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Why Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” Still Matters

Flashback to 1979. Yes, I know, many of you weren’t even close to being born but indulge me.  I was in the 8th grade listening to Q102 – the local Cincinnati pop station – one night when I heard a song called Another Brick in the Wall by a band called Pink Floyd. It was one of those songs that grabbed your attention as soon as you heard it and you had to hear it again and again and again. Brick was quickly followed by Comfortably Numb, which melted my heart. I knew nothing about Pink Floyd at the time. My only experience with British music up to that point was seeing The Who live in Cincinnati at their ill-fated 1979 show. I remember thinking “what is a Floyd and why is it pink,” agreeing that I “don’t need no education,” and other such silly things. The album was so inspirational at the time that the cover of our 8th grade yearbook was, you guessed it, a wall. I was a few years from discovering WEBN – the local Cincinnati rock station – so whatever replaced Brick and Numb as the next hit single eventually came around and Pink Floyd was forgotten.

Fast-forward to 1982. I was a full-fledged rock girl by the time Pink Floyd – The Wall was released. My then-boyfriend took me to see it and I was hooked so completely that I made him stop at a record store on the way home so I could buy the album. We saw it again and again and again. The story of Pink, a little boy suffering from the ramifications of the death of his father at the Anzio bridgehead during WWII and the isolation he suffered as an adult, ripped at my heart. Songs such as When the Tigers Broke Free, Mother, and Nobody Home cut me like a knife. I saw it every time it was re-released, sometimes straight and sometimes chemically altered, and played my VCR copy until the tape broke.

The Final Cut came out my freshman year in college. I was lucky enough to see Pink Floyd live on their Momentary Lapse of Reason tour in 1983 but without Roger Waters something was missing and they were never quite the same. Division Bell was the nail in the coffin for me and somewhere after that Pink Floyd fell apart for good and the little girl grew up and went to law school, entered the adult world of 120 hour work weeks and all was forgotten.

I quit practicing law, stopped adulting, and returned to the live music scene somewhere around 2006. I dug out my old albums and CDs and rediscovered all my old friends and a lot of new ones. Somewhere in my peripheral vision Pink Floyd still existed but sadly didn’t really mean anything anymore. It seemed dated and good to listen to every now and again but the themes seemed old and worked over and there was so much more new stuff to get involved in that I just let it go and moved on.

I heard that Roger Waters was touring a live version of The Wall but I didn’t follow it too closely because I figured it wouldn’t come anywhere close to where I was. But sometime during 2011 a Louisville date popped up so I checked into it. Hmmm….well over $100 a ticket. Was I willing to fight that battle with the husband? I gave it some thought, discussed it with my friend Abby, and then threw caution to the wind and bought the tickets almost a year in advance and promptly forgot about them until a month or so before the show.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I thought it would be a regular gig with Roger Waters fronting and maybe a video screen showing clips from the movie. The clue that I was wrong should have been when Abby and I walked into the arena and saw a partially-built wall across the front of the stage. Then it started and no more than five minutes into the show, tears were running down my face when the Roger-Waters-The-Wall-Film-2015Spartacus figure was killed to the cries of “I am Spartacus.” As the show went on, the wall was slowly built. The airplane crashed into the stage. The hammers marched. There were giant Mother, Wife, and Headmaster puppets and the War Pig flew again. There was a live Neo-Nazi rally that made my blood run cold. There was a trial scene. And at the end, the wall blew apart and the gig ended to the haunting lyrics – “All along, or in twos, the ones who really love you walk up and down outside the wall.” We sat there for a bit afterwards, neither of us spoke. When we could talk again, we agreed that whatever we’d spent on those tickets was worth every penny and we’d pay ten times as much to see it again if we had to.

But what made it relevant again? Make no mistake – this is not merely the Pink Floyd – The Wall movie played live on stage. While it still maintains a lot of the animated sequences and the lyrics haven’t been changed, the production modernizes it and brings the themes forward to the world we have lived in during the post 9/11 years. Tribute is given to those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blindly trusting a lying government is portrayed – when the line “Mother should I trust the government” is sung, the words “Fuck no!” appear on the wall. During Goodbye, Blue Sky, the falling bombs are replaced by the Star of David, the Cross, and the Crescent Moon, followed by corporate symbols for McDonalds, Shell Oil, and Mercedes Benz. Kevin Coffey, a reviewer for the Omaha World Herald, summed it up perfectly when he wrote “The original album and tour was about isolation. This time around, it was more anti-war, anti-capitalism and anti-poverty than about any kind of psychological issue.” In other words, The Wall is now an album for the world we live in now, not just the world that was. The world has been at war for 13 of my son’s 15 years. “Daddy, what d’ya leave behind for me” still resonates.

This year on September 29th, the film version of Roger Water’s The Wall – Live will be screened world-wide. For those of you who have never listened to The Wall or those of you who saw the original movie, this is your opportunity to experience it in its latest version. The closest thing I can think of to compare it to is a MUSE concert, but that doesn’t even come close. If you are like I was, you will come away from it stunned, shocked, changed, and mad at what we’ve become. I believe this is a one-time only thing, if I find out otherwise I will let you know. But this is a Wall for your generation. Pink lives.

Watch the theatrical trailer below

Advance tickets can be purchased here.