Capacity: 20,000, but attendance restricted to select audience
Concert starts: 7:45pm
Address of venue: 50 Rte 120, East Rutherford, NJ 07073. MAP
Roger's tour of The Wall is just days away, and as with any large tour, dress rehearsals are a necessary undertaking. Formally known as the Brendan Byrne Arena, and the Continental Airlines Arena, it's a place that he's played in on previous tours, and was the choice for this dress rehearsal. The show will be returning to this venue at the start of November.
A select few had their collective minds blown by all accounts, with this "special dress rehearsal". Naturally tight security faced those lucky enough to be present.
As one commentator put it: "Tonight I had the chance to see a preview of Roger Waters The Wall in all of its rock glory at the Izod center in NJ where Roger is rehearsing for his upcoming tour. The Wall has always been on my bucket list, so I jumped at the chance to see this new updated live version. I have to tell you that this is much more than a concert, it is an experience and the show has been updated with state-of-the-art technology and new political themes that make the show as relevant and fresh as it was 30 years ago. I know the tickets are expensive, but you have never seen anything like this before. If you only see one show this year, make sure it is this one."
Matt Levitz, Venice's webmaster, has posted this excellent, atmospheric review of the evening, originally posted at Venice Central - www.venicecentral.com. Here you'll also find Kipp Lennon's Wall Blog, an essential read thus far... Our thanks to Matt for allowing us to repost his report.
The tale begins about a week ago, when a guy in New Jersey made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Fortunately, this was the good kind. It was Kipp Lennon, who was on the east coast with Mark and Pat rehearsing for Roger Waters' "The Wall" world tour. He told me that if I could find my way from California to New Jersey, he could get me a pair of tickets for a special invitation-only run-thru performance of the show, Sunday, September 12, three nights before the tour officially begins in Canada. He said that this would be the full show, with lights, sets, projections, special effects, exactly the way it will soon be presented to the rest of the world. Well, I won't bore you with the details of how I scrambled to make it over there (or the 16 1/2 hours it took me to get home), I'll just skip to the good part, where I'm three rows from the stage, dead center, at the IZOD arena in New Jersey, sitting next to Michael Lennon and Mark Harris (and my friends Steve Wells and Kurt Torster), in front of a small audience of well under 1000 people, and the lights go down, and we're all completely blown away.
At this point in the narrative, I feel like I should establish my classic rock cred. In over twenty years as a music fan, I've attended concerts by the Rolling Stones, the Who, Paul McCartney, Page and Plant, Queen + Paul Rogers, Eagles, Tom Petty, Genesis, Elton John, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, Van Halen, Def Leppard, Journey, Styx, Bryan Adams, the list goes on and on. I've even seen Pink Floyd twice, once when they were touring with "A Momentary Lapse of Reason," and once with "The Division Bell." Roger Waters was not with them at either show, but they were still pretty good.
As for my Pink Floyd cred, I would classify myself as a casual fan. I know every word and every note of "The Wall," "Wish You Were Here" and "The Dark Side of the Moon," along with the two aforementioned post-Waters albums, but I've never felt the need to explore deeper into their back catalog.
So now that you know my background, I hope you can appreciate the weight of the following statement, that Roger Waters' "The Wall" show is probably the best concert I've ever seen.
I admit that I am biased because three of my friends are in the show. And of course I'm not immune to the excitement of the private event, or the work I had put into getting there, or our proximity to the stage. But hear me out.
This show is more than just a concert. It's an epic event, and it's unlike any performance I've ever seen before. I'm going to try to avoid spoilers here, but I will say that at the climax of the first song, there is a pyrotechnic display that if it had occurred as their grand finale (or perhaps as the closing ceremony at the Olympics), you would walk away feeling like you'd more than gotten your money's worth. And we all looked at each other, going, "Where on earth can they possibly go from here?" But then they proceeded to show us. Each new song is its own set piece, and is its own stunning audio/visual experience. The images are powerful, thought provoking, and at times even disturbing, but consistently original. The show starts with the bar impossibly high, and then repeatedly outdoes itself. There's no question that millions of dollars have been spent, and every cent is up on display, created and guided by a genius auteur, and then engineered by the smartest and most talented tech guys in the business. This is the "Avatar" of concerts.
If I can take a moment to share another revelation about myself, I'm typically the kind of guy who has to be as close to the stage as possible. At every opportunity, I move up, a few rows at a time, so that even if I start the show somewhere in the middle of the arena, by the last song, I'll often be right at the stage. And the reason is because I feel that the closer you are to the front, the better the show gets. You can feel the performers' energy better, see the facial expressions, and everything intensifies. Well, the bizarre thing about "The Wall" is that here, the opposite is true. Having experienced this concert from the third row, I find myself in the shocking position of admitting that I was too close. This concert is not about the performers, so being close to them is irrelevant. What this is is an overwhelming presentation, fifty feet high and a hundred feet wide, that I was unable to completely take in. Every time I looked at something on the left, I missed something on the right, and then when I spun to see that, I realized that something awesome was going on behind me, flying over the crowd. As weird as it feels to type this, I think that this might actually be the first concert I've ever been to where the fans in the cheaper seats, higher up, are actually going to have a fuller experience than the folks who refinanced their homes in order to pay scalper's prices and sit in the front.
It's worth mentioning that the surround sound system is impressive too. Every element is crystal clear, with music and sound effects coming at you from all directions. And the good news is that the speaker system is a part of this tour, and travels with them. So this high quality will be consistent at every stop.
I'm sure most of you are wondering, by this point, when I'm going to get to Venice. Well, obviously the guys sound great (when do they not?), but their vocals don't tower over everything, as we all know they're very capable of doing. If this were a Venice show, and they were performing a Pink Floyd song at an encore, they would have brought their own style and made it their own, as they do to every cover song they tackle. But here, they weren't hired to bring their Venice Vibe to the table, they were hired for their vocal skills and their ability to do perfect justice to the integrity of the source material. And that's exactly what they've done. Pink Floyd fans will appreciate the faithful reproduction of the background harmonies, as the Venice guys blend in perfectly with the excellent musicians and create an overall sound that is both reminiscent of the original album, while simultaneously bringing the excitement and energy of a live performance. Every now and then I would hear a purely sung chord that would stick out to me as a familiar Venice touch. And towards the end, there are a couple of songs where the harmonies are more prominent and our guys do shine through. But as a whole, this is not a show that is designed to play to Venice's strengths, and so their personal style is not on display.
Another observation is that for large stretches of the show, the guys don't move. Like at all. And I found that really disconcerting. With Marky especially, because there isn't a moment at a Venice show where he isn't drawing your eye with his dance moves, even when he's not the one singing the song! Watching him stand statue-still feels very odd. Equally uncharacteristic is Pat with no guitar in front of him. The only one who feels even slightly in his element is Kipp, because he occasionally bangs a tambourine like he does on "One Quiet Day," and he occasionally hits a cowbell like he does on "Think Again." At those moments, I felt like, "Ah, there's the Kipp Lennon we know and love." But for the most part, they, along with the rest of the band, move very little. And the effect that has is that they don't distract from the real star of the show, which - surprise! - is not even Roger Waters' performance. He does a great job, and is in fine voice, but no, the star here is Roger Waters' vision. That's the part that's going to stay with you.
So the question that Venice fans are probably asking themselves at this moment is whether the band taking a year off from writing, recording and performing their original material is worth it. After all, it's been a hotly debated topic on our Venice Talk web forum, and in many private conversations, whether Venice's best case scenario is achievable. You know, the one where Pink Floyd fans all over the world who attend this concert are so blown away by the background vocals that they immediately investigate who the singers are, discover the band, and become instant Venice fans. (Hey, what can I say, blunt honesty is a curse.) Now that I've seen the show, my opinion is that this probably won't happen to any significant degree. The guys do an amazing job, but so does everyone else on this tour, both onstage and off. And when the show is over, and you're making clumsy attempts to pick your jaw up off the floor, it's the entire experience that leaves its impression, not any one element of it.
I think the value of Venice's participation, and indeed the triumph of it, lies elsewhere. This is truly a concert for the ages. I can't imagine anyone seeing it and not remembering this experience for the rest of their lives. And right there at the center of it is Kipp, Mark and Pat. And that's a pretty cool thing. It's kind of like if you're a character actor, and you work your whole life without ever becoming a big star, but you did wind up with a couple of lines in "Star Wars" or "The Godfather." Maybe you won't get recognized on the street for it, but you'll always carry that memory of having been a part of entertainment history, putting your fingerprints on something that has a profound effect on millions of people. Kipp, Mark and Pat have that here. They get to be a cog in this incredible machine, and imprint their DNA on rock history. Not bad for a year's work.
So my recommendation is that everyone reading this should definitely make an effort to see this concert if you can. Don't worry if your seats are in the upper level, you'll be fine. The show is designed to play to you, even all the way up there. Go, not because you're hoping to see Venice make their mark in a larger capacity, but to celebrate this accomplishment with them, and to share in the experience.
And also because it's one hell of a show.
On a side note, I mentioned earlier that Michael Lennon experienced this concert next to me. For those of you who may have been directed here from another site, and don't know the tragic history that's transpired, the quick version is that up until about a month ago, Michael was going to be one of the backup singers on this tour, along with Kipp and Mark Lennon, but when he was unable to consistently hit the high notes, he was let go and replaced with Pat Lennon, who also happens to be a member of Venice. From the moment this happened, Michael has carried himself with unbelievable dignity, and I have to tell you, at the concert, he exuded nothing but pride and joy. Personally, if I had been the one in Michael's shoes, and I was confronted with the staggering culmination of everything I had been looking forward to, I don't think I would have been able to contain my anger and disappointment. But Michael had the time of his life, smiling the whole time, pointing things out excitedly ("Look at that! Look at that!"), clapping and dancing and singing along. He really is genuinely thrilled that his band mates get to do this, and I find his grace to be both inspiring and humbling.
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