Walking at a hurried pace along Herb Caen Way (I prefer this name over The Embarcadero), it was evident we were walking to a concert. An unusually large cluster of people walked under the Bay Bridge, mixed fashions and eras brought together under a wispy net of marijuana smoke (on the street!). The final clue was a salesman four blocks from the venue with bootleg tour shirts: Roger Waters, The Wall 2012.
In line at the ballpark at 3rd and King Streets last night, one of the first people to approach us was a man in his late 30s asking to buy a cigarette. “You can just have one, man,” said Clint as he reached for a smoke. “We don’t smoke – we quit,” the man replied hastily. He was doing something naughty because this was a party, a Pink Floyd concert. Is ever there were a time to break the rules, it was tonight.
It’s cute when adults in button down shirts and V-neck sweaters break the rules. My cohorts were young enough to make me feel like that adult, so I wisely chose a T-shirt and jeans for the evening.
We were offered pot several times, and it seemed almost like it was legal. The McGyver smokers did everything they could to avoid detection: roll a joint, hollow out a cigarette, refill it and tear off the filter, cigarette-esque smoking devices, edibles. A usual assortment or sneekery seemed unnecessary, but the adults were having fun, and half the fun is trying not to get caught.
The show started late, despite the “8:15 prompt” time on the ticket. It’s tough to start the show when only half the seats are filled, and $9 beers don’t sell themselves. We were seated for about 10 minutes when the lights went dark and a plane literally flew in over the first base side of the park and crashed into the wall on the stage in the outfield. The 5.1 surround sound made this epic, and I can only imagine what the really naughty adults were going through hearing this plane flying around their heads.
The wall on either side of the musicians was a video projection wall, with images and live camera shots of Roger Waters for us in the cheap seats to see. The effects were awesome, as expected. The mood was heavy, with names and pictures of soldiers killed in the current wars were put up on the wall and the big circular screen above the stage.
The sound wasn’t really dialed in until the second half, when the bass was turned up to match the screaming guitar and vocals. That would have been nice to hear before “Another Brick in the Wall,” with Waters slappin’ da bass. The drums sounded amazing the whole time, though it wasn’t Nick Mason playing them. The show really was Roger Waters plays The Wall, with a really good Pink Floyd cover band backing him.
Waters was self-admittedly narcissistic in his performance. At one point, he played along to himself, harmonizing with Roger Waters from 30 years ago superimposed on the screen behind him. He used the word “narcissistic,” and was totally cool with it because, you know what? He’s Roger Fucking Waters. That’s why.
The wall was literally built up, piece by piece, blocking out the band behind it by the end of the first half. After intermission and a 30-minute bathroom line, Comfortably Numb blew me away. The screaming guitar solo from the top of The Wall, with Waters at the bottom harmonizing on vocals and running the length of the stage under the spotlight. This was the apex of the show, a good way to start the second half after, presumably, many fans reloaded their, ahem, psychedelic infusions.
“Dirty Woman” was really, really dirty. Projections of topless women dancing on The Wall were really hot, and that’s a really hot song even without visuals. Luckily there weren’t too many youngsters in the crowd.
The inflatable capitalist pig, which would have been an Occupier’s wet dream to see in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, was dragged through the lawn crowd, partially popped by enthusiastic revelers, and “danced” in the air with a wounded leg for the second half of the show.
At the end, The Wall was toppled, bricks of the projection screen falling forward onto the stage amid screams and chants of “Tear Down The Wall!” Waters and the band returned for a curtain call and well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd at AT&T Park.
The show was as relevant as ever, I can only imagine what it would have been like to see it 30 years ago. It’s good to know a younger generation still feels the same fire and skepticism Pink Floyd was warning us about from across the pond when my parents were my age. Hopefully the message will live on even beyond the band.
Sorry about the poor audio.
Near the beginning of Merle Haggard’s hour-long set tonight, he turned to the crowd and inexplicably asked, “No caffeine?!”
Er. . . Huh?
“No steroids? No crank?!” What was Haggard getting at?
Then the bomb: “Maybe a little herb!”
The aroma at a Merle Haggard show is just like any other country show: a time-honored combination of stale cigars, Copenhagen, cheap perfume and Jack Daniels. But the smell of marijuana guaranteed that we weren’t at no wussy-ass Dierks Bentley concert. From the guys out in the parking lot flaming up the reef, to the random whiffs in the lobby, to Haggard’s new song, “Half of My Garden is for Willie,” weed was the order of the night. And that suits the 70 year-old, white-haired Haggard—who still acts like a goofy little kid with a big heart—very well.
Acting out the song in adolescent, animated gestures, Haggard sang about the “tobacco, mushrooms, and cannabis” in his garden, and how half of it he’d give to Willie Nelson because “a man like that shouldn’t have to grow his own.” It brought the house down.
But by far the set’s highlight was one of the greatest songs ever written: “If I Could Only Fly.” The utmost of tenderness, the prettiest of melodies, the timelessness of the lyrics—everything about the Blaze Foley song cast a hush over the normally boisterous crowd, who shouted requests and rampantly ignored the ‘No Cameras’ signs throughout the bulk of the show. In the song’s quiet smallness, it attracted the most undivided attention of the night.
Hit-song standbys included “Silver Wings,” “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “Guess I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” “Swinging Doors,” “Big City,” and “Workin’ Man Blues,” and much to the surprise of the crowd, Haggard actually performed “Fightin’ Side of Me” and “Okie From Muskogee,” which in recent years he’s either tried to justify as spoofs or plain disowned outright.
Haggard’s also good for whatever latest ballad Willie Nelson’s written; the last time I saw him, in 2005, he sang “It Always Will Be,” and tonight, it was “Back to Earth.” The Strangers, his 10-piece backing band, played as fantastically as they always have (that drummer’s bones know when the song ends), and Haggard still has a hell of a voice.
Haggard was warm and welcoming to the crowd—much more so than most country stars of his vintage. He started “I Wish Things Were Simple Again” in the wrong key, which distracted him so much that he accidentally sang “My dad was a lady. . .” He stopped the song, everyone laughed, he made a couple jokes about “jambalay, crawfish pie, and be gay-o,” and then got back on track. At other times he joked about pulling up his bra, and said “I might be a transvestite!” He also spent a good deal of time criticizing the city of Redding, where in his words, “talent goes to die.”
Haggard’s playing Redding tomorrow night. Something tells me his talent will survive.