No expenses were spared for the latest instalment of Pink Floyd founder, Roger Waters’ The Wall Tour, which came to Wembley Stadium last night. By the end of opener In The Flesh? the 80,000 seater was awash with a pyrotechnic, 3D projection melee of light and sound, and a replica spitfire flew into a colossal wall spanning the width of the Stadium, exploding into flames. The helicopter sound effects to The Happiest Days of Our Lives reverberated around the stadium and were so loud you could feel them pass through your body. Indeed, the stadium last night looked a very different place to the venue where England played Moldova only eight days ago. I read somewhere reputable (can’t be arsed to look it up) that the Tour has cost £37m to stage around the world thus far and I don’t think many would have come away from North-west London feeling hard done by.
A gap in the middle of the 30ft high wall allowed for the stage, which as the show progressed, was gradually filled, brick by brick, until the band were completely obscured from view. The Wall, as well as the obvious link with Berlin is autobiographical for Waters. It deals with his experience of separation and isolation as a child with his father being killed in Italy in the Second World War, his hatred of school, his overprotective mother and later, his relationship difficulties with women. There was apparently also a point when Pink Floyd were touring in the Seventies, he said he felt like there was a wall between him and the audience.
The physical wall spanning the stadium, was the canvas for incredible, high tech animation and video projections. During Mother, Waters played an acoustic duet with a 50ft video of himself, taken from the 1980 Earls Court show. Beforehand he humbly apologised for its narcissistic nature.
Throughout the show the animations on the wall often used the original music videos’ psychedelic artwork; at one point, a flower morphs between its original state and female genitalia, it attempts to seduce a male equivalent, succeeds and devours it. After a thumping rendition of Young Lust, a giant praying mantis puppet jumped down behind Waters and threatened to devour him too – scary stuff.
There was an intermission, the first I’ve experienced at a rock concert, during which the wall played host to a moving montage of a number of victims of war and state terrorism.
Even as a septuagenarian, Waters was a commanding, infectious presence. During the spine-tingling David Gilmour guitar solos of Comfortably Numb (Gilmour not present like he was a couple of years ago in the O2, sadly for us), Waters played the broken man, hammering from his asylum at the wall which became a bright mash of forms and colours.
The show built up to its final climax, complete with armies, a giant flying pig representing capitalism, dictators with machine guns set against neo-facist red, black and white flags, until finally, society’s breaking point was reached at the end of The Trial and the wall came crashing down to signal the end of the show.
The 19th century philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, described music as the greatest form of art. Last night we, and anyone who has seen this tour, were spoiled to a total melding of all art forms. To use a term from another composing great, Richard Wagner, this was a Gesamkunstwerk, a total work of art, which affected all senses and was a privilege for all to witness.
By Edward Lines