Live Review: Roger Waters’ The Wall At Staples Center, November 30, 2010

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With Roger Waters having sold out five arena shows in the Southland, it’s difficult to fathom there was anyone in the greater Los Angeles area that didn’t want to see him perform The Wall live this past week.

Unless, of course, you’re me.

When the publishers of Music Zeitgeist dangled a ticket to Waters’ Staples Center performance last Tuesday under my nose – with the understanding that a review would be required to follow – I demurred, much to their surprise.

Not because I didn’t want to see Waters turn in his latest, and most likely — last – live rendition of a transgenerational classic album.  No.  It was more because I felt that every balding, QWERTY-enabled 48-year-old within 300 miles was going to register their own inevitably, glowing $0.02, leaving little room to comment on behalf of Music Zeitgeist.

I presupposed the only kind of review fodder that could come from covering this event would be a la:

“Waters was note-perfect!”

The Wall live is a visual feast!”

…Which, as far as I ‘m concerned, is about a half step away from writing off-Broadway reviews for The Boystown Press.  Or doing PR for Coldplay.

Though, as it turns out, those comments are completely accurate.  The reason I know this is because I love music more than I love self-esteem, so I whored myself out for that Waters ticket.  Yes I did.  That godawful, cheap upper-level ticket in the back of the arena that L. Bearden Cartwright, executive publisher of Music Zeitgeist, so generously sprang for — with the understanding that it was attached to my soul with strings.

But here’s the kicker.  That ticket, the one which had me sitting so far away from the stage that I was literally receiving transmissions from the dark side of the moon on my cell phone, wound up being the best seat in the house.

It's so...BIG! Waters rallied to bring home the bacon at Staples (photo by the author).

Ordinarily, right about now, a concert review should devolve into a run-down of set list highlights, both aural and visual, peppered with some choice recollections of comments to the audience from the artist in question.

But seriously people, it was a live presentation of The Wall.  It’s not like there were any surprise numbers in there.  As for the production, well, let’s put it this way – this is the third incarnation of The Wall live (and the second time Waters has done it as a solo artist), so suffice it to say somebody has had ample time to refine the manifestation of his vision to Ginsu-like sharpness.  Even if this version was more amplified in terms of always-welcome criticism of war and government, I’m not going to spill pixels telling you something that’s been written elsewhere, probably ten times over for every city on this tour.

As for Waters’ comments, he took a moment to inform the crowd that he had just worked out that it had been 30 years, nine months and 17 days since he had last performed The Wall in L.A. (someone forget to tell him it had actually only been 24 hours, but hey – the man is pushing 70, so it’s mostly excused).  Then he performed a duet of “Mother” with himself using performance footage from Earl’s Court in 1980 — taking the opportunity to label the younger version of himself as “fucked up, miserable little Roger.”

Later, as he was closing the show with “Outside The Wall,” Waters admitted when he had performed The Wall in L.A. 30 years prior, he was disaffected from the rock music scene in general, calling himself as “disaffected Roger” — which admirably made him two-for-two in referring to himself in the third person for the evening.

Anyway, what really struck me about seeing The Wall was how fucking awesome the show was, made all the more fucking awesome by my nosebleed seat, which provided a commanding view of all goings-on Waters and company had to offer (if you try to tell me there was a better seat in which to watch a Stuka warplane physically dive bomb the wall from the back of the arena and faux-explode upon contact, I will call you and all of your unborn children liars).  And right after that thought struck me, I realized that inversely, all of the people who paid $250 to sit up front and breathe Waters’ exhaled carbon dioxide must be pissed off, because there is no way they could have been having a good time.

Imagine sitting in the front row at an IMAX presentation of Avatar in 3D.  Yes, now that you’ve conjured the correct amount of neck paralysis, coupled with a crippling migraine and partial loss of vision, you have a sense of what people sitting anywhere in the vicinity of the stage at must have experienced at The Wall live (including, I suppose, most reviewers).

But I was far from gloating in my observation — the pure irony that the baby boomers and yuppies who must have composed most of the audience closest to the stage had paid the most money for the worst seats – and instead was more awed by Waters’ genius.

After all, before the symbolism, before the art, before the rock opera, he initially conceived The Wall as a response to the utter disdain he held for Pink Floyd audiences in the ‘70s — so much so that he envisioned, then enacted, the literal building of a wall between him and his crowd –

…And ultimately made them pay for the privilege.

Now, 30 years later, with the concert business spiraling out of control and ticket prices rivaling the price of gold for the absurdity of perceived value, Waters has delivered a concert experience that truly flips the middle finger to his highest-paying fans.

Although, forgoing the excellence of the show’s projections and theatrical elements, I suppose there is something to paying for the privilege to be so close to an aging white guy that you’re at risk for his wayward nut sweat spraying upon your brow — IF THAT GUY DIDN’T SPEND MOST OF THE SHOW BEHIND A FREAKING WALL.

So, whether intentionally or not, The Wall live is “…a spectacle, not to be missed!” “A stunner of a show!” And “More relevant than ever!”

Provided you witness it from afar.

Bravo, Waters.  Bra-vo.

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