Roger Waters: The Wall, Manchester Arena – live review
16th Sept 2013
Pinnacle of prog rock frippary or genius show that is more up to date than ever? We sent along the masked man from the brilliant Evil Blizzard, Mark Whiteside, to review The Wall.
Have I just witnessed the Greatest Show on Earth?
When The Wall was performed at Earls Court way back in 1980 Roger Waters said it couldn’t be performed as he wanted, well I am sure in 2013 he can have no complaints.
I suppose the album sits in many a record collection and is loved by many people who like different music, not just the Prog Rock lovers. I know many people who hate The Floyd but love this album.
And I feel Roger knows that too. Hence the reason it is still touring after all these years.
Bringing the album back to the stage has been a triumph of modern music and technology.
The music tonight feels fresh and the visual impact leaves you breathless. The arena is packed with Proggers, Punks, Accountants (No Doubt), I even saw someone from one of those TV bargain hunt shows, but whatever their background I know they left feeling the same as me – that they had just witnessed something that was part rock show, part media extravaganza and part political rally only dreamed about in halls of Westminster! From the start of the show, I’ll call it this rather than gig, it is immense.
The sound in full Quadraphonic glory is the best I’ve heard in this shed and it hits you right in the gut. The sheer scale of the opener “Into The Flesh” is worth your ticket price there alone. Of course The Wall is a pretty dark album and over the next two hours the music takes you on a journey from childhood memories, faded rock star confusion, misguided fascist leader to reflective soul.
It is difficult to review the show in a way like a normal gig as there is so much to take in but if I can put it in context it’s like being transported into someone’s headspace, bombarded with a visual mind fuck and then kicked out at the end thinking “where have I been”! The songs are performed with his usual touring band and they do a great job, not just copying the album but adding their feel to it.
New musical pieces have been added and during Mother, Roger sings to a projection of himself from the 1980 show, describing himself as then Angry Roger. He must have mellowed in his old age as I’m sure he even laughed! The songs flow along and take you up and down with different emotions. In front of your eyes, The Wall is being built to separate you from the band and the projections fill it with scenes of sex, war and fantasy.
It’s a wonder what you can do with a few million pounds nowadays. The sounds that are being thrown around the room somehow disorientating and just when you think it’s building to its climax, it ends in an intimate solo moment of Goodbye Cruel World. After the interval (I hate this trend now) we are back to the fantasy and this is Rogers’s darkest moment. The next hour sees that song played, Comfortably Numb, cue much crowd hugging and mobile phone capturing.
Then it’s onto the rally. As I said earlier, many a politician would like this sort of media budget to portray their message but they don’t. He does, and it’s wonderful. Standing dressed in Black trench coat and screaming through the megaphone, this part of the show is its most disturbing but also enthralling. I’m sure people would follow his every word and do exactly what he wants. Of course this is only a rock show and not reality so people sit back down after hailing their love for the character in arms aloft, fists clenched praise. The show ends with The Trial, showcasing Gerald Scarf’s superb drawings and the Walls final curtain call of the bricks tumbling down to the ground.
The subtle Outside The Wall ending is touching and enables people to come back to normal life. 2 hours of show that leaves you wanting to see it again, just to take in all in. I can imagine the marketing men thinking about the 3D version but for now we shuffle out to the bootleg t shirt sellers in a daze and wonder will this show be topped? The greatest show on earth.. i think it just might be….
Set List for those who don’t know it! • In the Flesh? • Thin Ice • Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1 • Happiest Days of Our Lives • Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2 • Mother • Goodbye Blue Sky • Empty Spaces • What Shall We Do Now? • Young Lust • One of My Turns • Don’t Leave Me Now • Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3 • Last Few Bricks • Goodbye Cruel World Second Half • Hey You • Is There Anybody Out There? • Nobody Home • Vera • Bring the Boys Back Home • Comfortably Numb • Show Must Go On • In the Flesh • Run Like Hell • Waiting for the Worms • Stop • Trial • Outside the Wall
All words by Mark Whiteside