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|I Am Skooter|
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
I see a lot of shows, but I don’t see a lot of large shows. The last show I saw in anything approaching an arena was probably about twenty years ago when U2 toured the Achtung Baby. The truth is, arena shows leave me hollow most of the time.
Like a lot of people my age, I first heard The Wall as a teenaged kid when the anthemic Another Brick the Wall (Part II) was a fairly major radio hit. In my case, a slightly older friend living next door introduced me to the full album along with Dark Side of the Moon. There’s nothing remotely surprising about that: it’s almost a cliche.
The Wall has always and unabashedly been a concept album and the visual aspect of it is as important as the music. As a concept album it’s aged well in both respects: while the album makes clear references to World War II, there were numerous references in the live show to wars that have come (and gone) since those days. Waters’ personal politics are on display in the form of Shell and Mercedes-Benz logos being dropped as bombs during Goodbye Blue Sky. The lyric “Mother should I trust the government” was accompanied by the message No Fucking Way scrawled along the wall in enormous letters. Images of repressed and poor people were contrasted with a pretty clear dig at the cult of Apple as the words iTeach, iLearn and iPay appeared.
There are aspects that feel dated. Background tracks that include distant, faded voices over a phone accompanied by the sound of dialtone, a sound that’s rapidly disappeared from our lives. The images on The Wall fracture at one point as the glass of a television is smashed, something that’s virtually impossible in the modern flat screen era.
For the most part, though, The Wall has—like all great works of art—aged well. Concept albums often have an earnestness to them that can make them seem forced and makes them fail. The Decemberists’ The King is Dead was marketed as one, and it just seemed pretentious; Rush’s 2112 predates The Wall but it seems like a relic of its time at this point. The Wall doesn’t. Written years ago by “that poor miserable fucked up little Roger,” as Waters describes his younger self, it’s an inspired work.
I suspect the irony of a tour that costs tens of millions of dollars to stage isn’t lost on Waters as he stands in front of an audience that’s paying as much as a few hundred dollars for a couple of hours of entertainment. Those Shell and Mercedes-Benz logos dropping from the sky are, after all, being transported around the world by 95 fuel powered trucks. I’m not sure the audience, having already paid their hard earned money, cared. For most of the 40,000 people who were there slavish devotion to the spectacle was the point, after all.