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Outside The Wall

When I heard last year that Roger Waters was going on tour to perform The Wall again for the first time in my lifetime, I immediately went and bought tickets for the first show he’d be doing in Germany, which was yesterday in Mannheim. It later occurred to me that it would be even cooler to see the show in Berlin—I can think of fewer cities in the world in which “the wall” concept would have more significance within the people’s living memory—so I bought tickets for that as well.

Official Roger Waters website.

I had no idea that the concert would happen to fall right on the day after the last day of Rheinfest, and I would have stayed in Ichenheim at least another day if it hadn’t. But I had to alter my plans and buy a ticket to Mannheim for Friday afternoon and another from Mannheim back to Hannover this morning.

Yesterday morning I was relieved to find that I wasn’t too hung over—no headache or throwing up—but I was significantly out of it to the point where going to see a concert I’ve been wanting to see for my entire life seemed like too much too fast, especially considering the emotional significance of what had transpired the previous night.

I also want to correct the record and say that contrary to what I’d been thinking when I wrote the first paragraph of the previous entry, that was absolutely not the most drunk I’ve ever been in Germany. After writing that and posting it I began to remember all kinds of wilder nights, from all-night-long parties during my exchange student year in Frankfurt to the madness of the Berlin pub-crawl, I have in fact been significantly more hammered in this country than I was that night—though that at least made the Top 10.

Anyway, back to the story. It was a fond farewell to my family in Ichenheim, something I hadn’t been looking forward to but which went well enough. I hate goodbyes, and I know it could be quite a number of years before I see any of those people again, but at least I’m fairly confident I’ll make it back before too long. By then, Myriam will have had her first child (I found out this visit that she’d gotten pregnant—something she’d always wanted but didn’t think she could) and things will be much different.

[At this point I want to warn readers that unless you are a Pink Floyd fan I can’t imagine anything other than severe boredom being your reaction to the rest of this entry, so you might consider skipping it.]

After being dropped off at the Offenburg station I took the 50-minute train ride to Mannheim while listening to Wish You Were Here, then took a cab from the station to my hotel because I was carrying a bag that weighs almost half as much as I do. I checked into my single room (as I get older I find the extra price of privacy while travelling to be well worth the cost) and attempted to take a little nap before going to the concert, as I was still dead tired. But it was too noisy outside and I had too much on my mind, so I just lied there for about an hour until 7:00, one hour before the concert.

“Man, I do not feel like going to a Pink Floyd show right now,” I said to myself before leaving. “Maybe I’ll just stay here.” Haha.

At least by then I was feeling better physically, although mentally I was still very out-of-it and not sure that my emotional state would be conducive at all to the special meaning The Wall holds for me personally. I’d just spent the last week doing battle with my wall, smashing away some of those bricks to what I certainly consider great success. The Wall is a very depressing piece of music, and I was rather happy. Still, I would just have to go and do my best to get into it, and the whole time I could take comfort in the fact that if I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I should, I’d have another chance in a couple of weeks in Berlin.

I reached the SAP-arena with about ten minutes to go before 8:00, but I needed a drink of water so I waited at the first service stand I came to. Beer and bratwurst were being served like at all German concerts, but much to the credit of the crowd, no one seemed to by buying the wurst. Seriously—bratwurst and The Wall just do not go together.

But lots of people were buying lots of beer and the line was taking forever. I was so worried that I was going to miss the beginning of the show that I asked the guys standing in front of me if they could order a water for me if I paid them for it, and they agreed but the water dispenser ran out of water just as mine was getting poured so it took another five minutes to get it. I hurried off to find my seat and discovered—naturally—another service stand just a bit further down the hall with no line whatsoever. Live and learn.

Luckily though, the show hadn’t started yet. I found my seat and was simultaneously relieved and disappointed. Disappointed because it was way off to the side and in the very back row, The cheap seats.and relieved because there was nobody directly in front of me to block my view like back at the Australian Pink Floyd show. The people around me also seemed to be okay, the guy on my left just quietly enjoying the show and the couple on my right drinking and singing along a bit but not obnoxiously so. The arena was apparently not completely sold out because there were a few open seats to the right of the couple on my right and the row in front of them, but other than a few scattered seats at the very back it was completely full.

I’d apparently just got there in the nick of time, because less than five minutes after I sat down the show began. When the first notes of “Outside the Wall” began playing softly I got all Enigmal, and again when the first notes of “In the Flesh?” blasted suddenly forth to interrupt the quieter music. And then there was Roger Waters literally in the flesh, walking triumphantly out on stage to the massive cheering of the crowd. This was the fourth time I’ve actually seen him in the flesh, the first being at Live 8 with the rest of Pink Floyd (best concert experience I’ve ever had or ever will have) and the other two times as solo concerts of his with Corey (the second of which was the second-best concert experience I’ve ever had or will have). Roger waved up in my direction as he entered, so perhaps he saw me and remembered me from the other three times…

What to say about the show? Of course it was fantastic, musically perfect and visually stunning, a concert experience leaving absolutely nothing to be desired. Watching them gradually build that wall across the entire stage during the first half of the show is certainly a sight worth seeing, and of course the music is some of the best music ever made.

There was a heavy political element to the show with quite a few projections containing anti-war messages and things of the sort, but I’ll be much better able to comment on them after seeing the show a second time. For now I’ll just keep the description mostly limited to my own personal experience. Regarding that, I certainly enjoyed it thoroughly and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, but I can’t help attaching a “but” to the whole thing.

Actually, I have to attach two “but”s to it. The first was the fact that I have a camera now and had to deal with the whole annoying mental struggle of should I or should I not attempt to take pictures or videos of the show? I always looked at people who take their shitty little cameras to rock concerts with contempt as they take their blurry photos and the poor-sound-quality videos, but now I was one of them. I figured I should take a few to see how they would come out, but every time I did it would mitigate my enjoyment of the song somewhat because I was more focused on the photo than the music. I also decided to try the video during “The Happiest Days or Our Lives” and the first verse of “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” because that was about as iconic Wall as it gets (and I’ve already seen it live several times), but nothing particularly visually interesting happened until the second verse, when a chorus of kids came out to sing the verse and then do some excellent dancing during the guitar solos. As much as I was enjoying it I was also thinking, “damn me, I should have taken the video now.”Not blurry but still not worth it.

Now that I’ve checked the photos and videos it’s clear that it’s probably not worth it to make a  second attempt at the next concert and that I should just enjoy the music, but while most of the photos were just a useless blur I did get a few nice ones, and the video I took—when the camera wasn’t shaking—actually came out much better than I’d thought it would, allowing me to see more detail in Roger’s face that I could with my naked eyes from where I was sitting.

I really should have taken a video just before “Mother”, as this is apparently when Roger takes a moment to talk to the audience, and what he says is probably different for every show. He mentioned a couple of dates and nearby cities to the audience, saying, “Does anyone here remember such-and-suchadate in Dortmund? I was there. I remember it well.” No idea what he was referring to, but had I taken a video I would have been able to look it up. At least I’ll definitely get a video during that part of the show in Berlin.

One thing of note is that during one of the songs, a bunch of highly recognizable brand logos are projected falling down the wall, and one of the first to show up was the Mercedes logo. Apparently a lot of people in Mannheim work at the Mercedes plant because the logo got a very loud and ironic applause. There were also a few German phrases projected on the wall at random points like when he sang “Mother, should I trust the government?” there was “No Fucking Way” written on the right side of the wall and “Auf Keinen Fall” on the left, which also got a big applause.

The other “but” regarding the enjoyment of the experience is the more important “but” and it had to do with my emotional state.  During "The Last Few Bricks"As I said, The Wall is very depressing and I was feeling good, too good to really get into a lot of the songs the way I used to. The Wall meant so much to me in my youth because it was the first album I ever heard that really spoke to me deeply and made me feel like some of what was in my soul was also apparently in the souls of the writers of this music, and it greatly influenced how I look at life. I’ve since bought every single Pink Floyd album ever made and now listen to The Wall with probably the least frequency out of all of them (except perhaps the Ummagumma studio album). The fact is I’ve grown up a lot since those angst-ridden days of my youth, I’m not as stuck behind my own private wall as I used to be (though it certainly still exists—as last Sunday’s journal entry made clear), and the music was more of a nostalgia-trip than a genuine emotional experience.  Had I been able to see the show as a teenager, it would easily have been the experience of a lifetime.

Ironically, had things gone worse for me on that last day in Ichenheim I probably would have appreciated the show more as well. If I’d had terrible failure with the girls-of-interest, been too scared to try and talk to them and just ridden the emotional downward spiral all the way down like I had on Sunday, I would probably have been more into it. But a lot of the lyrics which would have really touched me had that been the case just kind of bounced off of me as I realized I don’t actually feel that way anymore—that I can no longer stretch the metaphor to identify with the character Pink the way I used to.

Although I suppose, in the end, that’s a good thing.

I switched seats during the intermission to get a slightly improved view, and took a picture of the completely-built wall which had projections of pictures of people who’d been killed by violence in the Middle East that had been sent in by family members. The pictures would change every few minutes, and at one point I looked over and noticed a face and name I actually recognized: Neda Agha-Soltan, the Iranian woman whom I’d written about during the Green Revolution in Iran a couple of years ago, the one whose gruesome death from a bullet-wound was caught on film and spread across the internet like wild-fire. That had a profound effect on me when I saw it, and it touched me to see her face among all those others.

In Memoriam The one in fifty-million who can help us to be free.

For the second half of the show I’d resolved not to take any more pictures, but there were some I couldn’t resist. Unfortunately, most are just blurs anyway.

The highlight of the show, naturally, is Comfortably Numb, and while it was certainly awesome and certainly affected me deeply like it always does when I hear it live, there was just something that detracted from it because the guitarist was behind the wall while he played the solo. Snowy White did such a damn fine job of it that I wanted to be able to see him, but instead it was just Roger banging at the wall while the lights and projections provide all the fodder for the eyes. Still, those projections got increasingly awesome until an amazing climax where it looks like the wall opens up and the sun shines through it. When it was over the crowd went wild—I assume most of them haven’t heard the song live before—and the applause lasted for a solid five minutes if not longer. I heard the couple next to me say, “Das ist richtig gut Pink Floyd Musik.”

After the lovely “The Show Must Go On” interlude (at which point they brought some of the band members and their instruments back in front of the wall again) came the full-length “In The Flesh” and after Roger sings “if I had my way, I’d have all of you shot!” he points to a few people in the audience, then takes out a fake gun and fires at them. He pointed and fired directly at me, probably because—as I said—he recognized me from the other shows I’ve been to.

After “The Trial” came the big finale when they actually knock down this whole gigantic wall they spent the first half of the show building, and I took a video of it which I won’t make the mistake of trying again because the light was low and it barely came out.

With all the rubble on the stage now it was clear there would be no encore. Only the whole “Outside the Wall” song and then final bows. He gave the audience a lot of Most of the photos came out worse than this.heart-felt thank yous, and I’m sure he really felt it too because the audience had been wonderful. Now that I’ve been to a few concerts in Germany and compared them to the concerts I’ve been to in America I think I can safely generalize that audiences here are just better. They were all really into it, all really loving it, clapping along whenever there was clap-conducive music, and remaining pretty silent during all the more subdued emotional parts. They gave him a standing ovation which lasted about five minutes even after his final exit.

And just before he left he pointed again to a few sections of audience with special thank yous. “Thank you in the back” he said, then turned to me and said, “And thank you up there!” just before leaving. Yeah, he definitely recognized me. For sure.

So that was that. It was a great experience but I’m really glad I’ll get another shot at it because I feel like I could have appreciated it more than I did. Next time I’ll be sure not to get drunk the night before. And maybe I’ll deliberately put myself in a bad mood….

The rest of the night consisted of me taking the tram back to the station and walking from there to the hotel, getting some water and something to eat along the way. It was a lovely night and if I hadn’t been so tired and out of it I might have considered going out and seeing what the Mannheim night-life had to offer, but after the heavy ordeals of the previous night and the show I’d just seen, I just went back to my room and went to bed.

Just a word of warning—if you ever go to Mannheim, especially on a Friday night, do not stay at the Hotel Luxa. The hotel itself is fine enough, but it’s on the loudest street I’ve ever slept at, and that’s no exaggeration. You could hear drunk people “woo-woo”ing all night long. Every couple of minutes you’d hear loud “woo-woo”s from people, though I have no fucking clue what there was to “woo-woo” about. Just “woo-woo”ing the fact they were drunk I suppose. I don’t remember “woo-woo”ing when I was drunk on Thursday night, at least not after the music ended.

For the first couple of hours I drowned it out by listening to The Wall and some other Pink Floyd on my headphones, but even when I finally turned to try and pass out at around 2:30 it was still going and indeed continued until the sun started rising at 5:00 a.m. Every few minutes: “woo-wooooo!!!” as if done for the sole purpose of keeping everyone on that street awake. I wished I had Darth Vader powers and could choke them from far away. If I hadn’t been in such a good mood in the first place I might have seriously lost it and gone out there to try and find these people and shove my socks down their throats.

But at least I was able to get some sleep between 5:00 and 8:30, before getting up and taking the train back to Hannover. And now I’m back and still awful tired but still with a few things to get done before I can relax, writing this journal entry being one of them. I really hadn’t expected it to be this long but that’s how it typically goes with me. Apologies if you read this entry and found it painfully boring—at least I warned you.

So that was the end of a pretty incredible week for me. My last visit to Ichenheim, an unexpectedly awesome epilogue to a significant event from seven years ago, and the fulfillment of a near 11-year-fantasy of being able to see The Wall performed live. Regarding both the girls of Ichenheim and The Wall concert: here’s to things that happen that I never thought would happen!

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