Some Mad Bugger’s Wall: Part Two

Roger Waters came back to London as part of his The Wall tour. I’ve already written about just how awesome this album is as a live concert. However, I never came good on my desire to write about why I felt it was awesome as a live concert. What about it just made me go ‘whoa’ and convinced me that seeing it a second time was not an option but a necessity. Last weekend presented me with the opportunity to make good on that unfulfilled desire. So here it is: some of what I feel makes The Wall (live) awesome. This is slightly different as to why I feel that The Wall (the album) is awesome. To write about the album would be a post (or more) in its own right. Instead here is my deconstruction of Mr Waters’ live show and how it does two things that, for me at least, makes it an experience. First, the combination audio and visual (a Pink Floyd specialty) and second, it confronts you with the need to think, act, make a decision and participate in the events that are happening. In other words it is deliberate music. It is not just music and lyrics for the sake of music and lyrics. It is something with a substance that, on a superficial level you might miss (which I’m sure plenty at Wembley did) but once you know there is more-than-meets-the-eye, it only makes the whole thing that much better.

At the heart of The Wall is the story of Pink: his life, the wall he builds, the psychosis he fall into (Dictator Pink) and his self-inflicted trial. Pink is the foundation stone on which The Wall is built. As the audience you see the story predominately from his perspective and you are invited to sympathise, empathise or judge him accordingly. As an album, The Wall and Pink’s story has no fixed start, no fixed ending, it runs in a loop: ‘Isn’t this where…we came in?’ joining the beginning of record (‘…we came in?’) to the end of record (‘Isn’t this where…’) and so beginning the whole story again. It is a circle of pain, anger, disillusionment, isolation with the hope of escape. To an extent this is true of the live show as well; however live shows seem to work better if they are linear so there is a sense of a beginning and an ending. While The Wall (live) echoes with the cyclical nature of the album, it feels much more linear – something with a start and an end. The wall is built and then taken down. This makes it much more accessible as a story to the audience.

 The Wall: The School Teacher

In The Wall (live), Roger Waters extends the concept of wall beyond just Pink. The wall becomes something that can exclude and include everyone – not just Roger as Pink/Dictator Pink, but also the audience. The impact of this cannot be underestimated as an audience member. As a listener of the album in the comfort of your home you are a passive observer of Pink’s story. There is no compulsion to actively respond to his story. As an audience member there is no passivity – you are experiencing the construction of the wall along with Pink as it is being built. You are part of his psychosis and, willing or not, you are forced to switch from passive to active when it comes to the final construction of the wall and the emergence of Dictator Pink. The only choice is how you react: do you help build it, choose a side or look to tear it down.

The Wall (live) turns the wall into a shared object. It is more than just Pink’s prison – it is made communal and forced upon the audience. It looks at the human response to build walls (or at least start a collection of bricks – albeit physical or metaphorical) and whether people chose to leave the bricks scattered around like a lego-on-the-floor-parent-trap or turn them into a wall. These walls are built to keep out all the bad we don’t want to acknowledge, deal with or accept responsibility for our part. While it feels like these walls can protect us as individuals, they ultimately divide and isolate us as people. If anything this is the lesson that Pink learns. Once the wall is created and he descends into Dictator Pink, he is confronted with the fact that the wall has only succeeded in isolating himself and the necessity to place himself on trial for his actions.

The presence of the physical impact of the wall on stage similarly cannot be underestimated: it overshadows the band, stage and audience. Combined with the impact it has on Pink’s life, the wall almost turns it into a character in its own right. The Wall (with a capital ‘W’) becomes a physical manifestation of Pink’s tortured state of mind which then entraps the audience along with him.

More than a physical boundary, the Wall acts as a mirror on which the audience must look upon. This is where the projected images and animations really come into their own. In essence, it is these that make The Wall (live) an experience. You are confronted with the Wall being completed (trapping you in) and also the images that are projected on it. The series of file cards and images of civilians and soldiers killed in conflict at the start of the show ask the audience: do you use these to isolate yourself from humanity (take no part in it and build your own wall) or include yourself with humanity? The images of children being reunited with their fathers returning from service, the images of children suffering because of conflict, the images of children somehow still being children despite being surrounded by conflict – all of these can be bricks in your wall as well as bricks in the children’s own walls.

The Wall: File Cards

In including images of the outer world into Pink’s Wall, Roger Waters has shown the very human response to either stand up, take notice and be a part of what is happening (and therefore potentially take a risk) and the very human response to not face what is happening and to bury one’s head in the sand. In other words, to build a wall and isolate themselves from it all: to plug oneself in and only worry about the mediocre and mundane because it is just easier. The image of sheep wearing headphones is much more than amusing, or even more than a dig at certain business, it is actually represents one of the less than humane side of humanity. The one that allows or ignores all that is terrible because one is happy, plugged and isolated in their own world. The only problem with that is that at some stage one will be forced to become unplugged.

All the while, Pink’s story is being told. The bricks are being added to the complete his (and now your) wall: his Father, the School Teacher, his Mother and his Wife. The Wall is completed and in the end it is too much for Pink. His reality shatters into a confused kaleidoscope of colour during Comfortably Numb before it reforms itself into the dictatorship stage for the emergence of Dictator Pink.

 The Wall: Dictator Pink

Inside Dictator Pink’s wall is the audience. This is where, as the audience, you no longer have the option of being passive. Like it or not you are a part of Dictator Pink’s distorted reality. However, by now it almost doesn’t matter because as the audience you been with Roger as Pink since the beginning of his descent to madness and now that you’ve arrived there it seems almost inevitable that you’d end up there. You’ve arrived with Pink to his logical conclusion and the reality he has built for himself along with the Wall. The only problem is that it is a conclusion of a mad man and, as with all mad men, the rationale behind is by its very nature irrational and so you have no hope of coming to a truly logical conclusion. However, are most audience members even aware (or care) that they are part of Dictator Pink’s regime? Probably not. However, stuck inside the wall with Dictator Pink, that is what they are: co-habitants of dictatorship – but does it even really matter if you’re freedom is curtailed under a mad man if you’re having a good time?

The Trial and final destruction of the wall is both Pink’s hope and fear. This is the most human of fears and hopes: removing something that separates you, ‘protects’ you from others, is to run the risk or being judged by others. This is what Pink ultimately submits himself to and the audience along with him. The images and animations that were used during the show flash back passed the audience while the verdict is being given, reminding the audience of just what Pink (and by extension themselves) have been judged on. In the end the verdict is that the wall is to be torn down. Even the Dictator’s flying pig meets its end. As the Wall comes down it frees the audience from the object that trapped them in with Pink/Dictator Pink. It is a poignant demonstration that all Walls can come down if that is the will of those who have created them or those who are trapped by them.

The Wall: the Wall comes down

Charlie Bradbury

Yesterday was almost a Charlie Bradbury entrance day. Except the entrance was not confined to an elevator, it was an almost a public Charlie Bradbury day. As I walked into work I was both in an excellent mood (not sure why) and the extra-shot coffee had kicked in (this may have been why). The Charlie Bradbury is one of my current three preferred methods of entering the office. I save these entrances for the days when I arrive a silly o’clock and there is nobody else around. Otherwise, once the the big and little hands strike normal o’clock, I will walk in like everyone else.

Here I will share with y’all the current three lizziemeates entrance styles. Honestly, they make arriving at work sooo much more interesting…and life should be more interesting. So I would recommend trying at least one of them or inventing your own and just ignore all the strange looks of others. 

The Wrestler a.k.a. Smackdown! 2: Know Your Role style. As I walk in and the lights automatically flicker on, I imagine an announcer:

On her way to her desk…blown all the way from Wellington, New Zealand…weighing…pounds*…the 9 1/2 Wonder of the World…Taz!

Then the mice and I-don’t-wanna-know-what-else-that-creeps-around-the-office-before-the-cockerel-sounds all go wild. Or scatter out of the way. Probably the latter, I actually haven’t yet seen any but I have heard rumours of the plethora of little office friends found in London so I assume that’s the case.

The Charlie Bradbury aka dancing while wired for sound style. Not necessarily boogying down to ‘Walking on Sunshine’ but you get the idea. Incidentally, I would not begrudge a Dean Winchester helping me to take down an evil Dick. Then again, I would not begrudge Dean Winchester many things. He is the 21st century version of Mr Darcy.

The Snake aka MGS Tactical Stealth Espionage style. This was suggested to me by my brother and it is brilliant in its simple ability to frustrate. The Snake is the challenge to enter the office without setting off the automatic lights. Sadly, I am yet to enter the office without triggering the first eco-light-saving-bugger and thus tripping the Alert! calling in reinforcements and causing the Soliton radar to go phut (or worse, causing Campbell to yell dramatically ‘Snaaaaaake!’ into your ear as you bit yet another bullet). The real frustration of this challenge is that one must then wait until either 1) the next day to attempt the challenge again or 2) wait until the automatic lights go off before attempting it again. The second option can prove a bit awkward once your co-workers start to arrive as yelling ‘Wait! Do not enter the office until the lights go off. I must complete the first level! Rex must be stopped! Liquid cannot win!’ would just be outright weird…

*Genuinely, I don’t know what I wight in pounds and ounces. More importantly, beyond mere curiosity, I don’t actually care what I weigh in pounds and ounces.