And when they’ve given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it’s not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger’s wall.
lyrics from Outside The Wall by Roger Waters
July 6 2013 – Below is a very long Roger Waters The Wall review in Athens Greece on July 31 2013. If you prefer a short review here it is – “The best concert experience ever in which Waters takes the live musical experience to the highest theatrical level the world has seen – all set against a masterpiece of 70’s rock“. For those that prefer a much more long winded review, read on and welcome to the journey….
Almost one year after we covered the “final” Roger Waters presents The Wall show in Quebec City Canada we are back for more from the mad bugger and his wall. Roger Waters Tears Down The Wall For The Final Time In Quebec City was not the case as Waters announced European stadium shows for the summer of 2013. I have been fortunate to have seen this show 9 times so far including the first date of the tour on September 15 2010 in Toronto, as well as the night David Gilmour stood on top of The Wall in London, England on May 12 2011 (which also featured Nick Mason on stage at the end of the show) reviewed here. We reviewed in in Austin Texas on May 3 2013 here, Buffalo NY on June 21 2013 here, Toronto’s Roger Center on June 23 2012 here, Charlotte NC on July 20 213 here, and gave this concert easily our number 1 spot on our Top 10 concerts of 2012 article.
Athens, Greece – one of the world’s most storied and significant cities. An inhabited history of at least 7000 years, home of philosophy, politics, democracy, and a city that gave birth to the way we live in the “western” world. Athens was the host of the first modern Olympics in 1896 (note the original ancient Olympics which date to 776BC were held in Olympia which is south of Athens) and Athens also hosted the Olympic games in 2004. The Olympic Stadium (OAKA) which was built for those games in 2004 was the scene for Water’s The Wall tonight.
This is the second time I have been in the stadium – the first being in the Olympics of 2004. What a difference a decade makes. In 2004 Greece was at it’s ultimate high. Fresh from an odds defying first place finish in the Euro Cup of Football, to the emotional pride of the Olympic flame being finally lit in Athens again – a feeling of pride that only a Greek can feel as the Olympics were finally home. 2004 was the year that everything was possible for the little country that has been through so much. In 2004 the unemployment rate was 9% in 2013 it is approaching 27% . Debt to GDP in 2004 was 97 in 2013 a staggering 156. The country is going through a major financial crisis that threatens to shatter the European Union and it’s globalization mantra.
The Olympic OAKA stadium was a sure sign of the times. In 2004 it’s full capacity of 70,000 seats were utilized daily for the Olympics and joy was in the air. In 2013 the OAKA Stadium was relatively empty for The Wall and ticket sales for were dismal – so bad in fact that the promoters decided to change the venue and date of the concert 2 weeks prior to it’s date. In a tale similar to a Greek tragedy (or was it a comedy) they offered no refunds and chose a crappy venue way outside of Athens. This news was devastating to me personally as my whole vacation plans were based around the original date and if the concert moved date i would not be able to attend. The public were very vocal in their negative response to this change of date and venue and a few days later Waters posted this simple message on The Wall Facebook page. “To all the Greek fans: thank you, you did it- the gig is back on the original date at the original venue. OAKA on July, 31.” Whew, and thank you Roger! Utilizing Facebook once again Waters posted this video entitled “A Message To The Greek Fans” (speaking Greek at that) acknowledges things are very tough in Greece and announcing discounted 18 Euro seats for the concert. This is clearly not a man desperate to fill in seats on his record breaking tour, but a man very aware of global economic situations and taking action. This move is the exact antithesis of the greed shown by the Rolling Stones and their recent tour with insanely ridiculous ticket prices – a move which has turned me off from the Rolling Stones for good.
Waters love of Greece goes back to his teenage years where he used to spend many time in the country exploring and vacationing. He has gone down in record to claiming that he had only done LSD twice in his life (suprising to some that associate early Pink Floyd to the LSD scene of the 60’s) and the first time was on the Greek isle of Patmos (a bad trip by the way). Recenty Waters is finding himself in another drama with headlines accusing him of being ani-Jew because of his use of the Star of David in his shows. Waters posted a full response which starts with
“Dear Rabbi Cooper,
I hold your outburst to be inflammatory and un-helpful and would suggest it can only impede progress towards peace and understanding between people. It is also extremely insulting to me personally in that you accuse me of being ‘Anti Semitic’, ‘A Jew Hater’ and ‘Nazi Sympathizer’”
You can check out the fully well versed and logical response here. Enough drama, the show must go on…
Note: Most of the following text is from our Roger Waters concert review from Austin, TX on May 8 2012 since very little in the actual concert has changed. Athens specific content has been added.
Roger Waters – the bassist, vocalist, and main lyricist of Pink Floyd has been taking his masterpiece album The Wall out on tour across the world since 2010. The Wall was originally presented as a Pink Floyd album (1979), tour (1980/81), and movie (1982). This latest concert presentation is a spectacle in itself in that it reproduces the original gigs as performed in 1980/81 (which by the way only played in 4 cities since it was just so massive and expensive). It has of course been updated technologically and features some of the most advanced lighting and concert effects ever seen. It is selling out everywhere across the world and it is my personal belief that it will be the last time the world will see such a mega production from the classic arena rock era (as all the musicians are approaching or past their 70’s).
The Wall has smashed attendance records in South America playing to over 750,000 fans across a record-breaking 15 open-air stadiums shows in Chile, Brazil and Argentina including a mind boggling 9 sold out shows in Buenos Aires’s River Plate Stadium with a capacity of 45,000 (yeah do the math – 675,000 tickets were sold just in Buenos Aires). Furthermore, the Pollstar Music Industry Awards, as voted by the music industry, has honored Roger Waters and The Wall Live with two of the highest accolades – the coveted “Major Tour of the Year” and “Most Creative Stage Production” of 2010. The Wall also won the “Most Creative Stage Production” for a second consecutive year in 2011. The album is also the 3rd biggest selling album in the States.
“The best arena show ever. Period.” – New York Post
The New York Post got that one wrong. We are declaring this show not the best concert of the year, decade, or millennium but the best concert ever. Period. The Wall is a musical masterpiece (not necessarily the individual songs – but the entire album consumed in its entirety from the first note to the end) and will be enjoyed for many generations to come. Add in massive visuals and theatrics to play out the album and you have something so unique and refreshing that it will stay with you for the rest of your life. Seeing it’s creator on stage performing it as he intended is quite the experience.
Wikipedia gives a very good overview of the work.
The Wall is a rock opera that explores abandonment and isolation, symbolized by a metaphorical wall. The songs create an approximate storyline of events in the life of the protagonist, Pink, a character based on Waters, whose father was killed during the Second World War. Pink is oppressed by his overprotective mother, and tormented at school by tyrannical, abusive teachers. Each of these traumas become metaphorical “bricks in the wall”. The protagonist eventually becomes a rock star, his relationships marred by infidelity, drug use, and outbursts of violence. As his marriage crumbles, he finishes building his wall, completing his isolation from human contact. Hidden behind his wall, Pink’s crisis escalates, culminating in an hallucinatory on-stage performance where he believes that he is a fascist dictator performing at concerts similar to Neo-Nazi rallies, at which he sets men on fans he considers unworthy. Tormented with guilt, he places himself on trial, his inner judge ordering him to “tear down the wall”, opening Pink to the outside world. The album turns full circle with its closing words “Isn’t this where…”, the first words of the phrase that begins the album, “…we came in?”, with a continuation of the melody of the last song hinting at the cyclical nature of Waters’ theme.
Tonight’s show was part of the second leg of The Wall in Europe. This is the 10th time I have seen this show on this tour so far including the magic moment in rock history when David Gilmour stood on top of The Wall in London’s O2 back in May 2011. The recap (and video of Comfortably Numb) of that night is here. Below is Comfortably Numb from Athens, Greece.
This show was presented in a stadium setting which is much wider than an arena. As such The Wall was much longer than typical and Waters used that extra space for even more animations and in particular camera shots of the musicians at times. We had thought the arena shows were amazing, but seeing an even bigger Wall with even more people was incredible. This show was nearly identical to the first leg of the tour, with the exception of some new animations on the wall including closeup video footage of Waters on the wall for some songs.
The show began at 9:30 pm (oddly enough the ticket did not give that info just a doors open at 5:30 time). During the first time Waters addresses his audience he speaks to them in Greek with a very strained effort but very much appreciated! This happened right after Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) and it’s chorus of kids (video below) and right before Mother. Mr Waters had this to say in Greek (which we translate to English below).
“Hello Athens. Welcome. I am very pleased to be here. Thank you. First of all I would like to thank the kids in the chorus with an applause. Thank you. You are incredible. I would like to dedicate this concert to Jean-Charles de Menezes and his family for the struggle towards truth and justice. And all the other victims of state sponsored terrorism. We will remember you.
Your language is tough. A lot. It’s ok, what can we do.”
End of Greek and introduces Mother in English.
Usually one of the loudest cheers in the show is in response to “mother should I trust the government” but in Athens the response was delayed until the Wall displayed “Gamiete h kivernisi” which literally means “fuck the government” which got an ear deafening audience response from the Greeks which really can relate to that simple message. Who to blame for the sad state of the modern greek economy but the government. The unified voice of the Greeks was loud and clear at this point in the concert.
The basic premise of the concert version of The Wall is that an actual wall gets built during the first half and the second half begins with a full wall hiding the band. The show culminates with the wall being broken down at the finale. In between we get a Stuka plane flying over the audience and blowing up behind the wall, massive puppets of The Teacher, The Mother and The Wife, flag bearers, a hotel room scene, a simulated machine gun shooting of the audience, and of course a flying pig.
The enthusiasm in the audience was electric and this night will go down for many as the best concert experience of their lives with a special understanding of the globalization and “us and them” concepts found within The Wall. As usual the first half of the show is 1 hour long, there was a 25 minute intermission and the second half was 55 more glorious minutes and just like that at 11:50 pm the show was over with some more Greek from Waters. “It’s not easy that. Thank You. Thank You very much”
Waters introduces the band that walk off one by one with many thank you from Waters. The sad realization that my Wall experience was over for good kicked in but then immediately I remembered how truly privileged I am to have witnessed this show 10 times in 4 different countries. Thank you, you mad bugger, for letting me bang my head on your Wall.
PS – As I finish this review I realize how long it is but even if nobody ever reads it I really don’t mind – I view it as a personal journal entry of one of the greatest musical moments of my life.
Verdict: 5+ out of 5! The best concert of all time. Period. Roger Waters has come full circle. What started off in 1976 with him being a self confessed dark, miserable and f*ed up individual, who wrote The Wall because of his disgust at rock audiences and which eventually tore apart Pink Floyd culminates in his current 3 year swan song that has sold over 2 million tickets and establishes The Wall as one of the most impactful works of art the human race has ever created.