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ROGER WATERS PERFORMS PINK FLOYD’S ‘THE WALL’ @ WEMBLEY, LONDON 14/09/13 REVIEW BY CHUMKI BANERJEE

Pink Floyd is so integrated into my musical psyche, they have become part of my DNA and I forget how much they influenced my musical taste, a perfect interpretation of what I would aspire to, if I had musical skill. It was Floyd who took me by the hand, across the bridge from classical to other exotic electronic lands, who fed my Science Fiction passion, exploiting science of musical artistry, exciting electrons into scintillating musical landscapes, employing graphics which entirely engaged my imagination. They were the ones who inspired hours of experimentation with oscillators, patching analogue synthesisers, running my Dad’s reel to reel backwards, recording, mutating anything which scratched a noise, to try and emulate some of what I heard. They were the ones that inspired larger and larger speakers to indulge in every atom of their infinite sound. As the first rock group to perform live in surround sound, they were the ones who enticed me to a very technical demonstration of their quadraphonic sound system. Rapt, enraptured by its elusive promise, they were the one who motivated my attempt to recreate it, Heath Robinson style, at home.

I have never been a dirty music girl; though potent passion in performance is the most important prerequisite for me, whenever it is possible I like my sound pure and clear, every nuance communicated. Pink Floyd’s creations are the epitome of perfectly formed sound waves, unbounded clarity, even under scrutiny of intense magnification.

A bit like yearning for Christmas day, the wait for strains of Vera Lynn’s The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot, signalling start of the epic, though brief, seemed endless. This time, the spectacle started with a rousing “I am Spartacus” rallying speech, followed by lonely trumpet reverie, plunging into deepest throb of liquid bass, erupting into cheers,  welcoming tidal wave of  tsunami sound, whirlwind which swept us off our feet, carrying us off on Waters’ rollercoaster ride.  A speaker has not been built which can capture and confine Pink Floyd’s music; even Wembley, with its half closed roof acting as baffle, converted to one gigantic vibrating cone, was dwarfed by the tumult of surround sound, which, for a stadium of such size, was impressively hi-fidelity, sounds effects remarkably, even frighteningly realistic, in the case of menacing Dam Buster Spitfires, their dark shadows, yawning blood red, sweeping low, over our heads.

As lights went down, from first moments, floating inside a magic lantern, like stepping into a 3-D movie, this huge space was transformed into an intimate Narnia of luminous light effects, showering sparks, billowing dry ice, mesmerising animations, projections and giant inflatable maquettes; Real life and fantasy mingled with Scarfe’s extraordinary cast of twisted, bloated, dark fairy tale characters; tyrannical teacher, neo fascist manager, goose stepping hammers, screaming head; springing to larger than life, life; dwarfing puppet master band ‘ants’, who scurried below their towering images, instruments amplified to unbelievably disproportionate wail.

With a few minor rearrangements and diversions, tonight’s set list follows the original story familiar to all, apart from the ‘Ballad of Jean Charles de Menezes’; brutally executed by Metropolitan, shoot to kill police, at  Stockwell in 2005, after  the London bombings; which is inserted as moving tribute, before ‘Mother’. Authoritarians, ravages and misdemeanour's of war, horrors perpetrated by irrational hatred, have always been themes at core of ‘The Wall’ but, this particular rendition emphasises the fact, as almost without the audience noticing, a wall of what seems like a million white bricks, is built, brick by brick before our eyes, blocking out reason and light, snuffed out to strains of ‘Goodbye Cruel World’, leaving us to contemplate a shifting, superimposed weeping wall of war victims; pictures and potted tragic histories drawing sighs and tears, at terrifying waste of life, in preparation for terror to be released after the interval.

Set two commences with ‘Hey You’, peering through the one chink in the wall, into a lonely hotel room where Waters watches a flickering TV ; by now we are all completely captivated and engrossed, ready to take up the tale, brought to life so dramatically and evocatively by emotive images and sounds. Waters’ bass flows as bountifully as it ever did from his flexible fingers, his voice; though endless touring might have trained away its tremulous edge; remains true and strong, belying engrained lines which age and wisdom have etched on his characterful face. The band and children’s choir are effortlessly integrated into Pink Floyd’s signature sound, but bravery award goes to lone, spot lit guitarist, suspended in mid air, on top of the wall. 

Every image, every anthemic note leaves indelible imprint, draws us into a frightening, fantastical world, exaggerated but rooted in reality; in this scenario an enormous pig flies. By the time ‘Comfortably Numb’ shivers through the chilling air, my brain is stunned and the adoring audience seem to be in séance but The Show Must Go On’, and none of us want it to end, despite anticipating trauma still to be so graphically depicted; smoke of guns, marching of dictatorship, hammering people like nails, pricking of the pig which deflates like a pancake and falls to cheers, apparently engulfing spectators below.

It ends in tears, barbershop harmonies and ukuleles, as the wall crumbles and falls to wolf whistling and foot stomping; young and old, of all persuasions and nationalities, joined as one by a truly extraordinary experience. I always knew Pink Floyd’s music was a force of nature but it took Wembley to show me just how strong; tonight it bowed its magnificent head to the power of music, lion laid down like lamb, teacup spilling over, barely able to contain the storm which Waters and his crew have conjured up. Once in a lifetime; truly inspirational, a bucket list must.

Review/photos by Chumki Banerjee