I have produced another artist profile piece for another “New Times” publication in South Florida. This one appears in the “Broward/Palm Beach New Times,” and it has something to do with Roger Waters’ upcoming June 15 performance of the Wall in Broward County. No, it is not Roger Waters (“He’s not talking,” I was told) but his son, Harry Waters, who has toured with the former Pink Floyd bassist/vocalist/songwriter since 2001. We spoke via phone, last month, while the band took a break between shows in Los Angeles. “Lovely nice weather,” he said of the place, in his quick, chirpy English accent. He has his own show worth noting that will take place in South Florida a couple of days after the Wall show at Fort Lauderdale’s Revolution Live (buy tickets). The show benefits local 501©(3), Community Arts & Culture.
You can read the entire piece after the jump through the publication’s logo below. It also features an interview with a South Florida-based saxophonist, Michael Sinisgalli, who collaborated with Harry once before and will participate in this up-coming show:
Though he started learning piano at the age of 8, following his parents suggestion, the 34-year-old Waters would not find a true love for the instrument until several years later. “I definitely wasn’t one of those prodigal children that picks it up, and that’s all they do,” he said. “I played kind of for four years, but I didn’t practice or anything, and then when I was about 12, I got a new teacher, and he sparked my passion for piano music, like boogie woogie and Scott Joplin and that kind of thing, and Fats Waller.”
In my profile on the younger Waters, we take a closer look at how that early passion in swinging piano music led him to form his own jazz band, which he plays on the side of these Wall shows since they kicked off in the fall of 2010 (Roger Waters to do the Wall on next tour; I also reviewed an early performance of one of these shows here: Waters’s ‘the Wall’ live cements theme with vivid production). The younger Waters said he has played a few of these jazz shows during the tour of the Wall, and this would mark his second in South Florida. “I did a few in Argentina, in BA, which was really nice. I did some in Eastern Europe, so kinda of as many as I can. Yep! Yeah, they’re really cool.”
Here’s some recently up-loaded, HD videos of some of his performances in Buenos Aires, Argentina:
Finally, this has to be my favorite number of his, “Jarrets Dreams,” and we talked about it at length. He described it as “more of a textual kind of thing, and it’s a little longer. There is a melody. There is a tune and some soloing over some very basic chords … I never solo on that because the piano is not the melody. It’s like a groove-based thing. It’s like one of those Herbie Hancock tunes where you have a bass line that just goes throughout … and the piano serves that purpose. It just underpins the rest of that song. If I stop playing that phrase, the song would disappear (laughs). I can’t really solo over that because you have to play it with two hands, that phrase. You can’t play it with one hand, so it’s not like I can play with one hand and then improvise over the top. So that’s my role in that song, it’s just to keep the song going. Yeah, it has that hypnotic, repetitive kind of nature, which is what I was going for, so I’m pleased with that song. It’s fun to play, really.”
November 18, 2010
After decades of familiarity with Pink Floyd’s the Wall my way of hearing the album has been changed forever thanks Floyd founding member Roger Waters’ new live show. I really want to be absorbed by the show, so I forwent any video recording or picture taking (Lourdes Herrero, a friend who sat next to me, shot all the pictures in this post). Experiencing the album’s key songwriter and his band reproduce the concept-album-to-end-all-concept-albums live over the weekend added much more to an album that I had thought I knew inside and out.
But indulge me one negative: I thought Waters’ attempt to socialize the themes of psychological Oedipal distress inconsistent, unnecessary and a bit heavy-handed. He seemed to have devised this reasoning in the announcement of the tour back in April. As Waters said in the post, he felt the need to tour behind this 1980 Pink Floyd album to “draw some comparisons, to illuminate our current predicament,” especially in this age of supposed higher avenues of communication thanks to the Internet, he continues. As great a work of art the original album is at inviting interpretation by the listener, to revise the meaning of the album without some re-writing, seems a stretch.
Not that I would have condoned changing a note of the original album, but Waters need not excuse himself from finally rendering the album live in its entirety when it is well known Pink Floyd had only performed a handful of live shows soon after the album’s release.* All Pink Floyd fans care about is that the main man behind the album is performing said album live, in its entirety, and he certainly did it justice on Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Bank Atlantic Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Let it be known, that I count myself among those who have stuck by Waters since he quit Pink Floyd and subsequently sued the remaining members after they decided to continue on as Pink Floyd without him. After former frontman Syd Barret lost his marbles and left the band, Waters, to me, was the leader of Floyd henceforth and forevermore. I would prefer to see him do the Wall live as a solo artist over the rest of the band members (listen to how cheesy the Wall tracks sound on the live album Pulse, for instance). Any other Pink Floyd work, after the Final Cut, never amounted to the masterpiece that was the Wall. None of it was even as adventurous, albeit as messy, as the Final Cut or as good as the albums that preceded the Wall.
With those biases in mind, the memory of the show this past Saturday, has grown warmer as the time has passed (those whistles from that asshole who kept shrilly peeping after every line of “Mother” have faded and the bloody ocean projected over the wall during “the Thin Ice,” has grown more vivid in my memory).** The only moment I recall Waters’ heavy-handedness in altering the original inspiration for the concept album becoming totally off-putting, was sucking the darker soul out of “Mother” by replacing the character of the mother with the idea of the government as oppressor.
Yes, the crowd certainly responded to the new metaphor, especially to the line “Mother, should I trust the government?” and the words “No fucking way” suddenly appeared projected on the wall. The audience roared and applauded like a Tea Party rally. But what’s so dark about the original song is the intimate blood bond between son and mother, and her well-intentioned, albeit misguided, oppressiveness. Adding to the inconsistency of this attempt to fit this new metaphor into the story is the representation of the mother as a humanoid during “the Trial.”
This did not haunt me throughout the show in the least, however. The show had so much going on visually and the sound and the performance was so immaculate, I was mostly left in awe. I was experiencing an undeniable piece of rock ‘n’ roll canon by the man who wrote it. I am certain bands will even keep this album alive long after Waters has passed away (a la the Australian Pink Floyd‘s recent rendition of the Wall at the Miami Beach Fillmore, not too long ago).
Just as in the old days of Pink Floyd’s live version of the Wall, the titular object would grow on stage as the songs progressed. Stagehands would fill in spaces in the Wall with large white (most likely foam) rectangular bricks, as the band progressed through the piece. By the end of the first half, the Wall had completely sealed the band away from the audience.
Once the Wall completely hid the band, I had feared how exciting the show might be. During “Hey You” spotlights overhead would shine on unseen persons behind the wall, in time to the parts. This only provided an establishment of the idea of the protagonist, of course played by Waters, behind a wall. Soon enough Waters would engage with the wall in full view of the audience while projections on the wall, would warp the perception of the massive set piece. Some bricks would sometimes disappear, and during “Comfortably Numb” the wall would even swirl and twist into darkness, capturing the feeling of being inside the wall. The outside of the wall had transformed into the inside.
As I said at the beginning, the live show certainly sealed the themes of album powerfully. No more so than solidifying the flow of the more chaotic second part of the album. Then there were the worms, seemingly eating at the wall by actually winding through the virtual bricks.
After all these years, I never noticed how key the 30 second track “Stop” was to the transition from the fascist concert to the trial. After all the bombast of “In the Flesh,” when even a giant remote controlled black pig with raging red, glowing eyes floated from beyond the Wall, right next to our seats, the stage was reduced to a tiny spotlight focused on a small, pink dummy sitting on top of the Wall.
All the anger directed at humanity during “In the Flesh” is of course a channel for the anger inside our hero. It is when he sings “Stop,” that the scared little self makes a true appearance, and then “the Trial” begins with the famous lines:
“The prisoner who now stands before you
Was caught red-handed showing feelings
Showing feelings of an almost human nature;
This will not do.”
It was an ingenious moment during the show that certainly highlighted the album’s themes well. I had often felt “the Trial” felt too literal a theatrical bit on the album, the Alan Parker-directed film, and even in Waters’ live version with an all-star cast in Berlin back in 1990. But its rendition during this live show, finally sold the song to me. Waters stalked the stage, dressed in black, singing the parts of the players: the teacher, the mother, the girlfriend and judge to various affect, as all the massive puppets hovered over him. I never noticed him look out at the audience during this number. He would just sing hunched over, holding the microphone in his two clenched fists. It all vividly brought to life the schizophrenia of perceptions that haunted the protagonist to shutting himself off from the world.
As important as the stage show was, and I am not going to complain about the seats I got during the pre-sale,*** I have mixed feelings about maybe seeing a little more of what the musicians were doing. Even when the wall was partially built, at the start of the show, I could not see the drummer. The band was also all dressed in black, clearly keeping a lower profile to the stage show, but adding a fitting color scheme when they donned the red arm bands for the fascist rock numbers.
There is something also to be said further about the projections on the wall. Gerald Scarfe’s artwork for both the album and the film version, were a key component to this live show. All the animations from the film were here, projected onto the giant wall and also on the circular screen above the band. If anyone ever wondered what was going on below the flowers’ eerie dance during “Empty Spaces” in the film, you’ll see that in the digitally added roots projected along the wall. Also, the marching hammers have grown in menacing number for this show. Then there were the moments Waters interacted with the Wall and allowed the projections to do the “talking,” which often brought cheers from the audience, especially during the anti-war messages. Waters– as is the hero of the Wall– is a product of growing up fatherless due to war, after all.
Finally, there were also some great moments with the props: the teacher and girlfriend/wife unfolded from the ceilings promptly and menacingly danced in their corners during their various numbers.****
All in all, it was all something much more than a rock show, truly bringing justice to one of Pink Floyd greatest works.
Update: Waters returned for a second Wall show on June 15, 2012 ar the same venue, and I reviewed it for “County Grind,” one of the blogs on the “Broward/Palm Beach New Times” website. This time, they secured a pair of tickets for me, and I got a view from the floor. You can read that review and see lots of close-up pictures through the logo below:
*The only live dates for the album as Floyd occurred Feb 7-13, 1980 in LA and Feb. 24-28 in NYC. Europe would not get the Wall live until a year later for several dates in Germany and a final series of dates in England ( p. 185 Pink Floyd: In the Flesh – the Complete Performance History by Glenn Povey and Ian Russell).
**To that douche bag who kept whistling throughout many of the songs and yapping with his entourage for practically half the show, though he may not be reading this: a big “F U.” Pardon my fascist tendencies, but there should be a contract signed by all attending concertgoers to be still and reverent to such a performance and have police at every door to drag them out should they not show the courtesy to give the show the attention it deserves. Maybe a kick to the mouth would be justified, too.
***I was practically above stage right, in the second level of seats, in the first row. Sometimes, I leaned on the rail and rested my chin on my crossed forearms in rapt attention. During his thanks to the crowd, Waters even turned and pointed up to me and said “especially you.” Or maybe it was my friend who started our side in the hammer salute or it might have been that whistling asshole.
****Though I heard that during the second show, which my friend who took the pics attended but I did not, a technical glitch prevented the girlfriend puppet from coming down from the rafters.
April 12, 2010
Roger Waters has announced his next live tour will be to perform Pink Floyd’s the Wall in its entirety, in celebration of its 30th anniversary. On his blog, he stated:
“I recently came across this quote of mine from 22 years ago:
‘What it comes down to for me is this: Will the technologies of communication in our culture, serve to enlighten us and help us to understand one another better, or will they deceive us and keep us apart?’
I believe this is still a supremely relevant question and the jury is out. There is a lot of commercial clutter on the net, and a lot of propaganda, but I have a sense that just beneath the surface understanding is gaining ground. We just have to keep blogging, keep twittering, keep communicating, keep sharing ideas.
30 Years ago when I wrote The Wall I was a frightened young man. Well not that young, I was 36 years old.
It took me a long time to get over my fears. Anyway, in the intervening years it has occurred to me that maybe the story of my fear and loss with it’s concomitant inevitable residue of ridicule, shame and punishment, provides an allegory for broader concerns.: Nationalism, racism, sexism, religion, Whatever! All these issues and ‘isms are driven by the same fears that drove my young life.
This new production of The Wall is an attempt to draw some comparisons, to illuminate our current predicament, and is dedicated to all the innocent lost in the intervening years.
In some quarters, among the chattering classes, there exists a cynical view that human beings as a collective are incapable of developing more ‘humane’ ie, kinder, more generous, more cooperative, more empathetic relationships with one another.
In my view it is too early in our story to leap to such a conclusion, we are after all a very young species.
I believe we have at least a chance to aspire to something better than the dog eat dog ritual slaughter that is our current response to our institutionalized fear of each other.
I feel it is my responsibility as an artist to express my, albeit guarded, optimism, and encourage others to do the same. To quote the great man, ” You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
OK, nice, profound sentiment. But let’s face it, it’s a great money-making venture. Tickets are bound to be dang expensive, but seeing as I have shelled out good money to see the Australian Pink Floyd put on a pretty good theatrical imitation of the Wall, I’m willing to pay 10 times that to see the mastermind of the work perform it live.
I’ve quite grown to love this album. When it came out I was just a fourth grade kid, and the graphics around it and the movie trailer for the Alan Parker movie freaked me out. Then, at age 12, when I first heard the album all the way through, it gave me nightmares. I wouldn’t revisit it for years on, but have grown to love the film, as well as the concept album, which dwelt on themes of mental instability and parental issues.
I imagine this will be effects-laden show worth the price of admission. For me, Pink Floyd has only ever been defined by the work of Roger Waters, who so fittingly took the helm after its previous singer, Syd Barret, lost his mind to acid. Waters left the band soon after completing a sort of sequel to the Wall called the Final Cut. Since then David Gilmour has taken the spotlight as frontman, and, in my opinion, the Floyd lost its thematic and musical levity. It became a self-conscious all-too-comfortable machine meant to sell records.
You can go to his website to see the dates, or just check them out here (his site is very unstable with the news). Looks like Fort Lauderdale is my show, at the quite decent-sized Bank Atlantic Center:
“The Wall” 2010 Tour Dates
Sept. 15: Toronto (Air Canada Centre)
Sept. 20: Chicago (United Center)
Sept. 21: Chicago (United Center)
Sept. 26: Pittsburgh (Consol Energy Center)
Sept. 28: Cleveland (Quicken Loans Arena)
Sept. 30: Boston (TD Garden)
Oct. 5: New York (Madison Square Garden)
Oct. 8: Buffalo (HSBC Arena)
Oct. 10: Washington DC (Verizon Center)
Oct. 12: Uniondale (Nassau Coliseum)
Oct. 15: Hartford (XL Center)
Oct. 17: Ottawa (ScotiaBank Place)
Oct. 19: Montreal (Bell Centre)
Oct. 22: Columbus (Schottenstein Center)
Oct. 24: Detroit (Palace of Auburn Hills)
Oct. 26: Omaha (Qwest Center)
Oct. 27: St Paul (Xcel Energy Center)
Oct. 29: St. Louis (ScotTrade Center)
Oct. 30: Kansas City (Sprint Center)
Nov. 3: New York (Izod Center)
Nov. 8: Philadelphia (Wachovia Center)
Nov. 9: Philadelphia (Wachovia Center)
Nov. 13: Fort Lauderdale (Bank Atlantic Center)
Nov. 16: Tampa (St. Pete Times Forum)
Nov. 18: Atlanta (Philips Arena)
Nov. 20: Houston (Toyota Center)
Nov. 21: Dallas (American Airlines Center)
Nov. 23: Denver (Pepsi Center Arena)
Nov. 26: Las Vegas (MGM Grand Garden Arena)
Nov. 27: Phoenix (US Airways Center)
Nov. 29: Los Angeles (The Forum)
Dec. 1: Los Angeles (The Forum)
Dec. 6: San Jose (HP Pavilion)
Dec. 10: Vancouver (General Motors Place)
Dec. 11: Tacoma (Tacoma Dome)
Dec. 13: Anaheim (Honda Center)
Tickets to the NY and NJ dates are the first slated to go on sale: May 3, at 10 am via Ticketmaster.