AMSTERDAM ARENA, HOLLAND. First Published 4 OCTOBER 2013.
As someone of a certain age (52 – I admit it!) I’m old enough to have seen a few classic gigs in my youth and one that always stands out in my memory is seeing Pink Floyd perform ‘The Wall’ in London as a teenager. When I saw that Roger Waters was performing his latest version of the show in Amsterdam when I was in Holland anyway it was a no brainer to stay an extra day and check it out.
Words: Ian Sutherland.
The Amsterdam Arena is a football stadium (home to Ajax) and this meant I would get to see the middle size show, there being versions for festival size fields and smaller indoor arenas too. Arriving at the stadium I had a standing ticket so started at the back of the pitch and moved forward looking for a spot that wasn’t too busy and didn’t have lots of tall Dutchies blocking my view (the Dutch are a tall race!).
As it was a very busy show of around 40,000 to 50,000 I eventually found myself close to the front and I decided to watch from there, close enough to see the actual band on the huge stage but with an Imax kind of experience in prospect!
The set up was the same as the original show but on a bigger scale with a fully built wall stretching from the seats at one side of the arena to the other except for a space in the middle where the band were to play. When the lights went down and the band burst into the opening chords of ‘In The Flesh’ it was soon clear that 33 years later the show was now on a new level with the technology used to show projections on the wall allowing all sorts of amazing images to be shown to illustrate the songs.
The next two and a half hours had so many moments that were visually stunning that it’s hard to know where to start. When ‘In The Flesh’ included the sound of a plane crashing, a plane flew over the audience and over the wall. When the voice of the school teacher was heard we got a 30 foot tall puppet to illustrate it. When there were anti war themes included within the songs we got beautiful yet unnerving shadow bombers flying across the wall. The images shown on the wall included videos, huge shots of Mr Waters as he sang and played, graffitti style depictions, every song brought a new look to it.
This a music show first and foremost though and I’m happy to say that Roger looked and sounded better than I expected for a man recently turned 70. The band he put together including long time collaborators Snowy White and Dave Kilminster did the songs justice, if you liked the original album as much as me you wouldn’t have been disappointed even without the longed for presence of Gilmour and Mason.
While the music played and the explosions went off and the projections mesmerised the roadies gradually built the wall brick by brick until at the end of the first part of the set came ‘Goodbye Cruel World’ and at lights out the stage was covered by a complete wall. All these years on this is still a strange concept for a gig but the second half showed that with imagination this barrier can be used as an asset.
We got more puppets, the inevitable flying pig floating out from behind the wall, lots of stunning projected images and lots of the show’s star wandering around in front of it. Looking like a much more contented soul than he was in the 80s he sang, he exhorted the people in the upper reaches of the stadium to wave back at him, he shrank from a giant puppet representing his mother, he appeared out of the middle of the wall in a little room and he stomped around dressed in a leather trenchcoat as giant flags were waved and the band played.
Predictably the most memorable part of the show came during ‘Comfortably Numb’ when Snowy White did a tremendous version of the guitar solo atop the wall while his boss wandered along the foot of the wall looking for a way in. When he banged his fists on the wall in frustration it simply exploded in colour and you could hear the audience going “ahhhhh” in wonder. Just stunning.
The show built up to it’s climax through ‘Run Like Hell’ and ‘The Trial’ and then to the chants of ‘Tear Down The Wall’ down the middle part came! It still amazes me they can collapse it in such a controlled fashion.
The evening finished with Waters playing trumpet in front of the debris of the wall and doing a little acoustic number with his band in contrast to the huge spectacle that had gone before.
Thirty odd years on the basic show the Floyd put on was all still there, in the end all that was added were some amazing visual aids in the projections on the wall and a few slight musical tweaks allowing Waters to include more of an anti-war, anti-government theme. Whether you agree with his politics or not what can be said without doubt is that was a stunning show musically and visually. Catch it while you can, the man’s not getting any younger!