Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Moment of Rock History

Almost miraculously there he was taking his rightful place on top of The Wall. It only took the audience a few seconds to realize that the figure silhouetted by the broad shaft of back-projected, white light was Gilmour, recreating the iconic image first captured 30 years ago in Jill Furmanovsky’s photograph. A mighty roar from the auditorium almost drowned out the opening notes of ‘Comfortably Numb’. Gilmour and Waters were reunited. May 12th, 2011, The 02, London.

There had been the inevitable rumours and Twitterings that Gilmour would join Waters for one night; just one, somewhere on this European tour of The Wall. I don’t think anyone really thought they’d see it. And there was no speculation over the possibility of Mason being involve. But there he was, albeit swapping a drum kit for a tambourine. Mason, Gilmour, Waters and the 11-strong band, all standing front stage for the closing number, performed in front of the physical wreckage of the torn down Wall almost as an encore. Three members of Pink Floyd on stage together. May 12, 2011, The 02 London.

And Waters, hugging his old adversaries, making a public confession that during the Wall’s first outing at Earls Court 29 years and 329 days previously, he had been a grumpy, argumentative man, disaffected with both rock audiences and his colleagues. Gilmour nodded agreement. ‘But I’m a changed man now’. Gilmour nodded at that, too.

And what of The Wall itself? From the opening moments, when a large model plane crossed the audience to explode in a ball of fire stage right of a photo of Water’s own dead father, you knew you were in for something even greater than the normally memorable Water’s production. Seat belts on and prepare to have your senses bombarded.

From little acorns do mighty oaks grow. Waters has come a long way from performing at the UFO and Nottinghill’s All Saints church hall in front of patterns of coloured oil projected onto a loosely hung sheet behind the band. The visual effects were an absolute triumph of both creativity and technology. The Wall itself, slowly erected during the first half of the show, became the projection screen, filled with ever-changing kaleidoscopic colours and evocative images. Water’s anti-war and anti-corporatism message, and the Wall’s central story of ‘Pink’ the disaffected, alienated rock star, were rammed home, sometimes perhaps to audience discomfort - depending on political standpoint. Giant and grotesque puppets danced, pigs flew and familiar, though still shocking images from the film, like the trial scene, seamlessly complemented the familiar audio.

And lest it be said that the visual triumphed at the expense of the aural, that audio was an equal partner in this feast for eyes and ears. The band was tight and Waters individual performance amazing.

It was breath-taking. It was stunning. The Wall was both literally and metaphorically torn down. It will probably not be repeated; surely Gilmour’s appearance was a one-off and Waters can’t keep on touring (he is 67 after all).

This was truly a moment in rock history: 12th May, 2100, the 02 London. And I was there.

Jill Furmanovsky’s photograph:

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