Tag Archives: Phoenix Music

The Wall: Roger Waters at Staples Center

December 5, 2010
Staples Center

The Wall

The Wall

Authentic, humanistic, gracious, interactive, connected, transformational, expansive, evolutionary, thought-provoking, confrontational, empowering, generational, revolutionary, honest.  Roger Waters: The Wall.

I took a break from writing about live music and here’s why:  earlier this year, as part of a streak of amazing shows, I experienced one of the best live shows to date: Atoms For Peace (Thom Yorke), in Oakland.

After that, there was Coachella (which included highlights: Phoenix and Jonsi), JazzFest (highlights: My Morning Jacket at Preservation Jazz Hall – capacity of 100ish; and a lot of bloody marys), Imogen Heap (who definitely deserves her own write-up), David Gray and Ray Lamontagne (that was outstanding), Jonsi at The Wiltern (“When was the last time you experienced something like that?” my friend Heather inquired.  “Atoms For Peace in Oakland,” I responded), The Eels (inspired me to purchase one of everything they were selling at the merch booth), The Frames (d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-o-n), and several others.

Among the “others” was a Miike Snow show.  My experience of that show was the epitome of everything that is resulting in things such as promoters and ticket retailers posting large revenue losses, quarter after quarter.  I don’t recall specifically the exact mark-up, but it was something like 42% of the total per ticket cost was service charges (possibly even more than that).  Then, what do you get inside? You find yourself experiencing a show, surrounded by people who are there almost as some kind of status symbol or fashion statement.  They could afford tickets, they were able to get tickets to “the hottest show” that night – they exuded superiority.  It didn’t feel like it was about the music; it felt like it was about ego.  Not everyone embodied this attitude, of course, but plenty did.

In my opinion, music should be accessible, democratic, accepting, and connecting.  What I found disheartening about that show is that, for the most part, it was the opposite of all those things.  The live music business (artists included) let their egos take the wheel because, for a moment, live music was the cash-positive side of the music business.  In an attempt to exploit that momentum, they lost sight of the most important thing — the experience.

At the point you lose my friends and me – people who have been seeing live music (sometimes multiple shows per night), every night of the week, for more than a decade, you should consider examining your business.  We are the “super fans,” the ones who will travel around the world to see a great show, and if you’re not engaging us, how do you expect to engage the “casual fan”?

At about the same time I became disillusioned with the experience of live music, my camera (which previously allowed me to capture exceptional quality videos) broke.  So, for the past several months, I’ve been experiencing live music without concern about capturing the experience for those who couldn’t be there.  Instead, I was more grounded in the experience, with the people who could be there.  Ironically, my inability to document the experience greatly supported my resurfacing to document the experience.  Which is where I am now, after they tore down The Wall.

When Roger Waters announced he’d be touring The Wall, it made the top of my list of “shows to see”.  Then, there was that incident of defacing the Elliott Smith memorial tribute wall in Silverlake to promote Roger Waters: The Wall.  Once I heard that, I decided not to attend the show.  I do not believe you need to compromise the art or memorial of another in order to promote your own.  Nor do I believe you should record a shitty cover song, for the same reasons (but that’s a topic for another day).  Waters later apologized, by the way.

Monday came around and my Twitter stream was full of accolades about The Wall.  I had plans Monday night and would not have been able to attend the show anyway.  Tuesday rolled around – same thing.  Wednesday morning I was kicking myself for missing this show.  Based on what everybody was saying, this was a fully immersive live music experience like the ones I’d been missing (especially since Nine Inch Nails stopped touring and Radiohead had been quiet).

Wednesday night I had dinner with a friend of mine who is also a manager at Redlight Management.  He’s been seeing live music for decades and, like me, has traveled around the world for music.  “Roger Waters The Wall is the best show I’ve ever seen!  Not just a music show – a real SHOW!” he exclaimed. . .  Shit.

“I can’t believe I missed it!!” I replied, defeated.

“He’s playing again Sunday and tickets are available,” my friend informed me.  That’s all it took.  I resolved to go to the show Sunday, no matter what.

Saturday I saw my friend, Deborah.  If there is a handful of people who have been to more live shows than I, Deborah is one of them.  “You have to go see The Wall! It’s the best show I’ve seen. . . ”

Ok, ok, I get it, I’m going.

Sunday, following an amazing day of philosophizing, relaxing, and spending time with friends, I headed to Staples Center to experience this highly-anticipated show.  Now, my expectations were set very high, so it would be easy to fall short, but that didn’t happen.


Experiencing The Wall

Everything – the inefficient system of getting people through metal detectors and into the show, the pre-show music, long lines for the men’s bathroom and no lines for the women’s room, amazing pastrami sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies, generations of families in attendance – was part of the experience.  It felt less like a concert and more like a pilgrimage to a festival or any shared experience with a heightened level of consciousness among everyone in attendance.  People knew they were in for something special.

The show began, and as the band played “The Wall” front to back (because that’s how it was with vinyl), a wall was literally built in front of the audience.  Bricks were added with intention, one by one, and then images were projected on The Wall.  At one point, you could almost feel the dirty breeze of the train rushing by.  There was a plane crash.  There were larger-than-life puppets that danced and hovered over the crowd.  An intricate story was told and no matter where you were sitting, you were enveloped in the experience.

The experience was expansive, the vibe unifying and community-building. There was a set break between “side A” and “side B,” during which we were invited into the ABC corporate box seats.  The “walls” of exclusivity were truly torn down and we watched a good portion of the second set from this upgraded vantage point.

Was Roger Waters: The Wall an expensive ticket? Yes.  Was the experience worth it? Yes.

Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend is back (with a new camera).

More soon. . .

The 2nd Biggest Surprise: Metric and Phoenix at The Greek

I don’t remember what the 1st biggest surprise was, but I do remember the original title of this post: To Anyone Who Dreamed To Have a Life Without a Boss. . .

To find out why that was the original title, click “play” and watch the video below.

Or, if you prefer to play a game to figure out why that was going to be the title of this post, don’t click “play.”  Instead:

Jump below the video.
Read the rest of this post.
Guess why that might have been the original title.
Then come back here.
Push play.
And see if you’re right.

Don’t worry, it’s not a hard quiz.  It’s been psychologically proven that people like to feel smart (not sure why we needed a study to prove that one).  So if I can make you feel smart while you’re reading this, then chances are you’ll keep coming back to read my blog.  That’s also why those quizzes that play in movie theaters before the feature film are so easy.

But anyway, METRIC! I’d seen this band before – back in the days of one-syllable-bands-that-begin-with “The”: The Hives, The Vines, The Strokes, etc.  I’m pretty sure I saw Metric open for at least one of these bands.  And I’m pretty sure I thought they were alright.  But, at The Greek Theater, Metric held their own, so much so I thought perhaps maybe they were headlining. (This thought was exacerbated by the fact that we arrived late, which is easy to do when a show starts before sunset).  Judging by the audience’s reaction, we weren’t the only ones who thoroughly enjoyed Metric.  Here’s a bit of their performance:

Now, about Phoenix. . .  First of all, every good-looking person in LA was at this show.

Phoenix live at The Greek

Phoenix live at The Greek

Secondly, I definitely wasn’t supposed to have a camera in there. So, as you can imagine, getting this video was a challenge.  Right – nobody would want a great video to get out.  There are some people (NIN), venues (Hollywood Bowl) and promoters who understand that getting media out there is a GOOD thing.  And then there are others that think, “OH NO! What if somebody sees it and decides they like this band and must see them when they come through town next?”  Or “What if somebody thinks ‘Wow, The Greek looks like a beautiful venue and the sound is great.  I should go there sometime. . .’ ” Or “What if a music supervisor sees it and decides she needs the music for this year’s blockbuster film?” It’s not like I’m making money off this.  You are.  It’s good for you.  I promise.

Bonnaroo Ferris Wheel and Arcade

Bonnaroo Ferris Wheel and Arcade

So, Phoenix. . .  I first stumbled upon them live at Bonnaroo earlier this year. I was backstage before the band went on and just before the singer arrived.  His plane had been delayed, causing him to arrive at the festival grounds just 20 minutes prior to going on stage.  Until that moment, it was questionable whether the band would miss their slot entirely. Instead, band members jumped up and down and squealed (like school girls, but not annoying) when they were reunited. What followed describes something I haven’t seen in music for a little while — a band that actually LOVES each other.  These guys were genuinely excited to see each other, took a deep interest in the well-being of the others and could not wait to get onstage.  Perhaps a lot of bands feel this way and are just too cool to express it, but Phoenix didn’t hold anything back.  Just prior to going on-stage they huddled:

“Let’s make this the best show we’ve ever played!” one member exclaimed.

“Let’s make these people go NUTS!” called out another.

“Let’s have fun!”

And on and on until everybody had expressed himself and the entrance music kicked in.

“That’s us!” they cheered, and they all went running for the stage.

I had a press pass, and was allowed a camera. . .  but I was so mesmerized that I forgot to use it.

That was Bonnaroo, but something tells me that pre-show huddle was not a first.  It felt like a ritual, and one that pretty much guarantees a good show.  Phoenix gets themselves so amped that they have no choice but to have a great show.  And their fans – well, they’re going to have fun, like it or not.  Phoenix’s performance at The Greek was as enjoyable as ever.  The band member’s love for each other reaffirmed and the fans having the time of their lives. Phoenix’s performance is light and fun, yet seriously good.  The Greek is the perfect venue for a show like this.  Outside, warm air, perfect sound, relaxed security.

Just kidding about that last part.  Don’t want anyone to get in trouble.

Anyway, see for yourself: