Pink Floyd’s double album release The Wall sees it’s 35th birthday this November. The complex concept LP focuses on the abandonment and isolation of its central character, Pink (no relation to US pop star, created in the same year as the album). Along with the album came a stage show, The Wall Tour, a shorter tour than normal for Pink Floyd due to the mammoth production complete with giant puppets, state-of-the-art projections and, most iconically, the construction of a giant wall across the stage during the show’s first act, slowly separating band and audience.
With Roger Waters’ (vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitar) departure from Pink Floyd after the tour, the band slowly slid towards the inevitable break up, though carrying on with a variety of line-ups for another 10 years or so. Waters has resurrected The Wall’s live show on numerous occasions since his time with the band, with its first performance in 2010. It has been tweaked and toyed with over the years, but how impressive can a stage show nearing its fourth decade be in the modern digital age? Well, it turns out it can be very impressive.
The show is not simply a dusting off of the old gear for nostalgia’s sake, there to give a pricey trip down memory lane for the people who saw it the first time round, but a fully updated and upgraded vision creating visuals and effects not possible in the 80s, while still packing the same punch as the original. The whole show is presented in surround sound, with the most accurate and precise PA system I have ever heard, causing total immersion in the sound world that causes you to scan the skies for the helicopter that you would swear was right behind you.
Waters’ and his backing band (including original touring members for The Wall Tour’s first incarnation) are precise and emotive in their delivery of the music, a tough task for an album so well known, in a venue so large. But, it is the visual side for which The Wall is known and this has been updated to, with no sense of dating in the CGI images, and the projection managing to complement the large puppets instead of clash. Each brick burns white exactly when it should do, just after it has been slid into position. The show’s various messages about totalitarians, consumerism, war, loneliness, desolation all become starkly burned not into the ear but the eye, leaving an image that takes a long time to subside.
Wembley Stadium itself adds to this leviathan, which instead of dwarfing the show into insignificance, seems to amplify both the show and its messages. The Nazi-esque regime sections of the spectacle gain a whole new level when performed to the three tiers and floor-standing pit.
The Wall Live not only lives up to the hype but surpasses it, putting modern bands known for their live shows such as Muse in the shade. This performance was much more than a concert, and much more than a piece of theatre, but it is best explained as an aural and visual feast that no recording could possibly do justice to.