Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Wall

My sister gave me a ticket to a Roger Waters concert, where he performed "The Wall" in its entirety. I went with my brother-in-law, my nephew, and one of his friends. A little surreal, but it was fun.

The show was brilliant. And like so many others, the music and the layers of messages embedded within the spectacle resonated within multiple facets of my life. From the sixth grade classroom, where a record player was smuggled in, the needle laid upon the fifth song of the first side, and the anthem that every hormonal and dissatisfied pre-teen embraced, rang out, to the depression and isolation of disenchanted adulthood, "The Wall" blurred the boundaries between the angst of self and world issues.

Supposedly, when originally conceived, "The Wall" represented the mental and emotional barriers erected by a wounded psyche, simultaneously with physical borders between political entities, most notably the now-defunct Berlin Wall.

A wall is a wall is a wall.

So, on a random Tuesday night, I felt like I was taken back through time, through the autobiographical expressions of Roger Waters's music, as well as through incarnations of my own self. It was a strange situation for me on so many levels. I have gone to a lot of concerts. The memorabilia I collected is stored lovingly in "the Box." I pull it out on random occassions to either impress my son with my past coolness or to remind myself, "Oh, I really did see them. What tour was that?" Consulting the t-shirts and/or tour programs to jog memory.

I spent a great deal of my youth at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I must note that as of last Tuesday, the building was still there, however the previous days had seen a flurry of adoring fans pillaging whatever they could carry out before the demolition of the structure. I remember JFK Field (saw the Gold Cup Grand Prix as well as the Rolling Stones, The Who, and so many other bands- missed Live Aid, damn). I was at Veteran's Stadium watching the Atoms (Yes, there was once pro soccer), the Eagles (freezing my patootie off with my dad), and the Phillies. Those edifices are all gone now, replaced by The "Link", Citizen's Bank Field, and the ever name changing home of the Flyers at the moment sponsored by Wells Fargo.

The venue is different. Out with the old, in with the newer, larger, flashier, state-of-the-art. I am older, Roger Waters is older (I can only hope to have his energy at 67), and yet, the performance was powerful and relevant.

The show itself was newer, flashier, used state-of-the-art technology and effects, and still overwhelmed and awed. As I listened, I remembered how the lyrics moved me as a confused teen, touched nerves I could never express. At the same time, I was constantly dragged back into the reality of now. The visuals flitted back and forth between the cartoon figures that adorned the album's liner notes, old footage, and modern politial imagery. The world is still at war and we are still building walls.

I steeped in a heady tea of memory, flavored with propaganda, with a hint of hard individual truth, and a bitter bite, but the finish was pure fulfillment.

A 35 foot wall was built during the first half of the show. It remained as a tool and backdrop for most of the second half. Of course, at the end, it came down. It would be rebuilt the following night, and the next, for every night of the tour.

For myself, my own walls have been built, destroyed, rebuilt, and torn down over and over. I admit, I still do it, though not as strong or obliterating as my defenses were when I felt the most damaged.

I do believe that Roger Waters touced a universal nerve with this work. It is genius. Seeing it performed live, sharing in his vision "In the Flesh," (I know, I know, but I couldn't resist) in the place I grew up, hearing the music, recalling how it affected my mixed-up, half-insane teenaged self (whose ideal state was to be "Comfortably Numb"- hey, it's an accurate assessment), took me back. And threw me forward into our current mixed-up, half-insane paradoxical world. I continue to examine the resonance of the concert. I feel like a teenager again, filled with conviction born in the combination of loud, live music and poetic metaphor -an almost religious experience; I'm sifting layers and layers, peeling the onion, not entirely sure what I will find or what conclusions I will draw. It's a journey. The more things change...

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