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Pink Floyd – U.S. Wall (No Label)

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U.S. Wall (No Label)

Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, Long Island, NY, USA – February 27th, 1980

MC Intro, In The Flesh, The Thin Ice, Another Brick In The Wall Part 1, Happiest Days Of Our Lives, Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, Mother, Goodbye Blue Sky, Empty Spaces, What Shall We Do Now, Young Lust, One Of My Turns, Don’t Leave Me Now, Another Brick In The Wall Part 3, Goodbye Cruel World, Hey You, Is There Anybody Out There?, Nobody Home, Vera, Bring The Boys Back Home, Comfortably Numb, The Show Must Go On, MC Intro, In The Flesh, Run Like Hell, Waiting For The Worms, Stop, The Trial, Outside The Wall

Released simultaneously with Sigma’s 4 CD set Your Favorite Disguise   which covered Pink Floyd’s performances at Nassau Coliseum on February 26th and 28th, 1980, U.S. Wall represents the 27th and serves as a fine visual supplement to the aforementioned set.

The fourth of a five night residency in Long Island has floated around on various DVD-R releases such as Optical Eye’s The Wall Performed Live (WNY-9204500) for several years now, but U.S. Wall represents the silver debut of this important document.

Audio sets of Pink Floyd have always been something of “half of the picture” given the band’s propensity to incorporate dazzling light-shows, giant inflatable props, and quadraphonic sound into their performances, but this has never been more true than in the case of The Wall performances; from the beginning, Roger Waters envisioned The Wall as a multi-media extravaganza including an album, elaborate stage show, and a movie, each inter-dependent upon the other parts to fully convey the story.

The fact is, The Wall really needs to be SEEN to truly appreciate the full scope of Roger’s vision: from the approximately 450 individual bricks (340 of which were laid during each concert) that comprised the 33 foot high, 260 foot wide wall to Gerald Scarfe’s animations, the giant inflatable puppets to the Tropicana Hotel room scene that unfolded from the wall…it is MEANT to be seen!

Unfortunately, the vast majority of footage that was shot by the band for use in the movie (primarily from the 1981 concerts) has never seen the light of day, and considering the fabulous results of the posthumous Is There Anybody Out There? audio set, one can only imagine the results of an officially sanctioned video release.

In the meantime, U.S. Wall gives us more food for thought in that regard, but doesn’t completely satiate; overall, the audio is warm with an analog vibe, and flawless apart from a few seconds of degradation in “One Of My Turns,” “Hey You,” “Run Like Hell,” and “The Trial,” typically resolved within a minute or less.

Visually, however, given the fact that the source tapes are some 28 years old, don’t expect crisp, digital pictures – while the video is often dark, and details can be slightly blurred, it isn’t at all grainy. Think along the lines of an old news reel from the 1980′s for a comparable reference (albeit without controlled studio lighting).  The only real video problems occur in “Run Like Hell” where a VCR control menu pops up over the footage plus a brief cut to blue screen, and a bit of fluctuation overall at the 153:20 mark or so. That being said, it’s not THAT bad all things considered, and frankly, beggars can’t be choosers now can we?

Further, it is multi-camera and pro-shot, thus we’re given a plethora of both long shots across the Coliseum as well as extreme close-ups, all edited to direct focus to the band, the puppets, or animations as appropriate.

The concert begins with Gary Yudman’s introduction, which the surrogate band, wearing “life-masks” of the real Floyd cuts off amid a barrage of pyrotechnics with the opening power chords of “In The Flesh.” At this point, the audience has no idea they’re not witnessing the genuine band in front of them as the said life-masks were extremely realistic, and the surrogate band members were dressed like the Floyd, playing the same instruments, the whole nine yards. The conclusion of “In The Flesh” features the old Floyd concert staple, the crashing plane, complete with more pyro and quadraphonic explosions., much to the delight of audience.

“The Thin Ice” reveals the genuine band for the first time, first Richard Wright on piano, followed by David Gilmour, and finally Roger Waters, who is sporting his “#1″ shirt – apparently asserting his role in Floyd as “top dog.”  The close-up shots aren’t quite as crisp as one would like in this day and age, but they do improve later in the set.

Watching this concert unfold, “Another Brick In The Wall Part 1″ after the verses, really took me back in the sense that aspects of Floyd’s 70′s psychedelia and improvisational tendencies were still intact; I instantly recognized the parallels between the latter half of “Part 1″ and classics like “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” or “A Saucerful Of Secrets.” I can’t say this notion ever hit me whilst digesting the audio alone, but it gives me something fresh to consider next time I break out some audio from The Wall tour.

From the moment the sounds of the helicopter flooded the stadium along with a kaleidoscope of searchlights and the first appearance of the teacher puppet during “Happiest Days Of Our Lives” through the radio-hit “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2,” the audience is obviously utterly blown away and having the time of their lives judging by the rapturous applause. One of the best solo spots for the band the entire show takes places in “Part 2,” where one tasteful solo after another unfolds, beginning with David Gilmour, followed by Snowy White, and lastly Richard Wright on the Hammond organ.

“Mother” commences with a close-up of Roger Waters strumming his Ovation acoustic, brandishing the headphones he took to wearing on the Animals tour to better pitch himself vocally and as a byproduct, eliminate as much audience “interference” as possible – I’m sure this didn’t help his feelings of detachment, but then again, without that, there’d be no Wall.

Gilmour delivers a fabulous, tremolo-laden solo that is another highlight of the night for me, and this coincides with the arrival of the mother puppet on the opposite side of the stage. It is really something to see just how big these puppets were compared to the performers.

The entire time, crew-members are constantly building the wall, which is gradually obscuring the band – David Gilmour is silhouetted, playing through a crack in the wall throughout “Goodbye Blue Sky.” Cracks like these enable the audience to see “Mr. Screen” unobstructed, and on this DVD this is the first real example of Scarfe’s animations on the circular screen, in this case the flowers that morph from mating to murdering during “Empty Spaces”

Waters inquires “Are you having a good time so far? That’s absolutely marvellous” before introducing “Young Lust.” At this point, the close-up shots seem to improve. One of the strangest things to witness is the way Waters and Gilmour share the same microphone on the chorus, considering the way their relationship would deteriorate in later years. Gilmour REALLY digs in during the “Young Lust” solo, and Wright’s Hammond response is equally inspired.

The first appearance of the wife puppet takes place during “One Of My Turns,” which finds Roger Waters awash in spotlights in front the the ever-growing wall. As aforementioned, the audio deteriorates briefly during this song, but is otherwise fine. Agonized, Water’s pines throughout “Don’t Leave Me Now” sat upon a small staircase, contributing to the overall dramatic effect of the sequence.

“Another Brick In The Wall Part 3″ recaps everything that has transpired so far with Waters in the role of Pink contemplating the concept of isolation being the solution to all of his problems. On this particular evening, we’re treated to a few extra “Careful With That Axe Eugene”-style “induction screams” which is always a plus. This section is often extended or reduced musically to allow the builders time to complete the wall. With the last “goodbye” of “Goodbye Cruel World,” the wall is instantly sealed with the last brick and thus, stands complete.

The MC announces there will be a 20 minute intermission before the band returns, and the house lights come on to reveal just how massive the wall really is.

The second half of the show commences with “Hey You,” where yet again the audio fluctuates (this song apparently is the bane of tapers). All of the musicians perform from behind the wall, which is now illuminated in an eerie blue light.

Two bricks are removed from the wall so the audience can see David Gilmour (now seated) playing the beautiful classical guitar part during “Is There Anybody Out There?” but apart from that, no other band members, genuine or surrogate can be seen yet.

In one of the more dramatic portions of the concert, Roger Waters then appears seated in a very realistic facsimile of a hotel room at the Tropicana, complete with reading lamp and TV set, which the audience apparently really gets a kick out of,  judging by their response.

Segued into “Vera” and subsequently “Bring The Boys Back Home,” images of Vera Lynn and WW2 are projected across the entire wall. Vera Lynn was known for her uplifting songs that comforted many soldiers during the war, and clearly by this point in the story, Pink is certainly in need of cheering up.

Instead, he’s administered psychoactive drugs that render him “Comfortably Numb!” Spotlights reveal Roger Waters in white lab coat, with medical chart singing, his back turned to the audience, singing towards the wall while the remainder of the musicians are nowhere to be seen, obscured by the massive structure.

Suddenly, Gilmour appears 30 feet in the air, dead center above the wall for his refrain and solo spot – this always results in loud applause from the audience, and this night is no exception. As he transitions into his solo, bright lights beam out from behind, creating a celestial effect. The second solo is Gilmour’s opportunity to really cut loose, and he really makes the most of it, delivering a note-perfect climax that surely had everyone in attendance talking about the next day!

After “The Show Must Go On,” Gary Yudman returns for the second “MC Intro” which is essentially a reiteration of the original, only this time delivered at half-speed as if he were a zombie or on ‘ludes. This signals the entrance of “the fascist” band, where the Floyds turn up wearing black uniforms, and the surrogate band is now wearing “death-masks,” while Scarfe’s “crossed hammers” motif is projected onto the wall, both stage right and left.

“In The Flesh,” “Run Like Hell,” and “Waiting For The Worms” are all performed in front of the wall, the only time throughout the performance thus far when the musicians are as close to the audience as they normally would be during “typical” concerts.

The usual “identifier” for The Wall concerts is Roger Waters’ introduction to “Run Like Hell,” which on this night was: “Do you like our pig? He’s not a very nice pig, but he’s a BIG pig. There’s more to our pig than meets the eye. Go home pig, go on, fuck off! Puffed up, overblown, pork-eyed garlic fat thing, go on, go. This next tune I’d like to dedicate to all the paranoid folk in the audience tonight, of whom I’m sure there are many. It’s called ‘Run Like Hell.”

Typically, this song is another highlight of this tour, however in this case there is a frustrating segment plagued by audio degradation, followed later by the aforementioned VCR control menu that appears for a few seconds. Ultimately, the audio does smooth out however, and is fine through “Waiting For The Worms” and “Stop.”

Approximately at the 1:40:52 mark, during “Waiting For The Worms” Roger Waters sets a gong on fire just like he used to do in the 70′s during “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun,” providing yet another very cool throwback to the past (although the gong is emblazoned with the “crossed hammers” motif now), and enhanced by animations of the “marching hammers.”

At last, we’ve arrived at the finale…”The Trial” – the entirety of which is represented by Scarfe’s animations, allowing the crew time to remove all of the “fascist band’s” gear from the front of the wall, while furthering the plot for the audience. All of the characters from Pink’s past make an appearance: the teacher, the mother, the wife, all much to Pink’s dismay, each offering to sort him out in the fashion they each know best. The judge however, isn’t having any of it, and ultimately delivers the verdict: “Tear Down The Wall.”

With a barrage of strobes and quadraphonic explosions, one of the greatest spectacles in rock history tumbles down, brick by brick, in a cloud of smoke, echoing thunderous catastrophe. Or is it a new beginning, where it’s safe to reveal one’s feelings? I’ll leave that to the philosophers.

Lead by Roger Waters on clarinet, all of the musicians and singers walk back out to the stage amidst the debris to perform the epilogue “Outside The Wall,” in a genuine troubadour fashion. Unlike the following evening, there are no clams musically, and this brings the entire concert to a subdued conclusion.

Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason return to the stage one last time to take their final bow, and with that, the DVD ends.

The bottom line is, while it’s not 2008 “Hi-Def” quality, or even some theatrical quality footage unearthed from the golden ages, it is one of very few documents available of The Wall performed by the original band, and the only other pressed on silver besides Siréne’s The Wall Performed Live Definitive Edition (Siréne DVD Series-005). It certainly could be improved, but it also could be much worse; the audio is pretty good, the video isn’t grainy, and while dark, you can make out quite a bit. In the end, it’s a very much welcome release and perfect complement to Sigma 23.

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Pink Floyd - U.S. Wall (No Label), 2.5 out of 5 based on 1 rating

4 Comments

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  1. Avatar of eric99
    eric99 says
    October 13, 2008, 12:41 pm

    Excellent, insightful review Plomerus.

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  2. Avatar of tmoq
    tmoq says
    October 13, 2008, 7:31 am

    I second the notion regarding the audio of the Saint Tropez 1970. I thought it would be a no-brainer for the bootleggers to rip this & release it on silver discs. I almost bought a cdr rip/burn from an indie record store of this show, but always put it off thinking that someone would put it out. Rover, Godfather-anybody listening?

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  3. Avatar of Plomerus
    Plomerus says
    October 12, 2008, 9:52 pm

    DLee: You’re right. I just checked the Siréne DVD and it is in fact factory pressed silver. It has been some time since I broke it out for a viewing, and was under the impression it was one of the DVD-R releases, but alas, it is indeed silver. There is also the Lost Documentary release that included a DVD with behind-the-scenes footage as well (also silver). Still, not very many documents of this tour on silver regardless, and some of the older items are becoming harder and harder to find. I also would’ve preferred if the audio of the 27th had been included with Your Favorite Disguise – would’ve made that set even better in my opinion. And indeed, it would be nice to have all of the other audio from the DVD’s on CD as well (Saint Tropez 1970 comes to mind immediately).

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  4. Avatar of DLee
    DLee says
    October 12, 2008, 9:15 pm

    I don’t collect DVD’s, videos, tapes/cassettes, or LP’s, etc., but nevertheless I’m curious about this show, as I have a non-commercial CD-R copy of it, and appreciate the very thorough review. As for it being the only live Wall show factory-pressed on silver DVD, are you sure about that, Plomerus? I know that Siréne released at least a few different versions of the Earls Court recording(s) of Aug. 8-9, ’80 (believed to be soundboard) on DVD, and I think that at least one of them, if not all of them, was released on factory-pressed silver. Anyway, I’m hoping that eventually someday this Feb. 27th, ’80 show is released as an audio-only 2-CD. Wouldn’t it be great if all DVD material was also available on audio-only CD’s?

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