Music has power.  The power to stir emotions and paint pictures in our imagination.  When Pink Floyd released their high-concept double album The Wall in 1979 its listeners were left to flesh out the storyline that the music and lyrics provided with whatever visual concepts their own brains provided.  Like no album before it though, The Wall called out for visual interpretation.  Pink Floyd’s live performances of the album mixed music and visuals in a way that no band had done before – building a physical wall between the band and audience and then projecting Gerald Scarfe’s animated interpretations of the story onto it, accompanied by huge, grotesque marionettes.  Alan Parker’s 1982 film adaptations of the story provided a fully realised visual framework for the storyline, the music  being somewhat relegated to a supporting narrative role.

The Wall was very much Waters’ baby and the tensions between him and the other band members during its recording are well documented.  The next Floyd album The Final Cut was to all intents a Waters solo album and the band subsequently split; Waters going his own way and the other band members carrying on without him.rogerwatersthewall

In the years since the split both Waters and the Waters-less Floyd have toured, both performing songs from before the split.  When Waters decided that he wanted to return to live performance a few years ago but did not have any new material to take out on tour, the idea of revisiting The Wall was born.  Waters was concerned about costs but tour designer Mark Fisher persuaded Waters that it could be a viable proposition.  Waters owes Fisher a pint – in October 2013 Billboard magazine reported that The Wall tour has grossed $459million from219 performances.  Earlier this year Waters released a film, Roger Waters The Wall, part concert footage and part road trip documentary recording Waters’ visits to his grandfather and father’s war graves.

The film has now been released on Blu-ray with an accompanying soundtrack CD and it is this soundtrack that is being reviewed here, bereft of any visuals – I’m reviewing via Tidal so I don’t even have the CD packaging to influence the music.

Certainly, there is a market for the blu-ray;  the live show is by all accounts stunning and I’d be surprised if any of the 4 million people who attended the shows didn’t want to buy a souvenir of that experience.  Fans who didn’t make it to a show are bound to be interested too.  But can the music stand up to the original album or the Waters-era Pink Floyd live release In The Flesh on its own?  I must admit I was sceptical.

From The opening bombast of In The Flesh onwards, it’s evident  that Waters’ band – Drums:Graham Broad; Guitars:Dave Kilminster, G.E. Smith, Snowy White; Keyboards:Jon Carin, Harry Waters; Lead Vocals:Robbie Wyckoff (covering David Gilmour’s old parts); Backing Vocals:Jon Joyce, Mark Lennon, Michael Lennon and Kipp Lennon have the chops to carry it off.  David Gilmour’s guitar playing is of course inimitable but the guitarists here keep to the spirit of his playing and are sensible enough not to deviate too far from the script during solos.  Waters himself is in decent voice but I suspect that most if not all of his bass duties are being handled by the other guitarists.

Waters has indicated in interviews that the narrative thrust of The Wall has shifted away from the psychoses of a Seventies’ rock star to a strong anti-war message.  This is no doubt clear in the visuals but the music has remained largely unchanged.  One exception is a new segment, The Ballad Of Jean Charles de Menezes, which commemorates the Brazilian man shot down by police in London after having been wrongly identified as a terrorist suspect following the London bomb attacks on 7/7/2005 and follows on from Another Brick In The Wall Part 2.

So, does this work purely as a piece of music?  Well…yes.  The musical arrangements are subtly different enough to retain your interest, Run Like Hell is particularly impressive.  The fascist overtones of Waiting For Worms –“ Would you like to see our coloured cousins sent home again?” have more resonance in our current political climate than they did when the album was originally released, and that is a really depressing thought.  Will this recording replace the original album in your affections? I sincerely doubt it.  If, like me your affection for the original album has waned somewhat over the years (I bought it on the day it was released and played it to death) this is a good way of becoming reacquainted.  One for Waters and Floyd fans certainly, but unlikely to make many converts. It will, regardless, sell in bucket loads.

Reviewed via Tidal.

John Scott

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