By Paul "Lobster" Wells
Since attending Roger Waters’ San Francisco performance of The Wall – the monumental Pink Floyd concept album released in 1979 – I’ve had the songs playing in my head. But not the handful of songs that Classic Rock radio stations still play. No, in my head are the ones I had forgotten since the last time I dropped the needle on the double album.
And I still have that album. I never purchased the CD, nor the Live In Berlin 1990 release, performed in the no-man’s land on the former East German side of the Berlin Wall after it was torn down by hand after the Iron Curtain came down on the Soviet Empire. But in my house, The Wall survives in all its vinyl glory.
Was pleased to see CBS’ 60 Minutes do a segment about this huge concert production on Sunday, May 20. A few years back, when Roger Waters released an opera-like album about the French Revolution, I interviewed him on the nationally syndicated "Lobster’s Rock Box." It was via ISDN, as he did a day of recording with radio stations across the country from a studio in Los Angeles. By the time I spoke with him, he was well into the day, and our unseen time together was short. On the 60 Minutes piece, Steve Croft refers to him as "prickly at times"...and I would have to agree!
Photo: Christopher Victerio
However, the remarkable stage production, years in the making, is worthy of his genius. After the late Syd Barrett went mad and left the band he'd co-founded, people addressed Waters as "Which one's 'Pink'?" But Pink Floyd continued in its epic output over the decades, becoming one of the most influential and commercially successful rock bands of all time. At 68, Waters could very easily stay home and count the royalties. But instead, he is on the road with The Wall Tour. The Wall, originally staged in Europe in 1980, has been performed at only two U.S. venues – in New York and Los Angeles – before finally coming to San Francisco. At AT&T Park on Friday, May 4, expanded to four stories high, covering the bleachers from the left field grandstand to the right. I won’t attempt to review the concert itself. But it’s the staging that went far beyond anything I’ve ever seen. From the opening note – with fireworks shooting from the mammoth stage built over the wall in center field – to the closing – tearing down of the wall at the conclusion of the second act after building it up to completely obscure the stage by the intermission.
The entire wall was used as a projection screen, with images of colorful graphics, text, animation, stills and video footage – including live screens on either side – projected from three massive towers. The sound was sensational. Best use of a stadium setting ever. Large columns of speakers were mounted in the upper deck, giving a surround sound effect that truly made the helicopter at the beginning of "Another Brick, Part 2" sound like it was circling the ballpark. The inflatable characters, long a staple of the live Pink Floyd stage show since the 1976 tour in support of the Animals release included a floating pig, were still in effect. This time, the pig (black with red, glowing eyes and white graffiti) was paraded around the ballpark, at times floating high above, and at others, bouncing off the people seated at field level. It seemed to be attacked and ripped apart by part of the crowd as it deflated at the end of the performance. I’m not sure if that was its fate, planned or otherwise.
I am sure that the production was worth the $150 I paid for my seat at the club level. Also, I'm sure that the political sentiment of the crowd matched Roger Waters’ statements. When the lyric of "Mother" queried, "Should I trust the government?" the crowd roared at the projected answer on The Wall: "No f**king way!"
Paul “Lobster” Wells