The Wall Live – still alive?

the wall liveOriginally we were hoping to see “The Wall Live” with former Pink Floyd-member Roger Waters during our one-week holiday in Prague, but the tickets were all sold out. By sheer luck we discovered that Waters would also give two concerts close to our home in Norway after we got back – this week. We went and had the pleasure of enjoying a two-and-a-half hour gigantic multimedia show that included the whole indoor football stadium, which was packed with almost 20,000 people.

Youthful retiree
Everybody was impressed. This tour is supposed to be his last. Waters turns 70 in less than a month, though his extreme vitality and athleticism seems to belong to somebody much younger. He also looked much happier than he was reported to be in his younger days. He was even nice to the audience (even spoke a few sentences of Norwegian), as opposed to the sour image of one who used to spit in the face of people on the first row. His happiness may also have come from his marriage last year to his fourth wife, and from the fact that his son Harry (from his second marriage) was playing with him in the band.

Fatherless generation
But we were also a little disturbed by all his youthfulness. When “The Wall” first came out in 1979, its deeply personal tone and emotional genuineness gave a truthful image of a whole generation lost in the fatherlessness of post-war confusion. Waters’ own father died in the last phase of World War II; the first leader of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, disappeared into drug-driven schizophrenia in 1968; Roger’s first wife divorced him in 1975. “The Wall” reflected all this, as well as the fears and the walls between us, but went even further in seeing through the glitz of rock stardom and into the potentially fascist face that lay behind. It combined the psychological history of an individual with a many-layered dissection of a whole culture.

No irony
And this time? It was just a repetition. True, the multimedia show went far beyond anything that could have been imagined more than thirty years ago. But contentwise, we had heard it all before. The songs of a 30-year-old were sung with the same complete identification now as then, as though nothing had happened in between. Of course, most 70-year-olds are happy to sing again the songs of their youth, but most would do so with a half-ironic smile, with some psychological distance, knowing well that those days are gone. There was no sign of such ironic distance in Roger Waters. Nor, for that matter, in his audience, which also largely (though not exclusively) consisted of greying men and women like ourselves.

Politically correct
Worse, Roger Waters was now ready to give extremely flat and uninspiring interpretations of his own “message”, reducing the multidimensional poetic voice of his early song and music to a teenager-like expression of naïve political pacifism. We all agree that war is bad and love is good, and his tendency to turn from the intensely personal to more conventional “left-wing” politics is nothing new (he did so already on his last album with Pink Floyd, “The Final Cut”, in 1983). But when the sweet little line “Mother, should I trust the government?” is answered onstage visually by the statement “No fucking way” (translated into Norwegian as “Ikke faen” in case the audience should be in doubt), even the youthful poetry disappears, and is replaced by the hard and uncompromising snarling of a consciously unruly teenager.

The show must go on
There is also a certain hollowness of including in such a multimillion-dollar show a number of lines basically stating that every weapon produced in this world represents theft from those who starve or are cold. The further we got towards the end of the concert, the more we got a feeling that this was no longer a serious attempt at exploring either the soul or the world, but simply a show, in which emotions and political statements were simply included as effects on a par with the inflatable pig in the sky, the light show, the smoke and the thundering music. And as the very last line said: “The show must go on!”

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