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Home arrow Reviews arrow Concerts arrow Pink Floyd - Earls Court, London, August 5th 1980
Pink Floyd - Earls Court, London, August 5th 1980 Print E-mail

Very atmospheric review supplied by Guntmar Ploetzke, from an unknown author.
If it is you, please let us know!

Backs to the WALL......the wait and in the flesh
So, here we were seated, sitting two rows back from a balcony on what Earls Court call "the Balcony". It's 19:30 hrs, Tuesday August 5th 1980. The show starts at 20:00, and the anticipation and excitement is building steadily. We've been waiting in the building since the doors opened at 18:30.

The doors open, we file in and the first real "Thrill of confusion" takes hold. Finally it felt safe to take out the tickets we'd been asked to sell a hundred times while waiting in the seemingly never ending queue outside the building. Through the "bag search" areas then into the area surrounding the arena.

There's a lot of pushing and shoving at this funnel like ticket checking area, once clear of this everyone just runs forward into the main building. Everybody is buzzing with excitement and there is still one and a half hours until the show (should!) start.

The massive structure supporting the terraced "festival" seating arrangement erected for these shows dominates the view as we enter the huge space that is the outer ground floor area of the arena. Giant blackout curtains seal off this framework, leaving just the authorised entry & exit gangways leading into the seated arena. We peek through the closest gangway entrance past the security guards eager to get our first glimpse of the stage, the house lights are on, the air is somehow slightly foggy, the warehouse type house lights picking a wide angle beam through the air. We decide to circumnavigate our way around the curtained off arena in search for a look at THAT stage; a lot had been said about this show, there was such hype about the scale of the thing.

When we did finally find our nominated entry point past the security we were greeted with a massive "barn like" enclosure. An oval area with a roof, at a guess probably 150 feet from the floor. Hanging giant acoustic flags, black flags with the crossed hammer artwork. scanning around and looking down from the flags comes the upper furthermost row of seats, orange seats mostly empty at this point as most people were buying up the T-shirts, posters etc. etc. but I needed to see THAT stage!

But what a surprise, this was not what I expected to see, the stage was enormous, it stretched from one side to the other, with long sloping ramps leading off to each end. At the extreme edges, a stair stepped construction of large white bricks extending up and into the seats at the first balcony level, impressive but... then the instruments on that huge stage, a puny drum kit, small keyboard and a couple of mike & guitar stands! Can this be correct? There's no support band so who's pathetic looking equipment is this? Surely not the mighty Pink Floyd?

It's now 20:20hrs, twenty minutes later than the show should have started, for the last 10 minutes or so we'd been teased by sudden halts to the background music that had been played in here since the doors opened at 18:30. Music and sound effects designed to both set the mood, and wind up the audience into an atmosphere of almost hysteric apprehension. The music, World War Two era, Vera Lynn, Glenn Miller and other 1940's big band stuff, (none of your usual various artists compilation tapes, but this was not going to be one of your usual shows!).

As each tune ended, there was a segue into sound effects of aircraft engines of that time, the unmistakable sound of Rolls Royce V12 Merlins, the power plant of so many WW2 fighter aircraft & tanks. This deep rumbling mechanical sound reverberating around the "idling" PA in contrast to the laid-back big band background entertainment. But for the last 10 minutes those deliberate pauses had been getting longer, each pause met with a roar from the audience, 18,000 impatient Pink Floyd fans that didn't want to wait any longer.

But this pause was longer. The PA silent, the crowd whistling, cheering, SCREAMING in anticipation, but still silence. So somewhere the standard "we have waited long enough" slow stamping of the feet begins, it spreads like an audible infection around the arena, on the raised scaffolding supported seating where I was sitting. The seats were bouncing with the synchronised stamping of thousands of feet.

Then, just when it seemed an almost dangerous situation, out went the house lights, the crowd went completely wild, the roar became deafening, now, stage right, one single circular follow spot lit up a suited man walking up a ramp to the raised stage, microphone in one hand he turned to face the audience. "Good evening, good evening ladies & gentlemen and welcome to Earls Court", the noise of the crowd eased slightly as the audience started to listen to what was being said, "the band is not quite ready yet" immediately provoked whistling, and as it became clear that this suited, apparently official representative of the Earls Court management was merely lecturing us on the house rules, the whistling became deafening.

I believe the ITAOT recording of this part of the show has been edited, Yudman's intro went on for longer with several "no,no,no" in reply to his own statement "I think we are just about ready to go". This was for me an incredible moment, one of the many highlights of these shows, the crowd really were losing their patience, the stamping, whistling, shouting in some not so polite language suggestions that Mr. Yudman should leave the stage.

But then there were people coming up the other ramp, yes one, two, three, yes four of them, it was THEM it was the band, it was Pink Floyd... just walking up to their instruments as Gary Yudman continued his rules and regulations speech. A low keyboard chord could be heard, a kick on the bass drum, odd guitar notes, still the compere had the spotlight. Is this it? Is the show going to start? Where's the big intro? Why doesn't this moron get on with it and get the hell off of that stage!

Again he calls out" I think the band is ready to go now"...no no no" the testing of the instruments gets louder, is this Roger? Is that Dave? It must be, this is it, no support, 20 minutes late, that keyboard sound starts to fill the air and drown out the crowd, its volume and pitch increasing through the PA then a blinding flash as four theatrical pyrotechnics explode along the front of the stage exactly at the first note of "in the flesh". These pyros were so spectacular I swear I could feel the shock wave they produced. Half a second later on the third note four more explosions, this time high up in the structure supporting the suspended PA above the stage, these rained down showers of sparks meeting the giant white mushroom clouds rising from the original pyros.

This was incredible, the sound was awesome - incredibly loud but hi-fi clear, I remember at this point catching sight, and being aware of the mistakable aroma of the largest joint I'd ever seen traversing along the row of seats ahead of me as it was passed from person to person, looking around there were many more glowing, a dead give a way to similar activity. "So ya, thought ya, might like to go to the show" a spotlight on Roger (or was it?) "to feel the warm thrill of confusion..."

Confusion, yes, something's not quite right here. Looking down from where I sat this little band on this great big stage, making this incredible sound...? My senses were confused, this sweet smelling stuff in the air was getting to me. "LIGHTS!" shouted Roger (I think) and a dozen or more "super trouper" follow spot lights simultaneously beamed into life, from high up all around the arena these giant cannon like search lights each worked by an operator swinging them back and forth to produce an amazing sight, their powerful beams scanning the audience in random patterns so much more effective than that of the modern VarioLite epidemic. No mechanically perfect synchronous movements of later so called lighting spectacles. No, this is the Wall Live... this is In The Flesh... in your face... loud... bright... chaotic lighting "roll the sound effects", from everywhere a deep rumbling... through subsonic speaker stacks beneath the very seats we were sitting in, came the sound of a screaming aircraft engine... But no wait, the engine sound is coming from the rear of the arena...

"Action": the maniac sweeping search lights all swing their beams to one spot... a place high up at the back of the arena; some of the audience follow their beams, some still stare at the stage, that's what you do at a rock & roll show, isn't it, look at the stage? What is it that caught in the converged follow spot beams? As the aircraft engine sound effects louder and higher pitched... like a plane diving, isn't it? Yes it is, flying down at a diagonal but straight towards the stage... plane sparks... a German Stuka dive bomber itself trailing a tail of theatrical sparks from its wing tips, traversing the entire length of the arena heading for the stage and passing by almost level with where I was sitting. This thing must have been 8-10 feet long, a 6-8 foot wing span theatrically on fire and heading for the stage... and with perfect timing the stage it hit, well the top section of the part built wall, right at the peak of that rock crescendo that is the last note of ITF, sending huge bricks from the part built wall high up stage left crashing to the ground, as it exploded in a flash of pyrotechnics so powerful we felt the heat of the blast.

An almighty cheer from the crowd, silence from the PA except the sound of a baby crying from the rear quad sound stacks, then as the piano & bass intro to "The Thin Ice" began the band were leaving the stage, the keyboards and drums descending mechanically into trap doors below the stage and at the same time a huge black curtain in line with, but just behind the part constructed wall, began to rise, and as it rose countless "tell tale" sound equipment indicator lights came into view and glowed gently against the dark background.

There was our first sight of a much bigger stage, many more instruments, two double based drum kits, more PA, backing singers, extra musicians and that most famous of Floyd trade marks, the huge circular projection screen...

What we'd just seen was an illusion, here were Pink Floyd... the show had only just begun.

"They just sat there, not knowing what was going to happen next"... Roger Waters.

Let's flex the PA... The Thin Ice
The sound of a baby crying from the rear quad sound stacks; the piano & bass intro to "the thin ice" began as the 'surrogate' band were leaving the stage. A huge black curtain in line with but just behind the part constructed wall began to rise, and as it rose countless 'tell tale' sound equipment 'power on' indicator lights came into view and glowed gently against the dark background. There was our first sight of a much bigger stage, many more instruments, two double based drum kits, more PA, backing singers, extra musicians and that most famous of Floyd trade marks, the huge circular projection screen.

And while that secret curtain rises and the three dimensional depth of the 'new' stage is revealed, there is a short burst of carefully rehearsed 'roadie' activity, clearing away the various pieces of equipment left by the "Fake Floyd" band. The sound of the melodious intro to "The Thin Ice" now filling the entire arena seemed somehow fuller; more refined, crystal clear & loud. It occurred to me some time later how this piece of music provided time for the 'surrogate' band to take up their positions on the real stage behind the partially built wall. The crowd had quietened down now as was appropriate for the mellow contrast to what we'd seen and heard a few minutes before, but also due to concentration brought about by the transformation on stage.

Here were Pink Floyd for real, the previous three minutes had been a spectacular illusion bombarding the audience with more sensory input than any other band at that time would have used for their grand finale.

The lighting now also seemed to enhance the feeling of being 'in the presence of' with vivid colours beaming down from ladder like lighting frames at each side of the huge stage. Groups of extremely powerful lights mounted around the circumference of the great circular screen flooding the stage with rich yellows and greens. This screen perimeter lighting producing an effect like the rays of the sun fanning out when seen shining through low cloud, the cloud here being the theatrical smoke adding to the incredible mood setting effect.

Dave is lit on cue as he stands stage right, his voice fills the arena with that first line, "Mother loves her baby"; the PA was incredibly clear this vast somehow sounding like a HiFi demo of the highest quality. To Dave's right the four backing singers were just visible standing behind but mainly obscured by a row of guitar amps and associated equipment looking like it could have provided the entire PA for the most other reasonable sized venues at that time! The backing vocalists came in on the harmonising with Dave for the last 'Oooooh baby blue', just as Roger steps up, brightly lit by those perfectly timed 'super trouper' follow spot beams as they lock on their target from high up in the Gods of the arena and precisely pin-point him on the stage. His white No.1 T-shirt singling him out from the rest of the band.

Here was another personal show highlight. Somehow the lighting, Roger's highly luminous presence and that unmistakable voice as he stood centre stage, lent towards the mic and sang "if you should go skating, on the thin ice of modern life".

A truly defining moment for sure, real shivers down the spine stuff. We'd just experienced three minutes of never been seen before Rock Theatre. The desperate Rock Star teetering on the edge. The symbolic death of his Father in that dive-bomber attack, simultaneously confronting us all with our fear of dying in a crashing aircraft. Then those new born baby cries echoing around the arena mixed with the deafening cheers of 18,000 fans applauding that spectacular Plane Crash!....

It was so unreal, surreal experience, and for me the appearance of Roger in the spotlight singing that line above was inspirational. This was indeed HIS show, HIS concept, we all had Roger to thank for being here, and there was much more to come.

The reason I and I suspect many others were sitting there at all was because of the empathy we felt with his words through a connection to his concept that was The Wall. So that moment was priceless, the feeling of relating to Roger's message, it was just one of many throughout the show.

"As you claw the thin ice"... Here we go again... like a roller coaster reaching the apex of its slow quiet climb, we'd just had the calm before the storm... cue drums, cue Hammond organ, cue heavy guitar power chords, cue the whole band on number 11, cue lights. I swear even 'In The Flesh pt.1' hadn't prepared me for the sound that was about to hit us, and I mean 'Hit'. As those double drum kits sent their shock waves through that amazing PA, to be delivered to the audience via countless perfectly phased diaphragms, we were indeed physically assaulted by this extraordinary sound.

During these last moments of 'The Thin Ice' it was pure magic to see Roger now with his back to the audience standing over close to Nick, back arched in that trademark stance, belting the notes from that huge bass guitar, while Dave characteristically contorted his face in concentration as he screamed those now classic guitar licks. Then as if to nail home the point, Nick and the second drummer in perfectly synchronised moves pound out those last drum fills so that they'd be felt as they rattled the skeletons of each and every one of us before echoing around the arena. Now within only seconds the reverberating echo of the drums cross fades into a menacing keyboard sound sent around the quad sound system.

The lights were low again, the keyboards and repeat echo guitar were chasing each other around the arena...

The 'Brick Layers' were coming, the 'Cherry Pickers' were about to take off and a nightmare 'Monster Marionette' was going to teach us a lesson.

The show was just starting to get going!!

"They just sat there, not knowing what was going to happen next"... Roger Waters.

Send their heads spinning... Another Brick in the Wall Part 1
The lights were low again, the keyboards and repeat echo guitar were chasing each other around the arena... But just where was the surround sound PA?

We were about to be subjected to an aural bombardment which would have half the audience swivelling their heads and turning in their seats in what must have been an instinctive reaction to what their ears were receiving. The other half, determined not to look around for fear of missing the next surprise on stage, nervously stared ahead.

Yes, there was an impressive collection of speakers hanging far above the stage. And then there were those two massive stacks of speaker cabinets sitting high up at the back of the arena, one left, one right, taking up what must have been literally hundreds of seats, but the sound we were hearing now seemed to be completely circling the whole audience.

The keyboard chord slowly transferring from one area to another seamlessly moving around the arena while changing pitch in an eerie menacing almost background to the crystal clear punching echo of the guitars. How could a tiny 'plectrum' create this wonderful sound? A sound also reverberating from PA stack to PA stack.

I cannot really begin to explain in words how this 'sound' experience was for those of us there. As we sat there soaking up this unique atmosphere lost in the sheer scale of the almost dark vertiginous void ahead of our tiered seating looking out over the 'stalls' area at ground level, our view was of a 'sea' of seated people.

Straight ahead on the other side of the arena was the mirror image opposite balcony with its bank of packed seats stretching way off up in the lofty heights in the distance. Our view of the stage required just a slight right turn of the head, making it possible from this vantage point to observe all aspects of the show, and a great deal of the audience. The astonishing height of the Earls Court roof. The majority of the many huge follow spot positions. The unbelievably complex looking mixing desk area. The three large garden shed sized boxes sat on scaffold bases sited to our left at ground level to the rear of the seated stalls area, their purpose as yet not revealed (more later). The many black curtained 'gantry' like tracks suspended above the stage, one protruding from high above stage right at an angle well out into the audience area. The occasionally twitching steel wire hawser stretching far off to our left and up into darkness which just a few minutes ago had guided the burning plane to its target. And the ever-present huge statue like flags suspended spaced out uniformly, hanging to attention apparently inert, their obvious decorative purpose subtly concealing their true function. A purpose so well achieved the whole audience were held transfixed, myself included, sensing that this incredible cocktail of sound, space and sheer atmosphere would be impossible to recreate or capture ever again, the 45 seconds or so I have just attempted to describe needed to be savoured. Then up steps Roger...

"Daddy's flown across the ocean..."

More intense crystal clear guitar taking a more prominent place in the mix, the echoing delay bouncing around the arena... "Leaving just a memory..." That keyboard now becoming louder in the mix... "A snapshot in the family album..." The guitar again but now with even more punch. "Daddy what else did you leave for me..." The whole sound now becoming much more intense. Up steps David to the mic for "Daddy what'd you leave behind for me?" In comes that great classic bass line holding the band on course as the guitars and keyboards set off on magical musical tangents.

"All in all it was just a brick in the wall..."

"All in all it was all just..." bricks in that wall, a wall of sound now surrounding us, subtle percussion, keyboards, air punching guitars and bass from all around, but a slight sense of confusion as we hear a familiar but out of place sound from the rear of the arena, not quite recognisable at first, but then as it filtered through small audio spaces in that wonderful echoing guitar arrangement, the realisation that we were hearing the playful cries of a children's school yard. The guitars fade away into the background of the mix as Rick's eerie journey up and down the piano scale echoes out through the PA combined with that signature bass line repeating to maintain the backbone melody to this piece. The sound of children noisily releasing the stress of school life in the playground gradually getting louder and moving forward from the rear of the arena to fully grab our attention. Here we sensed another moment of apprehension, another calm before a storm, another theatrical masterstroke about to be pulled.

Lighting again back down low, Roger standing back over with Nick, facing away from the audience, David eyes down, just busily getting on with the job and Rick still playing with the keys while the sound engineers weave their magic and sending his efforts racing around the PA.

But hey, there's another sound breaking through, another sound breaking through, another familiar sound as out of place as the kids screams were out of place with the music! And what's happening on stage? Smoke, lots of smoke, stage left, stage right, at the very extremes just back behind the still unchanged partially built wall. And light, very bright light low and beaming through the smoke rising simultaneously from left and right. And that sound now bombarding our ears, rising in volume and intensity, competing with the kids screams and winning hands down, while on stage those lights, those columns of smoke slowly rising up from behind the 'stair stepped' sides of the wall.

Helicopters! They've got fu**ing helicopters in here! There they were, two off them taking off from the stage each side of the band. The sound now absolutely deafening, from all around that air turbulence sound that only helicopter rotor blades can produce reverberating around the perfectly tuned PA, stretching our ear drums to near bursting point. The sight of those ascending 'machines' adding to the spectacle. Now they were rising up, billowing vertical thruster like jets of white smoke from the underside of what was becoming clear as a framework of hydraulically powered mobile lights. Equipment designed to initially fool us into believing yet more 'aircraft' were present as part of this show, and fool us they did. Only as they climbed higher, clear of the giant bricks and obscuring clouds of smoke did their true theatrical role get revealed. These were wonderfully effective kinetic lighting rigs. Their ultimate role was shortly to be revealed as each 'Cyclops' like machine with an intense single dazzingly powerful follow spot beam scanned its surroundings like some monster robotic assassin.

"You, yes, you. Stand still laddie."

In one perfectly timed audio cut the sound of the helicopters was gone, replaced by the first all band, extremely tight, skeleton rattling note of 'Happiest Days...'. The cherry picker helicopters hung there, Roger was facing the crowd and about to march up to his mic. The spectacle on stage was quite breathtaking, lights pulsating a symmetrical chase left and right, top to bottom around the perimeter of the huge circular screen behind the band.

Clouds of smoke still cascading down from the 'helicopters' but something else was coming to life stage left, just out of view, another surprise was about to be revealed. A nightmare 'Monster Marionette' was on the loose. The army of 'Brick Layers' were getting ready to march and the 'Cyclops Cherry Pickers' were about to take aim.

The show was just about under way...

"They just sat there, not knowing what was going to happen next"... Roger Waters.

Enter Stage Left!!....The Happiest Days of Our Lives

The spectacle on stage was quite breathtaking, incredibly powerful multicoloured lights pulsating a symmetrical chase, left and right, top to bottom around the perimeter of the huge circular screen behind the band. Clouds of smoke still cascading down from the two 'helicopters' hovering either side of the huge raised stage. But something else was coming to life stage left, just out of view; another surprise was about to be revealed. Roger marched forward from the drums towards the mic stand. That xxl trademark bass guitar slung low, complete with those oversized monitor headphones clamped to his head. No discrete custom moulded inner ear pieces in 1980! Roger's white trainers stomped in time as they were picked up by the converging follow spot beams shining down from way up high above and behind the audience.

"When we grew up and went to school there were certain teachers who would hurt the children anyway they could..."

As if thrown into reverse, Roger marched backward to his preferred position over by the drums, a routine he repeated between each of the first lines. The cherry picker lighting rigs hung, motionless apparently hovering in thin air, their 'Cyclops' like single searchlight eye scanning the stage below then fixing on Roger and tracking his fore and aft stomping march. The stage left rig was nearest, poised just above the keyboard area, its beam swinging across Rick's head. The stage right rig sitting far back above the backing singers, its tracking beam also following Roger. As the drums and guitars pound out and once again punch waves of energy through the air for the powerful intro to 'Happiest Days', our attention was drawn away from Roger highlighted in the spotlight. There, way over to the right (looking at the stage) was some activity now being picked out in yet more, bright spotlight beams.

Rising up from the arena floor level there was what appeared at first to be yet more mechanical lighting. Two maniac, piecing beams of light were dancing back and forth, up and down, flitting their laser like beams out into the audience then back to the floor. But no, this was not another lighting effect; the source of those maniacal beams was now coming into view. Just above the two lights the huge pulsating, furrowed brow of a monster forehead, those spotlights forming the creature's evil eyes.

"By pouring their derision upon anything we did..."

The 'Teacher', yes that was what we were seeing slowly rising up, extending from a crouched, crumpled, resting position. Growing steadily, hoisted up to it's full imposing height like the multi-jointed, gangling alien from the film of the same name. Towering above the stage now, waving his huge cane, head stooped down eying Roger centre stage.

"Exposing every weakness however carefully hidden by the kids..."

That lunatic screaming laughter suddenly ricocheting around the quad PA, bouncing out from all around.... I have no idea how they achieved the movements this amazing marionette was capable of. It was suspended from one of the carefully disguised hoisting runways mentioned earlier. There was an elaborate but barely visible grid like frame hanging above the figure from were many wires could occasionally be seen controlling the lanky creature's awkward limbs, not unlike the cartoon puppet's hand held control frame shortly to be projected onto the great circular screen.

There must have been many theatrical and mechanical tricks going on behind the scenes. The head would swivel from side to side, the animated legs and arms swinging in slow motion as the giant caricature started its traverse across the stage towards the open gap in the Wall. By some hidden means the head was inflated with air, but whenever the monster dipped its head low there seemed to be a momentary interruption to the supply of air inflating the head, which would then partially collapse. The resultant effect was to cause the forehead to cave in so the crazy spot light eyes would go 'boss eyed'. The mouth and chin would also go limp making the incredible spectacle even more bizarre. Then as the head lifted or swivelled into a different position, the inflation would resume and the whole head expand rapidly altogether creating the effect of a 'pulsating head' adding maniac facial contortions to the teacher's many other physical problems! All in all a fantastic sight, unfortunately for us all now only really appreciated fully in three dimensions.

"But in town it was well known when he got home at night..."

Oh how I, and I suspect many more of the audience who'd experienced school in the 1960's could relate to the scruffy, creased ill fitting clothing, the hair, the stubble, the badly trimmed moustache, and of course, the threatening cane. Yes the perfectly crafted, larger than life nightmare creation towering above and sliding across the stage in front of us was the perfect intro to the next part of the story.

"Ahhhhh, Ahhhhhhh...."

Thunderous heavy guitar chords now belting out from that phenomenal PA. Both drummers pounding out sensational drum fills, Nick and his back up complimenting each other to percussive perfection, a unique drum sound I have tried for years and years to re-experience.

Many a set of speakers have been bought, hired or borrowed in a quite pathetic attempt to wind the clock back and replay THAT sound. Only recently with ITAOT a decent amp, the right settings and good cans, has something like the right sonic signature been written in order for those long locked away memories to spark into action and bring back the occasional time travel like, partial audio rerun!

Now once again there is that element of confusion & uncertainty, It's been almost 14 minutes since Yudman appeared in the spotlight walking up the long ramp stage right towards the pathetic looking instruments on that huge but otherwise empty stage. In that time the audience had been completely 'blown away'. Such was the impact of the sound, the lighting, the pyrotechnics and as Roger liked to call them 'Cheap Theatrics', we'd had more than our money's worth already. And the band hadn't even said hello. No hi, great to be here, love you all blah, blah, blah. No, just the most perfectly presented seamless transition from song to song while all the time unfolding the presentation of the greatest piece of rock theatre ever to be staged.

I'd gone along to this show with certain assumptions; one being that a Wall would feature very prominently in the show. So was that stair stepped, obviously very purposefully positioned construction of huge white bricks. 'The Wall'? These brickwork 'wedges' which resembled giant unfinished 'book ends' adorning the stage, were they IT? Were these sets 'The Wall'?

After all it made good theatrical sense to symbolically present a wall like this, tapering down from either side to leave a huge hole through which we can watch the band. And the giant circular screen behind the band, yes of course there had to be an enormous opening through which to see the projections, all that wonderful lighting, the incredible 'helicopter'. Yes, sitting there trying to think ahead a little while Mr. Teacher and the marvellous 'helicopters' did their thing I was beginning to believe that we'd seen how The Wall was presented to us, there it was and had been since we entered the arena...

How wrong I was!

"We don't need no education..."

With the tightest of live segues the band launch into Another Brick Pt. 2 over glides Mr. Teacher as all follow spots intensify their beams and follow his mechanical saunter across the stage. Stage left cherry picker 'helicopter' starts to move again, this time a compound move both vertical and left (looking at the stage) gliding in a diagonal direction towards stage centre, travelling over the keyboards area, its single purposeful search light beam relocating from Roger to the Teacher. An extraordinary sight, this mobile lighting rig apparently with a mind of its own, moving around the back of the stage intent on getting a better position from which to flood its victim with brilliant light.

Having deliberately avoided any reviews at the time, and having not heard any of the earlier shows, we were sat there awe-struck. It is hard now all these years later when all the mystique of these shows has been analysed over and over, to convey the apprehension experienced while seeing this show for the first time. But things were never what they seemed for any of us caught in the spell of Pink Floyd The Wall Performed Live!

Now as we enter song number five greeted with huge applause the arena is truly rocking. We'd just been introduced to the story's first (human) character, whose grotesque, animated 'fat and psychopathic wife' was satirically 'beating' him up there on the great circular screen, while he in turn beat poor old pink!

His mechanical 3D incarnation meanwhile continued to terrorise both band and audience with his goofy movements. With the band rocking, the sound somehow tuned to ever more degrees of perfection, lighting so rich and vivid in colours, wonderful animated circular projections adding yet another distraction to the incredible spectacle. But the star of the show had yet to begin its unbelievable construction.

"Pile on many more bricks..." and I'll be joining you in the next part.

"They just sat there, not knowing what was going to happen next"... Roger Waters.

"All in All..." Another Brick in the Wall Part 2

Now as we enter song number five greeted with huge applause the arena is truly rocking. We'd just been introduced to the story's first (human) character, who's grotesque, animated 'fat and psychopathic wife' was satirically 'beating' him up there on the great circular screen, while he in turn beat poor old Pink! His mechanical 3D incarnation meanwhile continued to terrorise both band and audience with his goofy movements.

There was something about this 1970's rock concert lighting. Before the computerised VariLite invasion that now dominates live rock show lighting. The latter like a lot of computerised control, has in my opinion removed some of the skill and 'feel' of well designed and executed 'manual' lighting. And remember in 1980 there was no one more skilled in the art of rock show lighting than the technicians who worked for Pink Floyd. With VariLites you get the compact, neat, multi functional units covering a wide range of tasks and effects. Whereas with The Wall's 'state of the art' (for the time) conventional lighting there was complete overkill and complication in terms of sheer numbers. Many, many hundreds of individually mounted and prepositioned, individually wired by what must have added up to miles of cable supplying their power hungry, heat producing elements.

The vast range of effects and production enhancing lighting changes achieved at these shows was like every other element of the show, quite overwhelming. No perfectly synchronised, sweeping, swerving, fraction perfect positioning and colour changing. The later preprogrammed moves initiated by the click of a mouse just can't compete with these lighting cues. Like the members of the band, tightly playing the notes and chords. The lighting had that human 'not quite perfect' live feel technicians hit buttons, slid faders or switched filter gels mounted on those huge follow spot 'cannons' at the verbal cues delivered via headphones by production control. All of which only added to the overall effect... military perfect timing and control, teetering on the edge of complete chaos. There just seemed to be a feel (of) organised chaos, as if all the technical people although perfectly rehearsed, were stretched to the very edge of both their and the state of the art equipments' limits... Quite wonderful and probably in the wake of progress never to be repeated. How I'd love to have a few beers in the company of those back stage technical people and hear their stories!

But now back to the show...

"We don't need no thought control..."

Yet another visual element enters the show. Gerald Scarfe's brilliantly coloured artwork appears on the great circular screen. Familiar from the 12" gatefold album graphics, cartoon like representations of the teacher and his faceless 'pink like' pupils.

"No dark sarcasm in the classroom..."

With the whole place resonating to this so familiar up-tempo anthem like track stripped of its polished studio 'single charts' production, delivered by this by this (yes I know I'm going on about the sound again!) kick arse band and punching out through tens of thousands of watts, via hundreds of perfectly balanced and matched speakers. Roger and Dave stood facing the audience, mouths to microphones. The huge stage flooded with brilliant multicoloured light predominated produced at this stage of the show by the many lights mounted around the circumference of the great circular screen. That huge screen providing a unique opportunity to create stage lighting like no other band, dozens upon dozens of brilliantly powerful spot lamps equally spaced around that great screen, grouped in fours, each set of four carefully angled and matched in colour to its symmetrical opposite number. Sometimes matching groups in both number and colour would flood their target area with dazzingly bright vivid colour. At other times the whole great circular outline would be plotted by the very dim, barely glowing group in its entirety, looking from the audience like some strange stellar configuration especially grouped for this rarest of all events.

'The Floyd' live on stage! All this enhanced by clouds of smoke still cascading down from those roving myopic cherry pickers.

Nick was now pounding out that classic drum and cymbal line and my view of Rick at this point was blocked by the giant lunatic Teacher twitching and gesticulating wildly at the audience.

"Teacher leave them kids alone..."

What's this? Look, there's a roadie/stagehand, technician or someone walking on stage, out front on the audience side and barely visible in the shadow of the part built wall. Perhaps there's a problem? He's dressed all in black and walking up towards Roger centre stage, and he's carrying something big, arms outstretched clasping something to his chest, his arms barely reaching each end of the rectangular object.

Some important piece of equipment maybe? Not clear as he's still in the unlit shadows of the front stage area, but wait, 'Cyclops' helicopter stage right locks on first, then its double over there stage left follows suite. As this crew member/roadie/stage hand person approaches the huge space between the 'book end' sections of the Wall he's suddenly flooded with light as the 'cherry picker' rigs single him out and track his approach. Mr. Teacher tries in his manic way to focus both his boss-eyed beams on the intruder.

"All in all you're just another brick in the wall..."

With perfect timing as Roger snarls this familiar line all became clear. And in another perfectly timed and executed theatrical set piece, the visitor to the stage purposefully set down in position just in front of Roger his special delivery, a single huge white Brick.

Without a pause this lone 'Wall Builder' turned and walked off stage; no sooner had he disappeared out of view than another 'Wall Builder' appeared. This time from off stage but behind the 'stair stepped' brickwork already constructed, again dressed in black carrying a second brick he marched over and placed this alongside the first at floor level but over towards Dave. Wall Builder number 2, turned and walked away, no acknowledgment of the band or the 18,000 people now staring transfixed. Their task was to coldly and precisely commence construction of THAT Wall. Almost robot like detached but now very much part of the spectacle before us. One by one they marched on carefully delivering their theatrically alienating and visually obstructing load.

As that first brick was placed Nick went into that classic drum fill just prior to the 'kids choir'. Roger turned away from the mic and belts out the familiar bass line, looking over at Nick who's deep in concentration, eyes closed for several seconds at a time with that characteristic almost 'out of it...' look.

The animated 'Teacher' regurgitating useless information and force feeding a classroom of 'Pinks' up there on the mighty circular screen. All this while the recorded 'Kids Choir' surrounds us all in the audience.

Then, the first chorus over and Nick pounds out the next bone-shaking drum fill before Dave launches into his first solo. On cue all the distant far off 'super trouper' follow spots lock on and bath him in brilliant white light. Simultaneously 'Cyclops' right switch their attention from the new 'wall builder' intruders still carefully positioning their giant bricks and focus on Dave.

The cherry picker stage right setting off straight away and making a deliberate move towards the position where Dave is so expertly delivering that classic guitar solo. This mechanical Cyclops cherry picker moving menacingly forward, its eight under-slung floodlights arranged in two groups of four emitting scissors like crossed beams of light shining down onto the stage and giving the appearance of walking on powerful translucent rays of light.

And as it approaches its target the all powerful single mega power 'Cyclops' beam swivels down and completely floods Dave with light while at the same time the whole machine begins to descend, straight down, a vertical move, the whole structure stopping just above Dave's head. The heat from all that lighting so close must have been quite incredible!

Just as well than that as the menacing machine had got to about as close as was safe, Dave's first solo had come to an end. Out go all the flashlights leaving him in comparative darkness (and cool!). Nick once again and now bathed in green lights from two banks of floodlights mounted behind him on the circular screen, proceeds to take over the PA and thump our chests and ear drums with crisp thuds of air pressure like waves of sound.

In comes Snowy for the second solo, cherry pickers hesitate and then relocate their beams of light onto him as he does his stuff. Meanwhile we get our first glance of some 'behind the wall' machinery, which enable the wall to be fully constructed. Lifting up from stage floor level, platforms were rising in controlled movements stopping at different levels to allow the wall builders access to the higher courses of those stair stepped end sections of that giant wall each side of the huge stage. Once in position the platforms became a hive of activity as wall builders marched onto them from off stage, carrying and delivering more and more bricks.

With the appearance of that first 'wall builder' the show had elevated to another level. Up until now we'd seen a spectacular, mind blowing audio/visual experience. But all the sound, light and even the mechanical theatrics were not completely new to the rock audience, especially the Floyd audience.

Now though we were experiencing a unique theatrical event. We all suspected it was coming, we'd been a little confused that it hadn't started before now, but there before us while the band played this sing along hit single, we couldn't quite believe our eyes. Bricks were being laid 'The Wall' was under construction and I think I speak for most of us there when I say that it was quite an uneasy feeling.

Just how were they going to pull this off? There was a massive amount of space to fill with those bricks, it all seemed just too much to take in, but it was here that the message of the show really started to take hold. Yes it was going to be a grand 'over the top' affair. Their last tour was huge, in numbers attending, in numbers earned, in sheer size and spectacle, and now here we were being not so gently grabbed by the scruff of the neck and told "this it what it had become". The machine of success and the addiction of applause.

The monster that was the Pink Floyd phenomena had made the experience of facing your audience SO unpleasant that in order to deal with it. A physical barrier needed to be erected. Roger was there on stage playing live, but it was going to be on his terms. An earlier audience had taken the piss out of Pink Floyd, now Roger was going to take the piss out of us! He WAS going to build his Wall! And this really was a first, we the 18,000 strong audience were going to loose our view of the stage! We were about to excluded from seeing what we´d paid money and come here to see!

Thousands of us looked around at our companions and friends, nervously grinning with delight but secretly wondering what the f**k! Is this for real? The biggest rock band on the planet was going to build a wall, stay behind it, and leave the fans looking at it?

We knew the album. We could quite accurately predict where the story 'The Wall' would be complete, But what then?

Nick took centre stage once more the screen perimeter lighting beautifully illuminating a brilliant glowing archway above the drums. The 2D projected teacher fed handfuls of 'pinks' into a giant mincemeat machine above the band. The 3D maniac puppet teacher continued his stroll back and forth across the stage, twitching and jerking, head pulsating and cane waving. Bricks were appearing from all directions stacking up one by one blocking our view of the stage, the band, the elevating wall building platforms, the screen and the magnificent cherry picker lighting rigs.

Now over to Rick as the cherry pickers locked on to the keyboard area and started heading that way. Roger, Nick and Rick all within a small area jamming away as the keyboard solo was magically projected around the arena by the extraordinary sound system. Once again the cherry pickers mobilised to move over and focus on the musician in question and this time Rick was coming under very close scrutiny from these monster hydraulic machines.

What an incredible sight and sound! So much was going on at once, the experience probably impossible to convey in words and best not attempted! But the show now really had begun. Its star was materialising before our eyes, the wall was taking shape but not in the most logical fashion...!

Rick's solo ends and all the floodlight attention is extinguished. The PA now pumping out a drum and percussion backing to more surround sound effects. The loony teacher repeating his "Stand still Laddie", "If you don't eat your meat" lines, the quad sound stacks alternately repeating these lines once again setting peoples heads swivelling around as the stage is gently dimmed to black and the drums fade out of the mix.

Now all in the dark the only sound is that of a telephone dialling tone, so familiar to us all, but so strange here in this massive dark open space heard through such a PA.

She's not answering, lets go and meet 'Mother'... Bring on the giant inflatable chair!

"Try shouting through THAT you bastards" - Roger Waters

Next part coming soon... ?

 
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