Thursday, February 16, 2012


OK, so maybe it wasn't Roger Waters. Maybe it was one of the roadies, and there must be a lot of them because this was a big big international road show. A Tuesday-must-be-Sydney show.

The venue is functional cold. I hadn't been back since it was called the Superdome, built for the olympic gymnastics, and where Edo de Waart conducted a pretty interesting Mahler 8 for the opening of the Olympic Arts Festival. It was all completely wrong - this vast barn, without an organ which was relayed in from the Town Hall and adjusted for timing delays and errors, and orchestra, soloists and choir faced with the vastness of the void in front of them. I remember Elizabeth Connell and Alexandra Marc (now she could get a resonance going) and the stunning ethereal Shu-Cheen Yu (forest bird in Adelaide) up high (and I mean high) at Heavens gate. The story goes that the choirs and orchestra were augmented till the performance numbers were 1,000 to match the legend. Anyway, something happened. You know those weird occassions when something happens? A threshold is crossed and whatever was conspiring against a performance working actually ultimately contributes when another unseen factor appears - the mystery of transcendence. It was the best Mahler 8 I've heard, one which generated its own specialness and breathed air and feeling and truth into the work.

Which brings me back to The Wall in the clinical arena configured for 12, 500, each paying pretty big bucks. The crowd was generally dull. Even the usher (we were at the end of an aisle) said it was a quiet well-behaved audience. Boring boring. And there was that cringing "hello Sydney" squark from the man with the microphone, just to reassure us the team knew where they were. (What band was it - the Who? - who said it wasn't that they didn't remember Sydney, they didn't remember Australia!).

So it began. The music and lyrics are great. It's a great album - 70's (post-) psychedelic trip into loss, deprivation and separation. A fatherless son. Wars. The emphasis has shifted and the shift was really because of the brilliant use of video projection. Five huge brackets with three projectors on each created a vast visual kaleidoscope to ram home the messages, and the messages were antifascist and antiwar. Nothing wrong with that. But it was sledgehammering in its impact, and sometimes more is less. I was dazzled, but not ever moved. Interestingly, Roger Waters had personalised the victims, each brick in the wall identified by name and face. Special attention, in fact their own segment, was given to the London tube innocent shot by police (Charles de Mendes) and the Wikileaks video of the shooting of the reporters in Bagdad (collateral murder). The teacher (we don't need no ed-u-cache-shon) and the mother were giant paper maché puppets.

It was that personal pain, that heartbreak, that despair that made the original so potent. The more generic and clever and brilliant the show became, the less I was moved. It became about the form and the content was the loser. Never mind. It was good to see what the best mega shows do these days, and how they do it. It looked good, and sounded good. The songs and lyrics were all there. But it was also good to realise that you can't go back. The era has gone, and like consenting adults, visiting it is best done in the privacy of your own home.

These few shots are from the closing scenes, a self-propelled flying pig (still thinking about that), the fascist logo (crossed hammers) and the goose-stepping hammers, to give you a feel for how it all looked.

It could have ended, just stopped with 'think about that' you warmongers. It might (just) have worked. But no. In a patronising sycophantic twist at the end, the audience was invited to join in singing - Waltzing Matilda! Are you kidding me? I know it's about survival and resistance to cruel oppressive authority, I know I'd happily have it as our national anthem (mainly because no one else has a clue what it's about), I know I've cried singing it at the football (and we beat the Allblacks), but this is OUR song. We sing it when we want, and its not by invitation. It's from within.

So we left, down the old Olympic boulevard, past the stadium still lit blue as the whole city had been for those two weeks in 2000, and tossed it around.

What about the air raids where they dropped symbols, like bombs, the Christian cross, the hammer and sickle, the stars of David, the crescent moon, the .. I asked J, the teenage son of a work colleague. "What did you think they were J"? "Dogma" he said softly. At last I felt some emotion.


Herringbone said...

I think music is about ideas. I like most of it,but identify best with rock. Although part of Floyd's mystique is psychedelic and sensational, at the core is great music and lyrics.

The ho-humness is indeed disturbing. We've become so visual and so preoccupied with living in the nano second. Rock demands interaction. Sitting is not an option.

I surely hope we can look back,for it is a truly, a passionate story,that has brought us people and sound that has impacted the world. Time is bittersweet,but I get a charge out older folks (my generation included), that are still kickin' it. Sometimes, I think the world would be a better place if there was more love and passion. And if done tastefully, everywhere.

The Star Spangled Banner is a great song. I've see n some great renditions(ironically, Whitney Houston's Super Bowl one was amazing).However, it's a song about freedom and Jimi Hendrix's rendition , although controversial, was equally amazing.

I appreciate your honesty and your writing is great. I guess I was hoping you'd be blown away. A lot of where I'm at now, is hope. The child and dream are alive....Gilmour breaks into his killer solo....

Susan Scheid said...

I suppose the temptation must be great, when revisiting a touring musical moment, for the performers/those who put the show on, to try and outdo/update it. The instinct is wrong-headed, and you've vividly described the result. Too bad, though. Even I was a little psyched . . .

BTW: I particularly appreciated your inclusion of this comment: "but this is OUR song. We sing it when we want, and its not by invitation. It's from within." Absolutely right.

wanderer said...

Oh dear, I feel I've let you both down. It is the new times, as you both note. My last comment was meant to offer hope - that the young son (just entering medical school) of my friend was probably less dazzled by the technics than I (it is part of their expectations) and able to absorb important, well powerful actually, messages from the work itself.