On a trip to England 3 years ago, I had the chance of seeing The Wall Live by Roger Waters. Twice in London (O2 Arena) and once more in Manchester (MEN Arena).
This was probably the last thing that I wished I had experienced back in my teenage years. Back in 1980, I used to read in a Greek music magazine about the immense show that Pink Floyd had put up at Earl's Court and the article was pointing out that it would have been impossible for such a show to be staged in Greece. Thankfully, 31 years later that show finally came to Greece (The fact that Roger Waters has a summer house here probably helped).
Το Wall was my favourite album of that year (1980) and it's surprising that my vinyl copy can still be played. 3 years later I almost did not see the Alan Parker movie because it was certified 18. Probably because it featured nude women. Surprisingly enough, movies that featured violence like the Rambo, or Chuck Norris films could be watched by anybody.
Anyway, in 2011 The Wall Live was performed at indoor arenas only.This is certainly not the kind of concert that you will spend the whole time on your feet and dancing - maybe so during Another Brick In The Wall (and that means Part 2 only), and maybe during Run Like Hell. The "disco" tracks. That's it!
On entering the arena,music is playing. One of the highlights is John Lennon's "Mother". When the show starts there's a re-enaction of a scene from Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus".
This is immediately followed by "In The Flesh?" There are effects and fireworks, too many, compared with what is to follow.
Before the end of the song, you should take a look at the roof. Yes, it's a war plane. Which will crash and blow up on stage.
Moving on with "The Thin Ice", and Roger comes to the front of the stage. Followed by "Another Brick In The Wall Part 1" while the first photo of many showing people lost in wars is displayed. It's his father.
"The Happiest Days Of Our Lives" and it's time now for the giant puppets: The teacher, leading us to the famous "Another Brick In The Wall Part 2", where in the second verse young pupils will come up on stage to sing "We don't need no education..."
At the end of a song the photo of a man, lost in a different kind of war will be shown on stage. Brazilian Jean Charles De Menezes, murdered by policemen on the London Underground who, judging by his face and colour, decided he was an Arab terorist. Probably the most uncomfortable moment for the British audience.
Next is "Mother" which Roger will sing as a duet with himself from Earl's Court, filmed in 1980
Now it's time for the second big puppet, the mother
During the lyric "Mother should I trust the government", the answer comes up on the wall: "No f**king way!".
"Goodbye Blue Sky" comes up next, and the projection on the wall was what caused Waters to be accused of anti-semitism. An aeroplane is shown ("Did you hear the falling bombs") which, instead of bombs, is dropping: Crosses, stars of David, half-moons, hammer-and-sickle signs, dollar signs, Mercedes, Shell, and McDonald's logos.
Apparently, if I am not mistaken, the Israeli government complained. They did not ask for the stars of David to be removed. Instead they asked for the dollar-signs not to appear after them! So, Roger Waters changed the sequence and everybody was happy!.
During "Empty Spaces/What Shall We Do Now" the animations projected on the wall are familiar to those of us who have seen the movie.
"Young Lust", one of the best songs written by Gilmour for Pink Floyd,(after "Comfortably Numb" of course) while on the wall we see projections of young women in different stages of semi-nudity.
"One Of My Turns", and Waters sitting backwards on a chair in the middle of the stage, while the next giant puppet appears, the wife while we move on to "Don't Leave Me Now".
Waters leaves the stage, while only a few pieces of the wall are left uncovered. "Another Brick In The Wall Part 3" starts while the images on the wall are changing faster than ever and in the end, during "The Last Few Bricks" the... er... last few bricks are put in place.
In the end, while there's only one empty space on the wall, "Goodbye Cruel World" starts. That's when the very last brick is placed on the wall and part 1 ends.
During the intermission, on the wall, pictures and stories of people are shown who have perished in wars or terrorist attacks.
Part 2 begins with "Hey You", while the band cannot be seen, as they are playing behind the blank white wall.
Towards the end of the song, while we are moving towards "Is There Anybody Out There" an animation is shown giving the illusion that the wall is surrounding the protagonist.
Suddenly, a part of the wall opens up and Waters with a lamp beside him and a TV in front of him, sings "Nobody Home".
When the song ends, that part of the wall closes again and we move on to "Vera" followed by "Bring The Boys Back Home" while we see pictures of soldiers returning from the war and meeting their relatives.
Finally it's time for "Comfortably Numb"! During the days of Pink Floyd this would have been David Gilmour's moment. Now it's just Waters's guitarist who appears. Gilmour did appear in fact, but only on the 12th of May 2011, with Nick Mason, Pink Floyd's drummer. This is how the scene is set: Waters, down on stage in front of the wall, the guitarist and the singer on top of the wall at 2 different places.
"The Show Must Go On", and we are now on the cocluding part of the show. The crossed hammers logo appears on the wall and Waters takes his turn wearing a leather coat, which refers to nazism, while "In The Flesh" is performed...
"Who let this riff raff into the room?
This one's smoking a joint
And the other one's got spots
If I had my way I'd have all of you shot!"
Sure enough the song ends with Waters... shooting at the audience, while above them the flying pig hovers...
"Waiting For The Worms" and the hammers are parading on the wall.
"Stop!" and now we're ready for the finale "The Trial".
The story is told with projections on the wall which our familiar two us from the 1983 Alan Parker movie.
"Tear down the wall!" and it's time for the wall to come down. The viewers are the front feel like it's coming towards them. Meanwhile, confetti is falling, cut in the shapes that were seen dropping from the warplanes earlier. Crosses, half moons, stars of David etc. And when the demolition is completed all the musicians come up on stage for an acoustic "Outside The Wall".
Roger Waters and the band leave, the show is over, and only the roadies are left picking up the fallen "bricks".
2 months later, in July, The Wall Live finally came to Greece, proving that it is possible to stage such a show in Athens, at least nowadays. For our non-Greek friends who probably don't know this fact, from 1967 until 1980 there were no rock concerts in Greece. The last one in 1967 was by The Rolling Stones, only 4 days before the coup-d'etat that brought the 7 year military dictatorship. And even that concert was stopped by the police after only a few songs when they started beating the fans. Listening to rock or pop music was really frowned upon by the Greek society back then. Even in the late 70's and early 80's, after the restoration of democracy, it was still frowned upon, mainly by political parties, and rock music was ignored by the newspapers of the era. And the next rock concert after 1967 was in 1980 by The Police.
So Roger Waters played in Athens at the Olympic Arena 3 times and I was of course present on all 3 of them (once in the arena, once on the lower tier and once on the upper
The main difference of the 2011 concerts in Greece, was that they were going to be filmed for the DVD. Initially the London concerts were picked to be filmed, but this was changed to Athens, re-arranging the schedule of the Italian concerts which resulted in Italian fans being very angry with us on the internet.
This was the reason that Roger asked for cameras and cellphones not to be allowed in the concert. To make things clear: there is no problem if someone is taking a picture or a video. The problem lies with those idiots who use a flash EVERY TIME they take a picture and the reflections that flash photography would cause on the wall and its projections. It is however impossible to explain to each and every Helmut Newton wannabe that flash photography DOES NOT HELP, especially when what you want to capture IS 50 METRES AWAY FROM YOU! So the organizers had set up some areas where people could leave their phones and cameras. People were NOT searched however, upon entering the venue. It is not permitted under Greel law for anyone to be searched, unless this is done by the police.
What actually happened is this: When they saw a person with a phone or a camera, they would not send them out, nor would they confiscate it. They were just asked, very politely, to put it away. And if you search a bit on YouTube, you will see that there were indeed a few videos taken secretly on those 3 days.
One of those posting them even declared that they did this as a "resistance against the system" (aka "sticking it to THE MAN" . I only took one photo and one video on the third night, but these were taken AFTER the concert had finished (On the video Waters says thank you and introduces band members to the audience).
There were some other differences from the English concerts: First of all, all the concerts would start with a video from Waters speaking in Greek. Then, after "Another Brick In The Wall Part 2" an acoustic version of the song would follow, dedicated to Jean Charles De Menezes. Then, during "Mother" at the "Mother should I trust the government" bit, apart from the usual "NO F**KING WAY" that was displayed in England, on the other side of the wall "F**K THE GOVERNMENT" was displayed, in Greek. Finally, as opposed to England, there were no seats in the arena. Everybody was standing and on each night there were different corridors set up for the cameras. It was very easy nevertheless for me to secure a place at the front. Also, masks were handed to those in the arena and they were asked to wear them at a certain point during the concert (On the second night some extra filming was done with the masks before the beginning of the concerts).
However, as we were waiting for the DVD, enjoying our souvenirs from the merchandise stall, Roger decided to continue as a stadium tour
And that is how he once again came to Athens at the Olympic Stadium. It wasn't so easy though. At some point the organizers realized they had not sold enough tickets, so they tried to move the show to Terra Vibe, a field which they own and which is outside Athens, and difficult to get to. And on a different date, on top of that! Thankfully, after a lot of complaints and threats fro the ticket holders it was restored to its original place. And with no filming to be done this time cameras and cell-phones were allowed...