The ‘Classic Album’ tag is something of a double-edged sword, in that careers are often weighted down by them as much as made by them. In recent years, bands have united to perform [insert respective classic album title according to act here] “in it’s entirety” as a way to jump start a comeback, or just plain sell tickets to keep the show on the road.

But, is there a limit to how many times an act can do this before losing credibility? How much will the concert ticket booking, CD extras-seeking, DVD-buying public stand? Well, in this month’s piece by writer, pop music critic, and music fan Geoff Moore, that very question takes center stage, with a giant inflatable pig hanging over it …

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Roger Waters was the cover subject of a very recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Stop-in-your-tracks stuff because he is neither a television actor nor a starlet, but an actual working musician, albeit one with nothing new to sing to us. But such is the state of what is now referred to as ‘classic’ rock.

Roger Waters has revived (rebuilt?) The Wall, which relates the story of Pink F. Sorrow, a rock star who suffers a breakdown in the Colony of Slippermen where he has been exiled and forced to play pinball.

And he blames his mother. Or something.

Time has not been kind to rock opera plots generally (the drugs wore off), but the vast majority of their songs still hold up either in or outside of their original contexts.

Long past the peak (height?) of its popularity, Pink Floyd’s 11th album has still sold some 23 million* copies in the United States alone. Staggering numbers for a double LP, hell, any LP. A monster. By contrast, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon,’ a chart legend in its own right, has moved a rather paltry 15 million* US units since its release in 1973.Waters’ last solo tour (2006) featured ‘Dark Side’ in its entirety. A post-Waters Pink Floyd had earlier performed ‘Dark Side’ in sequence as part of its 1994 ‘Division Bell’ tour, those recordings may be found on disc two of ‘Pulse’ (1995).

What’s apparent is that a certain English art rocker wants to make it very clear to the world who exactly the mastermind was behind two of the biggest selling rock albums in the history of popular music. Fair play or insanely bloated ego at large? Probably a healthy portion of each; Waters’ departure from Pink Floyd made the dissolution of Yugoslavia appear positively civil.

There are more than a few bricks in ‘The Wall’:

  • Pink Floyd: The Wall (1979)
  • Pink Floyd The Wall (film, 1982)
  • Roger Waters: The Wall – Live in Berlin (1990)
  • Pink Floyd: Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980-81 (2000)

The Delete Bin’s I Ching-Magic 8 Ball-Tarot-Psychic-Tea Leaf-Future Gleaning Oracle™ foresees… Roger Waters: The Wall Live (Blu-ray, 2012)

The Wall Live is one of the few 2010 tours that is SRO, most other outings have been scaled back, postponed or cancelled outright. Why so much pent-up demand for a 31-year-old rock opera that was inspired in part by Waters’ own contempt for and alienation from the very people who are now shelling out for the ducats? ‘The Wall’ is, frankly, a bit of a self-indulgent downer: Woe is me. It’s a stretch for anyone to empathize with a rich yet miserable rock star, although to be fair, nobody can control the thoughts and fears that careen around inside their heads.

Prior to this tour, productions of The Wall had been mounted in maybe five cities world-wide and nowhere anywhere in the last 20 years. So even with just a fourth of the original ensemble on stage, The Wall Live is a significant notch in any fan’s rock ‘n’ roll bedpost. Rarity just may be recession-proof. Perhaps The Wall Live is some sort of karmic payoff for parents who’ve been forced to endure Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber concerts. For boomers wanting a ride in the Way Back Machine to revisit the sounds of their messed up teen years, there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from out there this year.

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, anyone? Anyone?

And what of the other active acts whose 2010 tours went into the toilet? These days discretionary income is something to be doled out in a miserly fashion. It’s okay if Sir Wilfred Laurier blinks when you open your wallet [ed:that is, if you live in Canada]. Is that the explanation for the decrease in the rock road business or has everybody finally learned the lesson of a Planet Hollywood dining experience: We will not pay premium prices for sub-par product.

(*Wikipedia)

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Geoff Moore fights the forces of evil as a writer in Calgary.  He specializes in dark sarcasm in the classroom.

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12 thoughts on “Roger Waters The Wall Live 2010: Riding the Gravy Train

  1. I suppose one could argue it’s no different than the fact that I’ve seen/heard/purchased various symphony orchestras, choirs, and soloists performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, multiple times. Although in that case, it’s not the composer who’s cynically milking his own product. Plus, will anyone be listening to The Wall in nearly 200 years?

    1. Apologies for the slow response. The Wall is essentially 6 or 8 songs plus snippets & filler over 4 sides. It’s like Joy Division or the Doors, something you grow out of & put away. I haven’t sat through it in years. The current demand mystifies me although Waters maintains the work has been re-imagined for the 21st century, East vs West, which is as obtuse as the original concept beyond the simple metaphor of a wall.

    1. Apologies for the slow response. I’ve never heard of that & you’re right, it makes no sense. Still, 11.5 million is still a staggering figure for a more expensive double set – especially in this day & age of modest sales.

  2. Perhaps you should see the concert before you comment on it. I, for one, will be disappointed if he does not release his current concert on blu-ray. It was one of the most amazing concerts I have ever been too.

    1. Hi Mr. Gilmour, and welcome!

      To be fair, I don’t think Geoff is commenting on the concert series, or making any value judgments as to its quality, so much as he is on the phenomenon of re-packaging. This is an extremely pertinent issue for music fans, and one certainly worth commenting on and talking about from a consumer’s standpoint.

      It’s great to hear you enjoyed the show, and thanks for reporting in on it here! 🙂

      1. If The Wall is the only show of it’s kind, no complaints. It’s not Momma Mia or Rocky Horror Picture Show, and that’s what I was afraid of. I went with a Pink Floyd fan who sings the songs and plays David Gilmour leads. If it was repackaged, it still had that new smell going for it.

    2. Glad you enjoyed it; I’m sure it was a spectacle especially given the advances in performance technology over the past 30 years.
      The latest music industry business model is not to depend on CD//MP3 revenue, but rake it in on tickets & merch (a complete about face from the 70s-80s model of money-losing tours to promote album sales). Yet the recession crushed the 2009-10 concert business – except for The Wall Live. Why? I like Young Lust as much as anyone, but the pent-up demand for this tour surprised me. And what Rob said below…

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