came to the music by chance? because their parents listened to it? because they liked drugs or the idea of drugs? The guys and gals who have loved the band since Syd was still singing about bikes?

I made a point of noting, with wry disappointment, that if this whole crowd was so anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-racist they must also be anti-voting given the recent election results in Florida. Which, I suppose, is possible if they are just pro-booze, pro-drugs, pro-sitting around doing nothing.

I'm jaded. When I saw my first Waters show I was less political and thought that he was pushing the concepts a little to serve his new message. Now I just think that it doesn't much matter. Those of us that agree already agree, and those that don't aren't coming to his shows to be persuaded to change their politics. They are coming for something else entirely.

What that is, exactly, I'm not quite sure. I think it has a lot to do with the sense of false nostalgia that I have referenced before. I mean, are we coming to see a show that barely played 3o years ago? Did some of the patrons miss it the first time around because it only played New York and L.A. (in America)? Is it a case of missed opportunities? I missed them because I was too young, he missed them because he lived in Florida. Maybe. And maybe that is all it is, for some of them. But not for most of us. I could never have been at an original performance. Could never been at a show from the In the Flesh Tour that gave rise to the sentiment that built the album. My parents hadn't even met at that point. So what then is this? What then is this fascination with the world that has passed before our eyes? Is it a postmodern desire to reappropriate? These are the things I have chosen to define my self and my facebook page and therefore these are the activities I will pursue. Is it a postpost concept we have yet to fully understand? This is good music, live music is good, I want to hear this good music live, fuck the chronological consequences. But then why not just go see a performance of The Machine (they're much cheaper). Clearly the show was worth seeing. The money behind it produced an amazing sequence. I would say cutting edge effects, but I might be wrong about that. The projections, though, were clearly beyond what a tribute band could afford to handle. Is it about being there? Even if we weren't able to be there before? A question of presence made manifest by the number of pictures people had to take of each other waiting in line (to prove to facebook that this shit happened, damnit).

I don't want to sidetrack the issue. The show was amazing. I would go again. I would consider paying the premium for floor seats. The experience was real. And I "was there" at one of those "you had to be there" situations. Except so were a lot of people. A lot of people who may have gone home to sober up, to wonder why Roger Waters (a Brit) is so anti-American, and to love the fact that they heard that band they liked in person (even if Roger Waters was the only original member there was still that guy from the Saturday Night Live). I can't really say what the majority opinion was after watching the show. Though, during the show, the woman sitting next to us proved to be an idiot and her husband was blazing (this was a rare moder show where audience members still raise lighters in a show of support because they have brought them in to light their joints). Their opinions were insipid and unrelated to the "message" of the show. The people sitting behind us were vocally offended by the brief nudity. So, maybe people just came for the music not the message (which though it has progressed over the years hasn't changed significantly - look at the lyrics). If that was worth the money for them, who am I to say that they shouldn't be there. That only those who believe the "true message" should be allowed into the holy of holies (because I frankly doubt my general opinions match those of Roger Waters either - though for different reasons).

It seems we come to a point, then, where we are all there because of the music, because the music meant something to us. Did it mean what the "authors intended"? Likely no. Does that make that reading of the text wrong? Again, no. I want to criticize those individuals who have such a facile appreciation of art, of music, of literature, but saying that they can't like it, can't enjoy it because they "can't appreciate it like I do" is bullshit. Especially considering that I likely also approach it in the "wrong way" and I am not apologetic about how it have reached the music. Some people like Pink Floyd because it's great music when you're stoned, some like it because it is great music for this or that occasion, because they heard it first at a defining moment, because their favorite cousin let them borrow the LP. And we like live music. We like to go out and be among the faithful. This was a church service to many. If Roger Waters is the only one preaching at the Church of Floyd, so be it. We will come. And we will sing. And we will all be there in the flesh. And the worms will eat into our brains.

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