The Epic Journey Diary, 14th-24th May 2011
16:42, Saturday 14th May 2011
I’m sitting in the bar of Cineworld, feeling pretty damn nervous. I just came out from seeing Attack the Block, the debut film from director Joe Cornish, of Adam and Joe fame. (to me anyway) Yesterday I left Cardiff at 6:15 in the evening and spent the following four hours on a stuffy coach to London. The trip usually takes about two and a half to three hours, but for some reason last night it took an hour longer. I then had to wait at Victoria coach station for about two hours for the night coach that bring me to where I’m sitting now in Glasgow, Scotland. The gate (Gate 13) was so full of people my heart sank, and I wondered if it wasn’t just worth getting the 23:00 coach back to Cardiff. After all my Rush ticket wasn’t gauranteed, but my Roger Waters ticket for Sunday was. I didn’t take that idea seriously though, I was determined to see Rush and was already on my way.
A double decker Megabus turned up, the likes of which I haven’t taken in four years. My spirits immediately picked up; I wouldn’t be squashed in with anyone, and I would be able to sit on the top, which was sure to provide a bit of novelty to stave off some the boredom of the next eight hours. However, the double decker wasn’t the coach I ended up getting. It was the same service but it runs past Glasgow to Aberdeen, so the people only going to Glasgow had to get on a regular coach. I was annoyed, but managed to get two seats to myself, and rejoiced, declaring so on Facebook. No sooner had my finger pressed send, about twenty new people ambled on board. Again though, I was lucky, along with the guy across from me, we were the only ones with two seats. I managed to shift into a few different positions that provided a minimal amount of comfort every now and then. It took a couple of hours for me to drift off to sleep, but I kept being thrown awake by the rocking coach, as it barrelled down the motorway. The thing was literally swaying from side to side, it was a little scary and outside a constant barrage of juggernaut like trucks flew past, not only shaking the coach further, but making such a sound I always lurched awake, my stomach sinking. It wasn’t unlike the primal roar of a TIE Fighter.
I remember one time I woke up and the Moon was staring back at me over fields of darkness and it looked brighter and closer than ever. I suddenly (in my half asleep state) began thinking about how utterly crazy it was that the Moon was out there…in SPACE. And that we were a on a giant rock, held onto the surface by gravity. I really did wake up into a huge feeling of insignificance in comparison to the Universe, almost refusing to believe something so huge could exist. I soon fell asleep again. Every time I woke up it felt like it had been hours but frequent checks of my phone yielded the same results. The time wasn’t moving forward much, and it was a relief to stand up at 8:00AM when we arrived at Glasgow (Buchanan) Bus Station, precisely on the dot.
I started to potter around the city, though most of the shops weren’t open yet. I familiarised myself with some key areas, this place for one, as I had planned beforehand to eat up some of the day by watching Attack the Block. I made a mental note and looked around a shopping centre. HMV was soon open and I had a look at everything, really taking my time. I saw a copy of Classic Prog Rock magazine, with a cool image of Rush on the front, the issue celebrating their current Time Machine Tour. I briefly considered getting it before clocking the outrageous 7.99 price tag. I soon found the WWE DVDs, by recommendation of YouTuber TheWWEEvan. He insisted there were cheap buys, unlike the extortionate Cardiff branch. He was half right. I picked up a stupidly cheap one at 2 pounds brand new, but apart from that, the rest were over priced, and lots of them. I’m talking 35 quid for a 17-20 quid DVD.
I got a couple of Chicken Mayo’s, my old favourites, from McDonalds in the shopping centre, and fought the urge to fall asleep right there at the table. I didn’t enjoy the first Chicken Mayo much and left the other one. I phoned my Mum, which made me feel a bit better. This is actually the longest I’ve been away from home on my own without being around anyone familiar. It is kind of scary, in a way, just because there’s no friendly face to look forward to seeing untill I go home on Monday. I told my Mum of my waiting around for the 4:35AM coach tonight/tomorrow morning. She said I was nuts. She’s not wrong.
I then went around some cheap shops, found Robot Chicken’s Star Wars episode in the British Heart Foundation charity shop. Kind of a mix of two great tag teams there, I knew I’d find something cool. It was on DVD of course, and a steal at 99p. Unless it turns out to be shit. That’s possible. I also picked up Jack Dee’s autobiography Thanks For Nothing from Poundland. Serves him right. Looks interesting though. I read the first chapter outside the SECC, and it consists entirely of him complaining about plumbers. It’s like Karl Pilkington, only forced and nowhere near as naturally funny. I’m still enjoying it so far though. Just to get me through the day I also got two small things from Primark: a pair of Back to the Future boxers, with the DeLorean on them, and a Batman comic styled wallet. Around 12, I receieved a text from Peter, the man from The Rush Forum who was sorting me out a ticket. I don’t know how I managed to put so much faith in someone I’d A) ever met and B) knew nothing about besides a huge dedication to Rush. (Obviously)
So there was a little bit of apprehension on that side of things, but I had researched his goings on on The Rush Forum, to see if he was legit, and it seemed so. He said if I met him at the SECC (the venue for the Rush show) at 1 o’clock, he’d have my ticket for me then. I milled around a bit longer and quickly found the River Clyde, and made my way along it, knowing the SECC was somewhere down the line. It took about twenty minutes and I walked down to the venue after reading some of the book. A balding man in a brown leather jacket was waiting by the door, but showed no signs of waiting for someone so I went inside. I receieved another text soon after saying he was outside. I asked if he was Peter and we introduced ourselves. He was a very friendly Irish chap, and was telling me where the seats were, and that it was going to be a “fucking awesome show.” I don’t doubt him.
I said I was meeting some friends to see a movie, just so it didn’t seem like I was being weird, cos he, along with some other (older) Rush Forum guys were meeting up at Walkabout. It’s not their age that puts me off, it’s just the fact I don’t like bars too much. (This one is lovely though) And besides, they’ve all been Rush fans for years, decades even. I wouldn’t have much to offer in terms of conversation, and generally I don’t in social situations anyway. Just seemed for the best so I left the SECC, after profusely thanking the legendary Peter, after handing over 75 Scottish notes. I came back here to Cineworld and chilled out in this bar for a while before the film. I went into the toilet and got changed. (Day old socks and boxers = not good)
The film was great, and I almost fell asleep twice, but only due to my eternal tiredness. It was funny, shot brilliantly and had a satisfying climax. I wasn’t amazingly hot with all the black guys and the slang, which isn’t racist it’s just not particularly my thing. That being said, it worked perfectly within the context and setting of the story. It didn’t disappoint, it was exactly as I hoped it would be.
So now, the nervousness. I just don’t know what the concert is going to be like. From how people will act, to if I can film a bit or not. I desperately want to film La Villa Strangiato, one of my favourite Rush songs. But I don’t know if I want to risk getting my new Flip camera confiscated. I’ll just have to guage what other people do at the time. Also, I’m just dreading later on tonight. Not so much the waiting (though that will suck) but the walking back at midnight on a Saturday night with this laptop with me. Sure I’m not wearing a neon sign above my head saying “I have a laptop, come and get it” but it still makes me a bit jittery. “Don’t get jittery, Luke.” Just generally carrying this big bag around is also bothering me, but I’d rather be prepared with clothes I guess.
Also, I’m unsure whether the coach station will be open for me to sit inside from 12-4am. I should think it will be, the outside seats definitely will be, but that’ll be too cold probably. Again, I’ll just have to guage the situation when I’m there. There’s also a nervousness from seeing someone, or some people, that you love so much, in the flesh. There’s always a bit of butterflies when that kind of things goes on. Also the hope that something won’t go wrong with the show, or they might play badly. I’m such a pessimist, I can’t help it. I’m sure it’ll rock. This place it really chilled, they’ve been playing old Blues for hours, I love it. I have a couple more hours to wait so I’m gonna wait here a little longer, and if I get the chance to safely do so, I’ll add to this after the show at the coach station. Here goes nothing.
13:04, Sunday 15th May 2011
Well. What a fucking night. To quickly skim over the unbelievably awesome Rush concert, I found myself forcing my way through legions of Rush fans, old and new, to get out of the SECC around 11PM. I knew that there was a night coach to London at either 23:00 or 23:30, so I quickly went on MSN and asked Connie to find out for me. It didn’t even show up on the Megabus site, so I was too late anyway. I would have to wait for the coach I had stupidly booked in the first place, the 4:35AM one. When I left the SECC finally I tried being clever and finding a “quicker way” to the coach station. For starters, I don’t know why I bothered, I needed to take a longer way if anything, I had time to waste. Of course I ende up lost and somehow on a main road. I had to quickly cross it, nearly getting run over in the process, and found myself in what could be easily described as a compact industrial estate. It couldn’t have been more foreboding. I was already nervous about walking back through Glasgow at midnight, let alone areas like that.
After more wrong turns and false paths, I found my way after a lot of frustration and worry, to the main part of the city. I hastily navigated the bustling city, dodging my way past arguing drunks and a lot of police. Finally arriving at the coach station, my fear was confirmed. The main part of the coach station, i.e the indoor section, was closed from 23:00 – 6:00. So all that was left were the four long rows of seats and gates (or “stances” as they’re called in Scotland for some reason) that ran around the huge main part of the station. They were covered by roofs, but only a few glass walls shielded the areas from the outside, a chill wind constantly blowing in. Thus began the longest night of my life. Or at least a new contender for the prestiged title.
I wandered around, not content to sit down anywhere, there were a lot of dodgy people about. I asked a woman in a yellow jacket how safe it was, and she assured me there were cameras everywhere, though I might encounter a few “dafties” throughout the night. I had a brief panic when the Megabus stop only said it left for London at 11:00AM, no mention of the 04:35 coach in sight. She told me it left from stance 53, so that was reassuring. I couldn’t stay there all night though, it was too cold, too ominous, and too dodgy. Within ten minutes two people approached me, a black guy who looked like he was on crack asking for a smoke, and that’s being generous to say that’s what he asked, it was complete gibberish. Another homeless guy asked me for money, but in all fairness, he was really nice and apologised for bothering me. I took to wandering the city, not straying too far from the coach station, and avoiding any rowdy areas, in search of a 24 hour McDonalds. I called my Mum, which just made me feel worse and more homesick, I don’t know what I was expecting out of it other than that.
I even tried the Holiday Inn opposite the station, and asked if I could merely sit in the lobby for a few hours, already knowing the answer. The young receptionist seemed fine with it but his manager was adamant it would be a security risk, as they weren’t insured. I don’t know what the hell I could have done just sitting there that caused such a concern, but I had no hopes for it (it was a posh place) and the manager wasn’t a dick about it. They recommended a 24 hour McDonalds, though I ever found it. It was too deep into the city and I didn’t like going too far away from the station. Besides the woman in the yellow jacket told me they patrol the whole station every hour, it seemed like it would probably be safer there than McD’s, which would likely be full of really drunk twats.
In the end I found a spot at the far end of the station, in a block where noone seemed to wander, too far from the main entrance to bother. I found if I sat with my back to the wall, I could see from both sides if any trouble would come. A young Asian man hesitantly walked into the same block, and I looked at him. He seemed intimidated. At this point I was padded up with shirts and jackets, hood up, a beanie hat on, with an army camo backpack. I must’ve looked dodgy. So I walked over and tried to make him feel at ease, asking if he was waiting for a bus. He said he was, and that it arrived at 7AM! I thought I had it bad. I said it seemed like this area was a good place, a nice quiet spot, so hopefully I made him feel a bit better, because he seemed just as unnerved as I was, and maybe in talking to him I felt a bit better too. I started listening to the Ricky Gervais Show XFM recordings, and eventually a Star Wars audiobook, Jedi Search.
Soon it became too cold to sit cross legged and I was shaking all over. I paced around the whole station a few times, then paced around in the quiet area for about an hour and a half, kicking my legs with every single step, to get some blood pumping. By the time the coach arrived I was dying for any kind of warmth. It felt amazing and soon I was asleep after we took off. I had a much better sleep than the Friday night coach, quashing my expectations of feeling so bad today that I wouldn’t even want to go and see The Wall. The coach was actually a proper Megabus coach, so it hasn’t been shaking from side to side or anything. In typical “just my kind of luck” fashion, the heaters are actually insane now, and I’m dying for a bit of coolness. My laptop battery is dying now, so I will update this from my hotel room soon before I go to see Roger Waters.
16:50, Sunday 15th May 2011
I’ve been in my tiny hotel room for about two hours now. It’s small, but does its job. The bath didn’t look too inviting, and when the hot tap would barely run I just had a wash standing up, as opposed to a full on bath. Maybe later, but it seems like it’d take till Tuesday to fill it. I had to scale up six flights of stairs to get here too, it reminded me of that scene in Ghostbusters. I’ve just been chilling out with the door to the balcony open, getting a refreshing view of concrete buildings and the joyous sound of ringing sirens. God I love London. On my way here from the coach station, for maybe the first time in my life, I was utterly lost in the labyrinth of tunnels on the Underground.
I finally found my way though, and walked past a guy playing Wish You Were Here on an electric guitar. I gave him some money, and another guy said he was going to see Roger Waters tonight, like me. He then started playing Money. That was hilarious. I put some new batteries in my Flip cam and filmed him. He noticed my Rush Time Machine Tour t-shirt and started playing Tom Sawyer. I shot him a grin and a thumbs up, but after the main chords he stopped, laughing. “Fuck, I’ve forgotten man sorry!” I said “no worries, that was cool, cheers!” To which he replied “thank you, rock on!” It was kinda corny writing it down but I love how strangers can share a smile and a nice moment through a mutual love of something. I’ll get onto that when I talk about the Rush show.
I found the hotel easily enough, it was right outside Marylebone station. As soon as I got to reception a man with shoulder length hair immediately said to me “Roger Waters?” I nodded and we soon got into a conversation about it as we waited for our rooms to be cleaned. Again, I’d never have a conversation with a stranger 20 years older than me with that much enthusiasm, it’s awesome. He immediately brought up “Thursday” i.e the David Gilmour appearance three days ago. We shared some frustration on that I think.
So, I’m getting ready to leave for The Wall. The doors open at half six, the same as Rush last night, and again, no support, showtime of 8PM. So I’m gonna leave around six o’clock, I don’t wanna be waiting around for 2 hours. I’m running pretty low on funds now, so will need to find some relatively cheap food.
Now I have the time: Rush.
I arrived at the SECC, and there were people EVERYWHERE. I underestimated how many people would be there, and seeing that, I know the O2 is going to be INSANELY packed tonight. Anyway. There was a merchandise stall so I bought a black Time Machine Tour 2011 Leg t-shirt, which was awesome. It took me about ten minutes to get there though, the queue was more of a crowd really, and there was pushing going on everywhere. I was actually getting pushed into the counter when I was being served, it was mental. I had my big backpack too, so I no doubt pissed a few people off. Fuck ‘em. I needed to take a leak so queued up for about fifteen minutes for that. My bag was checked twice and I was on my way to row HH, seat G15. It was seven rows from the front, and the excitement was mental.
A big Scotsman who shall be affectionately known as Tommy, because he looked, sounded and acted like my late Uncle Tommy, sat next to me. He’d also got the tickets from Peter. He was very friendly and after I replied to his question “how many tours have ya seen pal?” with a meager “One.” he didn’t laugh or condemn me, but rather told me about all I’d missed out on. He’d been to a show on every single tour, dating back to the 70s, and told me a few stories of the late 70s, it was awesome. Peter turned up and I shot him a massive thumbs up. The lights went down and the crowd cheered loudly. I was concerned about filming, especially considering the signs strictly prohibiting it, and the surly guards constantly patrolling the arena right behind me.
A screen film was shown before the first set, with all the Rush members in stupid costumes. Alex Lifeson was the funniest in a big fat suit. Really, I was just dying for the show to start, so I could see them. It was kinda funny, but after 24 hours of hardly doing anything but wait around on coaches and in the streets for this concert, I wanted to see them! The film centered around these wacky characters playing with a time device, which segued into Rush taking the stage to open the show was The Spirit of Radio. Wow. It seemed really close to the stage, closer than I thought, but I could see them so clearly, it was amazing. Geddy Lee was rocking the bass, his hands a blur as he plucked and thwacked his Bass guitar, dancing around the stage when he wasn’t singing. Alex Lifeson was singing along to the song to himself, firing out his amazing guitar skills and the incredible solo to Spirit. Neil Peart was a raging demon of focused intensity behind the drum kit, pounding away at his ridiculous sized set.
It was the perfect opening to a near perfect show, and with that I’ll leave it. I’m gonna get ready for The F’n Wall! I’ll come back to my fragmented retelling of the Rush show later. I hope I enjoy it as much as Rush, but I see it being a close second. We’ll see, I’m excited! Especially now that I have this room, because the impending night of doom after Rush really did slightly hamper my mood. Not too much though. Later.
15:00, Monday 16th May 2011
Well, I’m on the Megabus home. An end, this epic journey has come to. I wanted to write last night, and sat down to do so, but I just wanted to sleep really. So I’ll pick up where I left off. I found my way to the O2 quite easily, it was a 25 minute tube ride away. The place was huge and I wasn’t sure what to expect exactly but I loved it. I’ll really have to go back there for a bit longer some time and have a look around. Inside the main part of the arena, (formerly known as The Millenium Dome) there were a lot of merchandise stalls. I was low on money so wasn’t interested in a tour t-shirt, though I wanted one. They did have big flags in red, with the classic Hammer logo and “Trust Us” written underneath. They were 20 quid and I desperately wanted one, but I had 10 in cash and 19 in the bank. The O2 cash machines didn’t dispense tenners so that dream was cut to end pretty quickly.
I made my way up to the higher levels and to the arena hall itself. Higher and higher I went, as my seat was at the back and at the top. I was expecting an okay view at best. I finally found section 411 and walked through the archway into the hall. Wow. The Wall looked huge and it was so close. I mean, it was still a couple of hundred feet away, but due to the nature of the huge construction on stage, I had a perfect view. My seat was on the first few rows of Level 4 and when I sat down, I was gobsmacked. I was legitimately dead center, a picture perfect view of everything. I just saw I wrote “perfect view” twice but it really was. There was a big black line in the middle of the hall, running from the massive block of equipment and computers in the middle, that went from the floor straight up to the big myriad of girders and projecters. So, I would miss about a half an inch from my line of sight, and that really wasn’t a problem. I was expecting to hardly make out an ant-sized Roger Waters, but when he came on, he was still a speck, sure, but I could see him properly, and understood his body language. It was the best option I could’ve taken, and I truly lucked out on the seat.
I then hit the new problem. I couldn’t find my travelcard. Great. Not only would I have to buy a new one, even further knocking my new dream of obtaining a flag after the show into oblivion, but I felt sure it would be just my luck for there to be no way of buying a new one so late on a Sunday. Luckily my pessimism that night was only pessimism and I got a new ticket no problem, but it added a sense of urgency to me throughout the night that I didn’t like. I probably shouldn’t have bought the second Rush t-shirt. Oh well. It’s still awesome.
I got to my seat around 7:15, with the show scheduled to begin at “8:00 Prompt.” That turned out to be 8:15 prompt, so I had an hour to sit there, and watch the huge O2 arena fill up. I realised that seeing a wrestling show would actually be great from the high seats too, I didn’t realise the hall was…well…it’s not small but, it was smaller than I imagined it. The seats were very steep so whenever someone had to walk past you literally had to get up, fold your seat back and lean backwards to let them pass. On my left was a really nice older man, not quite OAP status yet, with a slightly younger South American girlfriend. He was really friendly and instantly said “you must be a Dave Gilmour fan, guitarist?” I loved that he got that from looking at me, but honestly, I’m sure the same could be said for most people in that hall. I answered with “well, I try.” Which was true. We had a chat about music and the bands he’d seen. I told him about the epic journey I was on, though I never at any point used the word “epic.”
A fat lumbering mess…well, lumbered past me and squashed himself into the seat on my right. Sitting back my arms were pushed together awkwardly, so I had to sit perched forward for most of the night, but that didn’t bother me once those lights went down. I was getting sick of the music being played, it was Bob Dylan song after Bob Dylan song. Then John Lennon’s amazing song Mother was played and I loved it. One of my favourite songs and favourite albums from which it was taken from. I filmed the audience to capture the moment and the comparison from earlier when I’d filmed the half empty hall. Suddenly the lights went out and a deep voice announced the show was about to start. He also noted Roger doesn’t mind people filming or taking pictures, just to turn off the flash, as it can interfere with the full effect of the projections. I really, really dug that. Knock him all you want for all his anti-everything messages, and then charging loads for tickets, but that was a classy move. I mean, after all, everyone wants to take pictures. You won’t see any other big show being that lax. I mean sure, in a building of that size, it’s hard to maintain those rules, but I appreciated it being addressed and allowed.
Two dark figures pulled out the classic Wall man from the film, a plain dummy with a gaunt face, three holes, two for eyes and one for the mouth. His head was down, and they held him on show as a clip from Spartacus was played. “I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus!” At the last call of the classic qoute, the head of the dummy looked up, it was hilarious. The beautiful sounds of Outside the Wall began to play, mirroring the album, where the final song is heard at the beginning for a few moments, and then In The Flesh began. With every major chord, a burst of fireworks shot through the sky, the big Hammer logo projected onto the iconic circular screen beyond The Wall. I got goosebumps and was sat in a silent awe, as Roger took the stage, the audience cheering him on. Faceless men with big Hammer flags walked across a walkway beyond The Wall, silhouetted in an ominous red light, it was fucking awesome. Roger began to sing and I instantly knew he still had it. He could never sing amazingly, but he wrote these songs to suit himself, and he still had that fire in his voice, it was a moment I’ll never forget.
In the closing moments of the song, a huge sound effect of a plane crashing enveloped the whole building, and out of nowhere a big craft flew from the rafters, about 20 feet long, and crashed through a section of The Wall, bursting into flames. It was spectacular. When The Thin Ice began, we were treated to the first of the songs Gilmour sang on originally. It didn’t sound right, but it wasn’t bad either, and to be honest, it didn’t really bother me. The Wall was always Roger’s big show. The Floyd masterpieces Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals were their big shows, (maybe less so with Animals) but The Wall always felt like it was Roger’s twisted, and demented baby. That being said, you can’t replace Gilmour. The man I met in the Travelodge had mentioned Dave Killminster, the guitarist, telling me “he’s no David Gilmour clone, he’s really good.” He wasn’t wrong, the guy rocked it. It still wasn’t Gilmour though, haha. The man next to me had said before the show started, in his friendly Yorkshire accent: “his guitarist’s not half bad, he’s no Dave Gilmour, but he knows a chord or two.” I love how much people are talking about Gilmour being irreplacable.
During the first few songs, I got quite emotional, not tearing up or anything, but a strong sense of emotional attachment to what I was seeing, a faint hint of a lump in my throat. On the circular screen images of people who had died in war were shown, and then projected onto every single brick on The Wall. I’m no fan of war, and think it’s ridiculous, just as much as the next person, and The Wall was a huge critique of it too, but I still felt so sad at all the lives that have been lost over nothing. It was a tribute to a lot of people and a classy move by Waters. He had people send in their photos and information of lost loved ones to be used in tribute before he took the show on the road. A big group of kids came on stage to sing, or more than likely mime to Another Brick in the Wall Part 2. It was really cool, Roger cheering them on when he wasn’t playing his signature all black bass. A huge inflatable cariacature of The Teacher was lowered in front of The Wall (I won’t bother explaining the story of characters of the show) about 30 feet tall, with the kids standing underneath him, pointing and shouting.
Roger formally greeted everyone after those first few songs, and said “you know, it’s been a whole 24 hours since I last performed this show in London” which was pretty funny. He then went on to talk about Earl’s Court in 1980, the only time the show was ever played live, and how he had some film footage of himself playing acoustic guitar and singing the song Mother. So he was going to attempt to sing a double track with himself from 30 years previous. It was a really cool idea and worked great, one of my favourite moments on the show, a huge black and white Roger from 1980 projected onto The Wall as he sang it and played on the stage. During the line “Mother should I trust the government?” the crowd booed and on the right side of The Wall, a big red “NO” popped up. Everyone cheered as a second and third word appeared: “FUCKING” and “WAY” Probably one of the biggest reactions of the night. I’m glad the language wasn’t toned down for this show, and had a little enjoyment out of the awkwardness of a mother and father below me looking uncomfortable with their young son.
For Goodbye Blue Sky, a great new animation was shown, of planes dropping logos like bombs, from dollar and pound signs to Jewish stars and even the Shell and McDonalds logos. (Which got a huge reaction and applause) There were a lot of new messages almost hidden in the projections about consumerism and war. He always said if he did this show again, he’d do it if it felt relevant again and there were new messages to be gotten from it. I think he was right, it really worked as far as that goes. For anyone who doesn’t know, The Wall actually gets built during the first set, invisible stage hands building it up brick by brick, and it was awesome to see it unfold. (I know that doesn’t technically work, but whatever)
Empty Spaces was amazing, and the awesome animation from the film was used, one of my favourite songs from The Wall. During Young Lust, a lot of risque footage of women was shown on The Wall, and just in front of me (or below) was a middle aged woman, her teenage son and his young girlfriend. (Who, not so coincedentally, were wearing the same “Pink Floyd The Wall” t-shirt as me) The guy, who was obviously dragging his supportive girlfriend and mother along, was being awkwardly into the show, half heartedly fist pumping every now and again, silently mouthing lyrics. He was as rigid as a rock during Young Lust, as a 30 foot pair of breasts took up one side of The Wall. I found it pretty funny, as I always do when I see really awkward situations I have no part in.
The final song of the first set was Goodbye Cruel World, with the stage exclusive “song” The Last Few Bricks playing for a few minutes to allow the stage hands time to finish building, untill there was one single brick remaining to complete it.
17:42, Tuesday 24th May 2011
Well, it’s been over a week now since the Epic Journey came to an end, and I just wanted to leave some time to reflect on it before I came back to this diary. That, and I’m lazy. My laptop battery died on the coach so I’ll just dive straight back into The Wall. The lights came down after Goodbye Cruel World and during the interval, names and information with pictures were shown on The Wall of lost ones from wars.
I chatted some more to the friendly guy next to me, and we talked about music. I mentioned my fiancee was a musician and is a great singer. He said “well that’s the Welsh for you” and I explained she was Norwegian. He acted surprised and looked to his South American girlfriend, explaining to her. We had a laugh over the fact we both had foreign fiancees and he gave me some advice on travel on the way out of the O2, after I told him I’d lost my travel card.
The lights went down again, and we were treated to a great rendition of Hey You, one of the best songs from The Wall. The second half of the show was amazing, with The Wall now complete, the projections were in full force and left me in full amazement. During Vera and Bring The Boys Back Home, video footage of children in school being surprised by their fathers returning from the Middle East were shown. It was quite moving. Then the first note of Comfortably Numb hit, one of the highlights of the weekend for me. Everyone was shouting “David!” hoping that Gilmour would be there, but I knew he wouldn’t. Still, I almost believed he was when the spotlight on the singer of the main verses (standing on top of the huge Wall) went out, and another spotlight highlighted a second man further over, who played the first solo. It wasn’t Gilmour though. It was still amazing, and such an experience to see live, and hear Roger sing the two verses that everyone knows so well.
The final solo was great, but not quite Gilmour. Roger banged against The Wall and it seemed to explode before everyones eyes, bursting open and shattering, colours flying everywhere. It looked spectacular and you just need to see it to get the full effect. In The Flesh? and Run Like Hell were amazing, such a great atmosphere to them, a giant floating pig flying around the O2 with “Trust Us” mainly daubed on the side of it. Video footage was shown of the disgusting gunning down of an Iraqi journalist by Americans, in front of their children. It was hard to watch, but great that Roger had the balls to put that footage out there, a big flag appearing on the projected Wall, with their names and “We Will Never Forget You.” Hopefully people will search that video out, and become enlightened to the bullshit that goes on in this World, because it seems like most people would rather not now either way.
I later found out Roger invited a lot of people who have been injured in war to come backstage, he spoke to them, gave them personalised t-shirts, pictures autographs and free tickets. A very classy move, considering there’s been no press for this, I found out from someone who’s brother was invited there after he lost an arm in Afghanistan. He can’t change the World, but Roger Waters is doing his bit, by a long shot. Lot of respect for him.
When The Wall came down during The Trial, it was awesome to see, this huge Wall collapsing in front of my eyes. One of the moments I was really looking forward to and it didn’t disappoint. Everyone started leaving straight away, or at least a lot of people did, likely to beat the Tube rush, which I’ll get to. I stayed for Outside The Wall and Roger thanking everyone, and name checking all the musicians. He mentioned that when he was a younger man, he was a miserable fucker and now he couldn’t be happier, thanking everyone again. He then looked up to where I was, raised his arm and said “Thanks everyone in the back!” I got a little rush when he said that, and felt a surge of appreciation for everything he’d done. Seeing him come from the man that spat in the face of a fan in the Olympic Stadium in Montreal 34 years ago, to a much happier and gracious person, making a point to thank the people in the “cheap” seats, was really nice to see.
I left sadly, knowing I’d probably never see Roger or any of the three remaining Floyd members again, but it was bittersweet. I actually saw The Wall, performed by the man himself. I now had to concentrate on getting home. I wanted to get one of the Trust Us flags but didn’t have the cash on me. The crowds getting out were unreal. As I was by the doors, I noticed a guy with long black hair, and a cap on backwards. He looked just like The Doctor, a guy who runs a Pink Floyd podcast on Floyd Podcast.com which has been running for six years now. I featured on there in 2009 with an hour long mix I made, and have talked to him a few times via email. I knew he was at most of the London shows and had tried to spot him on the floor seating. It was so random that I bumped into him on the way out. I asked if he was who I thought he was, and briefly introduced myself. He smiled and we shook hands enthusiastically. I said it had been an awesome show and he laughed, saying that he and his friend were hit by the “Wall wind” as they were so close to the front. I shook his hand again, saying it was great to meet him, and off I went. A great, random moment that I won’t forget.
The crowds to the Tube were ridiculous and it took twenty minutes just to get into the station. I found a cash point, took out some money, and got a new travelcard, or rather, just a single ticket to Zone 1. I contemplated running back to get the flag, I had an hour before the last tube. But after five minutes of going back, I just couldn’t face it. I went back and within forty minutes I was at Baker Street. I got off and tried to find a shop. I found a 24 hour petrol station shop and spent about eight quid on food and drinks, it was very expensive. I got back to my hotel room easily enough and felt elated at the greatness I had just witnessed.
I had a quick wash, and watched the last half of a very weird Robin Williams film on TV, whilst having my food. I spoke to Connie on my phone’s MSN for a while and then put on The Ricky Gervais Show on my laptop, and fell asleep to the familiar sounds of Karl Pilkington saying something hilarious with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant laughing at him.
I woke up around eleven in the morning and got out at twelve on the dot, making the checkout time barely. The journey home was a complete breeze and I got home at about six in the evening. Feeling so happy to be home but so sad to be away from the “epic journey” now that it was all over. As much as it was hell at points, I loved it so much and wouldn’t change it for anything. I didn’t cover the Rush show, but I’ll never forget it, the set was amazing. I’ve used words like amazing far too much but what the hell.
They played a lot of songs I hadn’t heard of, but enjoyed every single one. There was something in every song I loved. Of course when they came back after a break and played Moving Pictures all the way through, I was constantly grinning, it was fantastic. Then classics like the first two parts of 2112 and La Villa Strangiato. My favourite Rush song maybe, and it was unreal to see live, especially when Alex Lifeson whipped out one of the best solos of all time, it was truly epic, probably the highlight of the whole weekend, seeing that solo. They finished with Working Man, Lifeson going insane on the solo, ending the show in a blaze of glory. It left me with such a high that night, one of the many things I’ll never forget. During the interval Peter asked me if I was enjoying it. I said “nah, it’s shit.” Which he found very funny, and said “I guess I was asking for that.” I pulled the same joke on the Yorkshire guy at The Wall, he leaned over and said “to qoute Eric Morecambe, ‘what do you think of it so far?’” Again, I said “it’s shit.” And he found it very funny thankfully. I felt kinda guilty at milking the same joke two nights in a row, ha.
Overall, it was an amazing experience (that’s the 107th time I’ve used the word amazing, for those keeping count) and I’m truly glad I spent the stupid amount of money to do it. The main thing I’ll take away from it, besides seeing four of my heroes, was how much complete and utter strangers were so friendly to me over the four days. In work I get hassle from strangers who act like complete assholes for no reason every day, but over a long weekend around the whole of the UK, I didn’t get one piece of attitude, just kindness, friendliness and politeness. The Epic Journey was truly epic, but it also restored my faith in people. Which sounds pretentious, but it’s for real, I mean it. True story.