I recently considered writing a review of Elvis Costello’s self-indulgent, smug and laborious book, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink (a conclusion in stark contrast to that of The New York Times and other reviews), but decided not to dwell on a man who when I last saw him told the audience at the Chicago Theater to “fuck off,” thereby ending an era during which I shelled out good cash to finance his illustrious career. He hasn’t made a dime off of me since. (I borrowed his book from the library.)
Then there’s Roger Waters, another self-indulgent musician, who just released the long-awaited DVD of The Wall, recorded on Waters’ worldwide tour that I completely missed and have been kicking myself for ever since. I know Pink Floyd fans who think very little of The Wall, but for me it’s among the greatest achievements in rock history and it was a hugely important album for me when it came out in 1979. So why didn’t I see the show? I don’t know. It was a weeknight, I didn’t know anyone who wanted to go, my wife was traveling and I had three kids at home.
In other words, I was being a lame, old suburbanite.
So it was with eager anticipation that I opened the DVD last night, turned off the lights, put on the headphones, leaned back and pressed play. And look, it was good. But @@leave it to the ever self-important Waters to muck up what could have been a terrific vicarious concert-going experience.@@
I knew that the film wasn’t only a concert and that it included scenes of Waters talking about his father who died in World War II. That’s cool. I get it. But he didn’t just include these scenes at the beginning and ends of the film (or better yet, as a completely separate film), but rather interjected the scenes throughout the concert! He’s not the first to commit this sin (Paul McCartney’s In Red Square, Joe Jackson’s 25th Anniversary Special), but interrupting the flow of concept album like The Wall completely detracts from the experience, akin to playing the album in shuffle mode. It utterly misses the point. Other bands have released remarkable concert DVDs that include a documentary in the extras, and that would have made much more sense for The Wall. At the very least the menu should have given the viewer the option of watching the concert with or without the documentary footage.
So, yes, I’m glad the DVD was released. Yes, I teared up during various tunes. Yes, I loved being able to finally witness the technological advances Waters added to the production since last performing the show in Berlin in 1990. And yes, I even didn’t mind the highly staged scenes in which Waters visits the graves and/or memorials of his father and grandfather. I just didn’t need to see them between songs during one of the most spectacular tours ever staged.
What a bummer.