Sunday, November 28, 2010

Signpost to Senility No. 4,298

Getting older is not for the faint of heart or the easily frightened, as I'm finding out on an almost daily basis. It pretty much sucks on every level and should be avoided at all costs. Try as we might to press onward and live our lives as we have done for the past 30 or so years, stuff comes up that definitively lets us know that we are no longer in our mid-20s. Time does indeed march on, and we are either along for the ride or destined for the off-ramp.

I had one of those moments last night as I attended the Roger Waters The Wall Live Tour. Formerly a member of Pink Floyd, one of my all-time favorite groups, Waters created this magnum opus thirty years ago. About the alienation and isolation fame can bring, the original live show centered around a huge wall built on stage, separating musician from audience. At the time Waters felt at first a real disconnect from the people who came to see them, which eventually grew into a disdain and then hostility. He transferred these feelings onto his main character, Pink, who lived a hellish rock-star life of great excess but also great pain and sadness. Searching for the sources of this sadness, Waters heaps blame on a smothering, overbearing mother-figure, an unfaithful harpy of a wife, and a brittle, psychotic schoolmaster straight out of a Dickens novel.

Performed by the original Pink Floyd members, it was staged in 4 cities only. In later years the band broke up, and The Wall was never performed that way again. Resurrected in Berlin after the fall of the Berlin wall and in some other venues after, the show grew and changed, but the construction of a giant wall and its subsequent destruction on stage was always the one part that didn't change.

So this latest reincarnation is a high-tech tour-de-force that has to be one of the most elaborate and expensive shows ever. The Wall is still there, and is now used extensively as a screen for a huge amount of high-definition graphics. Gigantic puppets, probably 50 or 60 feet high, loom above the stage as grotesque symbols of all the horrible things that have happened in Pink's life. A model World War II plane glided high above the audience as it crossed the USAirways Center and crashed behind the Wall in a huge ball of flame. A giant inflatable pig floated around the arena, much to everyone's delight. It was total batshit-craziness from beginning to end, and was an amazing concert. Roger Waters was in fine voice and looked like he was having a really good time.

However, I am now officially done with huge concerts like that. No more for me. The crowd there was really obnoxious, loud and inconsiderate. There was an idiot sitting behind me who screamed and hollered throughout the entire show, as if he were carrying on a personal conversation with Roger Waters. This douchebag started shrieking "TEAR DOWN THE WALL!" in the first 20 minutes of the show, something that doesn't happen until the very end, two hours later. I didn't know one person could be so loud, this goon was really giving me a headache. He also did some whistling thing with his fingers that was extremely loud and shrill. But he didn't care who he bothered or annoyed with his actions, he was having a good time and that was it. Also a number of people around me smoked pot during the show. I don't have any problem with marijuana use, but not offering to share? Unforgivable and tacky.

Time was, I loved to go to concerts like that. I attended my first rock concert sometime during the 60's at the now-defunct Civic Arena in Pittsburgh. While I forget who it was that I went to see, I remember having a lot of trouble coming up with the $8 ticket price, a far cry from the $125 ticket price for The Wall. But it was an atmosphere of anything-goes as thousands of crazed music lovers like myself were in one place for the sole purpose of listening to a live performance by a favorite band. It was an awesome and amazing time and I loved every second of it. I went to many, many concerts over the next couple of decades, and it was something I loved almost more than anything else.

Now, not so much. The noise, the sheer volume of the music, and the machine-gun-like barrage of visuals and graphics became almost overwhelming. It was great fun to hear the live versions of the songs from the album that I listened to hundreds of times and to which I knew every single word, but the loud, obnoxious crowd just got to be too much. I know it's impossible for some people to just sit and enjoy a show, but having to ruin the experience of everyone around them due to their selfishness was a real turn-off for me.

So, Roger Waters, you did good. The genius of your work shined through at every turn, and putting together such an incredible show is nothing short of a miracle. I'm glad the last big concert I will go to see was yours.

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