Monday, 14 December 2015

Roger Waters – The Wall

In 1979, iconic progressive rock band Pink Floyd released their 11th album, and the last with the classic line-up of guitarist David Gilmour, bassist/lyricist Roger Waters, keyboardist Richard Wright and drummer Nick Mason. It was supported by a tour with elaborate effects, and adapted into a 1982 feature film Pink Floyd – The Wall by Alan Parker. The album, although featuring a harsher and more theatrical feel than previous works, features the band's only number one single Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 and along with such classics as Hey You and Comfortably Numb, it has gone on to become hailed as one of the best albums of all time. Time passed and the band went their separate ways. Beginning in 2010 and with dates lasting into 2013, Roger Waters performed the album worldwide on his tour, The Wall Live. 

Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray, Roger Waters – The Wall is a slightly unusual piece of work. Directed by Roger Waters and Sean Evans, the film chronicles Waters’ solo 2010-2013 tour on which he played the seminal album The Wall in its entirety. But it’s not just a concert film, like many would assume. A lot of the film involves Waters exploring battlefields, war memorials and other such places discussing the power of the album, the futility of war and how The Wall is still relevant today, over 30 years later. It’s a nice idea that often makes some insightful ideas – and strengthens my appreciation for the album in question, granted – but feels somewhat forced here. This discussion sometimes plays out over the music performances and interrupts the flow of the concert, which isn’t what you want from a concert film. I get the idea of making it into a sort-of-documentary for cinema release, but why not release an uninterrupted version of the full concert on Blu-ray/DVD too? Fellow proggie Peter Gabriel recently embarked on a similar tour, Back to Front, which was released in cinemas as a documentary concert film – but on home release, is available uninterrupted too. This should’ve been the case here. Or, keep this insight for the special features, or a standalone Roger Waters documentary. Don’t crowbar it into a concert film. It’s the lowest thing one can do when making a film version of their tour. 

 This is all the more frustrating because the footage we see of Waters’ performance is breath-taking. The show is staged spectacularly; with screens, lights and even a (fake) plane flying overhead in the opening. The red aesthetic creates a strong mood, but it is the utter scale of the show that brings such an almighty impact. The wall itself is immense, much wider than it has ever been onstage when Pink Floyd did a similar tour back in the day. The sound mix here is incredible too, making for one of the most powerful and mighty shows I’ve ever seen in my front room. But, as discussed before, you can never truly relax into the flow of the album because of the insistence of making it so political and, arguably, self-indulgent. Waters has always had a somewhat political presence, with countless campaigns and charitable activism in the last 10 years alone. But ramming it down the throats of those who just want to see him perform his music just seems a little shit of him. There are powerful messages here but they should be optional. Or atleast, brief and non-interruptive of the songs themselves. The recent The Who – Live in Hyde Park release had occasional short interviews between songs that were interesting and non-intrusive. But with a concept album like The Wall, it needs and deserves to be heard start-to-finish without distraction. You’d think Waters would understand that.

Roger Waters – The Wall is a nice idea. Especially in light of recent events, the messages about war and terror are certainly relevant. But I can’t help but feel they shouldn’t be here. The Wall is a concept album that deserves to be heard uninterrupted. When The Who toured Quadrophenia in 2013, they released an uninterrupted Blu-ray/DVD of it. And Roger Waters has even released an uninterrupted CD of this tour. So why make us endure what some people are calling ‘a glorified History Channel documentary’ throughout this film? Now I’ve never been a huge prog fan, and I couldn’t tell you much about Pink Floyd – although I have nothing but respect and admiration for them, their genre is not one I’m hugely into. But Roger Waters’ performance here, at least what you see of it, is incredible – particularly enjoyed on Blu-Ray in surround sound.

Roger Waters – The Wall is full of great music and one of the most incredible stage productions I’ve seen, but the often tedious interruptions ruin what could’ve been a damn fine concert film. 3/5.


Sam Love

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