Friday, July 27, 2012

Quebec: Was it the greatest show on earth?

 

So this was it! The big one—the longest wall yet! I’d been told at the beginning of the U.S. tour that there was the possibility of another date being added after Philly, but I hadn't been told where it would be or even when they would know if it was going ahead or not. As soon as Quebec was announced Mark bought wristbands, I booked hotels, and we were all set.

After Wendy, Kim and James picked up their tickets, they headed backstage to see the guys. Kamilla and I had said our goodbyes to the guys last week in D.C. and to Dave the night before. We went back to our hotel to freshen up, but we both wanted to look around the venue and check out the atmosphere inside, so we headed down there around 7 P.M.

There was a golden circle area at the front of the venue which would hold approximately 9,000 people and a general admission area behind that which would hold another 75,000 people. The whole venue was standing only, and there was only a small seated area off to the right for the handicapped plus a small area for a few VIP’s.

There were only two entrances—one for the front and one for the general admission. As we went through the entrance we had to have our wristbands scanned by machines. Each wristband had an RFID chip enclosed in it, and the scanners at the entrance were similar to the security scanners you find at doors in department stores. However, they were Wall themed!

General admission area at the rear               The front section entrance                          Wall covered scanners

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Beth, Maria, Anne, and Zo had gone into the venue earlier and had found a great place right in front of the soundboard. However, as there was only one entrance at the right hand side, people walked in and tended to stop as soon as they met other people in the crowd forming an impenetrable wall. Kami made the 15 minute trek through the crowd to see her mom and came back 15 minutes later and said the whole side section over by her mom had lots of space! This was all just because people didn't move across as they entered. Kami and I thought about going back over to the other side, but we really wanted to see the show with Kim, Wendy, and James and had arranged to meet them under the large tree before the show started, so we decided to stay where we were (on the right side).

Divide between front and back                     Beth and Maria were in there somewhere!    General admission behind us.

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Click on the picture below and then click again on the picture that opens for a large scrollable panorama of the crowd and the wall.

quebec show panorama 2 small

I’ve read a few complaints online about the lack of food, drink, and merchandise available in the venue. Personally I don’t go to a gig to eat or even drink! If I want a T-shirt, I'll buy one online. If I want to eat or drink, I go to a restaurant before the show! The only negative thing I have so say about the organisation was said above about there only being one entrance, but we didn’t line up once getting in, and the picking up of wristbands and entry into the venue was flawless. It’s always a bit strange seeing a show in a country that speaks a different language, as everyone assumes you are from there and starts to speak to you in the native language. This happened a few times with people standing next to us just wanting to chat while we waited for James, Kim and Wendy. I told them we only spoke English, and a couple started to speak English, but a couple carried on in French!

I hung out front watching the crowd fill the general admission area while Kami went to say goodbye to one of the crew members she had befriended while seeing the shows. I saw my friend Shane who is in charge of the Pyros while I was waiting, and he said “Si, wait till you see this—it’s amazing. There’s four times the amount of pyro than we normally use!”

Pyro all lined up and ready to go                 It went on and on in front of the stage          Four times as much as usual

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I bumped into Amy, Roger’s step daughter. It was great to see her again before the tour finished—she’s seen 60 shows herself—the same as Kamilla—and said she couldn't think of a better way to end to tour. We hugged and said our goodbyes.

Due to there being no structure at the back of the venue, the Stuka plane had to be mounted on a huge crane, suspending the plane high above the crowd, and for the first time to the rear left of the stage. It had a long way to travel and would come down right over the heads of most of the crowd. There were a few slight differences from the standard outdoor shows, the main one being the stage was so much higher than normal. In fact, it was a LOT higher than any of the other shows. This meant that leaning on the rail was certainly not the place to be, and if you were, you’d see very little of the band, if any, during the first set. The other main difference was the length of the wall. It was long—really long. Apart from the height, the stage was the standard size for the outdoor stadium shows, as was the wall except for the ends of the wall—there was another 200 feet at each end that would not be projected on but would have brick faces with graffiti designs, and this whole section would be lit up by spotlights from the bottom.

Stage much higher                                Crane holding Stuka                                   Stuka

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Video panorama of the venue below: 

I did notice early on just how many people had actually brought their own beer and drink into the venue. There were lots of coolers and people drinking cans of beer. We still had over an hour to go, and I’d already seen some people passed out on the floor from drinking too much!

Kim, Wendy, and James came through to meet us about 20 minutes before the start of the show. It was the latest start yet tonight—9:15 P.M., I’d guess, due to how light it was, especially being even further north than all the other outdoor venues.

Kami and I waiting for the show                    Kim and Wendy emerge from the curtain!    Pre show picture

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Kim, James, and Wendy had a great time backstage. James had managed to get the rest of the band to sign his mask that Roger had signed for him at the beginning of the tour in San Francisco, and they'd all managed to get some nice shots with the guys and were able to say thanks and goodbye to everyone they wanted to. Wendy said the guys were really, REALLY buzzed backstage for the show and couldn't wait to get out there and perform.

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I’ve always been really emotional at the end of the tours, and tonight was no different. After the show Beth was saying how she could never get emotional or cry at a show and how someone near where they were stood was in tears. I explained to her that it’s not just about the shows. It was about the experiences, the people, the memories, the things I had seen and done, and these shows and all the rest had consumed the last two years of my life! To hear the six pre-show tracks playing and think that it would be the last time I’d hear them made me sad. To be surrounded by friends who all “got it” when we mimicked the “flash forced off” words made me sad. And, hearing the “I’m Spartacus” audio before the show brought me to tears. Kim gave me a hug and told me not to cry or she would start. Sure enough, 10 seconds later, she had tears rolling down her cheeks. Wendy’s eyes were full and about to overflow with tears too. We got talking to a couple of people around us before the show started and the guy next to us (called Sly) was very nice. He had seen the show before in Montreal and also in 2010. I gave him a blog card—hope you got to check out the blog and enjoyed the show.

Panorama video of venue just before show time.

Minutes before the start of the show      Pre tears picture                                  Post tears picture       Myself and Sly

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After pulling ourselves together we punched our arms in the air as the pyros went up--when no one else was expecting it—part way through Roger’s trumpet playing. It was instantly visible that there were, indeed, far more pyros than normal. Roger came onstage to a huge roar from the crowd, and then a huge second roar hit as it took a second or two for the roar from the general admission people to travel through the air and reach us!

In The Flesh opening in Quebec.

Roger used the stage to its full length, running all the way along before thrusting his fists in the air at each end, getting the crowd at the sides of the venue going crazy. The huge projections from Athens on the side screens must have helped people at the back see what was going on onstage in Athens! Of course, most of them were none the wiser that the visuals were recorded and were probably more than thankful that they could see our master of not only vocal assistance but also video assistance on the sides of the stage. At least they had something more to look at than a person on a stage 1/4 of a mile away from where they were! I’d even bet a fair amount of the visuals looked small to them—they were that far away!

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The plane and pyros at the end of In The Flesh.

The amount of smoke at the end of In The Flesh was unreal! Never seen as much, and you could barely see your hand in front of your face. The final explosion as the plane hit the wall was huge and incredibly loud! Below is a picture from my friend Shane of the final explosion of pyros.

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I looked around at Kami, Kim, Wendy, and James. We were all lost for words, not expecting the boom at all! Or the ash in our eyes! It seemed a couple in front of us were ever so happy with the performance—so much so that the guy had lifted his girl up onto him, and, had they not have been wearing clothes, they would have been engaging in intercourse right in front of us! Well, they were engaging in the next closest thing possible!

I watched a lot of the show looking at the wall the opposite side of where we were stood. The projections looked so much better the further away they were. Sure, they were impressive in front of us, but on the other side of the wall they looked amazing. I can only imagine what the show must have looked like 2/3 of the way back, or even right at the back on the grass banking where we’d been earlier on yesterday. I didn't hear the surround much as we were too far forward, and with the surround speakers being what must have been over 1/4 mile away, I’m guessing it sounded fantastic towards the rear. Knowing now what I didn't know then, I would really have been in two minds as to whether to have watched the show from the front or not!

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One other thing became evident after the first track—the beer sellers! Not only were they annoying everyone, constantly pushing by us all, but they were carrying the cases of beer on top of their heads! This totally blocked our view and distracted us every 5 minutes, but no where near as much as some damn flashing red light badges that must have been given out for free somewhere that everyone was wearing on their jackets and hats! It also appeared that everyone had not only brought their own beer but also brought their own “whacky ‘backy” and thought nothing of lighting up and blowing the smoke over everyone else! There was a guy to our right who had been drinking cans of beer constantly for at least 90 minutes before the show, and by the time the show stated he was on another planet, shouting, screaming, singing totally different words, and he had this annoying habit of holding his thumb up in the air to everyone and spinning around and around! Fortunately by the second half he had moved back a little and didn't cause us a distraction. I pity the people he was near for the 2nd half, though, as the start of the show hadn't stopped him opening a can of beer every 5 minutes!

Roger took hold of a piece of paper after Another Brick Pt. 3 and started to tell the story of Jean Charles in French, struggling a few times and dropping the odd English word in, but judging from the cheers from the crowd, he was doing a pretty good job. He then went on to tell the story of the “little bit of film” before starting to play Mother.

Roger talking French to the crowd. (Thanks Kim!)

The overall sound was great—the PA sounded good, and it was certainly loud enough. You could hear every note played, and the balance was just right. I have to say, though, I did think several times during the whole show that the band’s timing was slightly off a few times, but this was nothing huge at all.

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Intermission came around and seemed to last an age. Sly and myself talked a little about the veterans on the wall, and he told me how he had also served 10 years in the army. At every little moment during the show, I couldn't help but thinking this would be the last time I would hear this and the last time I would see that. It really was sinking in that this would be the last show of the current tour, and after this, there would be no more. It would be back to Virginia, then back to the UK, and “normal” life would resume!

Wendy and Kim had a chat with Dave K. at intermission, and he said he was very nervous about the show, but also really excited for his solo during Comfy. The girls returned after 15 minutes, and before we knew it, we heard the opening chords to Hey You, followed by ITAOT, Vera, and BTBBH.

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Dave’s solo during Comfy was unreal. It was THE best I’ve heard anywhere on the tour, and I’m not just saying that because it was the final show of the tour, but because it really was. There was just so much energy there when he was playing—you could tell he was trying to go out with a bang, and he did—a HUGE one. The hair flicks at the end told everyone just how he thought he had done, too. As much as I can’t type and explain or even show you the video below that Kami filmed right before bursting into tears at the end, you really had to be there to appreciate it and experience it. When Roger “broke the wall,” the rocks cracking up and falling to the ground just seemed to go on and on as you looked from side to side along each side of the stage.

Dave K’s solo

 

Video of Roger breaking the wall.

 

As the opening notes to In The Flesh sounded, an array of huge spotlights from behind the stage turned on—they were all facing straight upwards and shone up from behind the wall. This looked even better than it did when they did a similar effect in Buenos Aires.

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I was going to say that I can only imagine what this looked like from the rear of the venue, but some incredible pictures taken during the show and posted below show you exactly what it looked like!

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It’s hard to explain just how big and how impressive this feature looked. I took the video below of it as it was happening, but it just doesn't show the shear size of the effect that was created. What was also great, though I don't think a lot of people saw it, was when a helicopter that had been hovering above for most of the show flew through the spotlights—it lit up the rotors and looked amazing! I made sure Wendy, Kim, James, and Kami saw this, as it happened a couple of times as the helicopter did a full circle and came back around.

The pig was brought out as normal during Run Like Hell, though due to it being a standing audience, the two guys walking it around the venue were pretty limited on where they could take it so they just started to walk up and down the walkway between the front section of crowd and the rear section, choosing to stop over on the left side of the venue hovering the pig high up above the crowd.

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it was nice to see the crowd really getting into it during the clapping in Run Like Hell. I still think the best I have seen, though, was the second night in Athens. I don’t think any show was better than that, where, I’d guess, 90% of the people there had their hands in the air and were following Roger’s actions.

It’s funny how seeing a track performed live is totally different to hearing it on the CD. The Trial has never been my favourite piece on the Wall album, but I really enjoy it now. This is especially true as I listen to it when not at a show but just thinking of the projections shown as Roger performs it. The same with Waiting for The Worms—it’s one of my favourite tracks now!

The wall fall was great—hardly any of it fell backwards. I was talking to a few people earlier in the week saying how much more controlled the “wall fall” is now since it started early on in 2010, but tonight's fall was good and made a change from the last few shows I’ve seen.

The pig was lowered down onto the crowd as the wall fell, and it took them a few minutes to realise it was ok to destroy it—so long so that although normally it’s completely gone by the time the band come back out onstage to play Outside The Wall, when Roger and the guys came out tonight, it had only just been punctured and was starting to get shredded! Roger was all smiles watching his pig destroyed and motioned to the crowd to “cut its throat” a couple of times, then miming to tear it to shreds with his teeth!

As the band stood there and the crowd cheered, I looked at the guys as the camera zoomed in on them and projected their faces 40 feet high on the wall. I don't think there was one of the band members that didn't have tears in their eyes. Robbie was ever so emotional, and from his face you could tell they were not only so pleased with how the show or the tour had gone, but you could tell that what Jon, Pat, and the others had confided to Kami and I earlier last week was true—none of them wanted the tour to end. Jon’s exact words were “We could do this tour for the rest of our lives every night.” I was most surprised at G.E., as it’s very rare he breaks out of his “standard look,” but tonight he had a huge smile on his face, and tears were just about to roll down his cheeks! The guys did an amazing job of finishing the tour by performing one of the most memorable nights ever. I would be lying if I said it was the best show I’d seen, but it was certainly in the top five.

Roger motioning to pull the pig down           The final 2012 Outside The Wall

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And then it was over…

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Leaving the venue video:

  Post show Kim at the hotel                         Pictures says it all!

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I have to say that the people I was at this show with were some of the best people I could have chose to see the last show with. All during the show I kept having flashbacks of all the people I had met over the last two years—everyone I had seen the shows with—and I couldn't help thinking to myself, “Oh I wish this person was here with us,” or “I wish that person was here with us.” I guess we have to wait and see what 2013 brings, now. I’m 90% sure the tour will happen—I know how Roger’s management work—I’ve been around them and the band for over 12 years now—I’ve formed friendships with most of them that carry on into normal life, not just at the shows. I’ve also had two of the best years I could ever wish upon anyone and experienced things I could have only dreamed of doing several years ago. I even fell in love with the most amazing girl I’ve ever met, Kami—oops, Kamilla, I mean. I’m so happy I have been able to share the things I’ve experienced not only with the people who read the blog and those who are unable to attend many or any shows, but also with Kamilla—someone who feels the same about the shows, the travelling, and the people as I do. It has been and will continue to be an amazing feeling.

I have ever so many people to thank for being able to do the things I’ve done the last two years as well as everyone I’ve met to thank for their friendship—James, Wendy, the whole Gunzinger family (Brent, Beth, Mark, Kim, Kamilla), Matt, Eric, Frank, Allan, Stuart, Kevin, Phil, Jens, Lars, Emil, Maria, Greg Farlow, Greg Hampton, Brad, Jackie, Dave, Gail, Joe, Mike, Jessica, George, Chris Manger, Kimberley, Christine, Vivienne, Ralph, Col, Tommy, Thomas, Michael, Meagann, Suzanne, Patrick, Joe Reis, Tony, Zach, Bob, John H., Alex, Rainer, Mo, Matt Leonard, Kimm, Ellie, Andy, Brent, Dee, Marcelo, Paula, John, Ben, Eduardo, Marie, Alejandro, Mike, Bret, Nick, Justin, Joe Z., Jennifer, Mario, Graham P., Michelle and Greg, Angelica, Angelique, Ron E. Goode, Terry Shea, Robert, Rick, Marco, Adam, Jim, Werner, Micheal, Ole, Dianna, Tony, Matt, Thomas, Chrissy, Jeff, Christopher,  Drew, Sol, Natalie, Matt Johns, Giss Mont, Monika, Doug, Hideshige, Simon, Andre, John, Eric, Bernard, Jamie, Jaime, Dawn, Lesley, Nicki, Brian, Paisley, Marlene, Phillippe, Emily, Nicolai, Hannah, Fern, Sam, Sarah, Hassan, Amin, Jason, Brenda, Christian, Jim, Judith, Linda, Helen, Dale, Kyle, Bibianne, Robert, Joaquim, Ian, DrWho, Chelsea, Renate, Julien, Eddie, Tim, Jamie, Eroc, Rocco, Nancy, Anneli, Mike, Georg, Erin, Esther, Delaram, Keith, Arne, Jeff, Coleen, Chris, Roger, Marek, Nigel, Mark, Vicki, Franz, Jane, Martin, Wayne, Pauline, Lisette, Laila, Ted, Casimiro, Mandy, Tom, Jose, Duke, Judy, Linda, Robert, Joe, Casey, Donna, Johan, Jason, Elzira, Kees, Henk, Erika, Tom, Jasper, Carlos, Veronica, and everyone else that I have forgotten to mention and everyone that read my blog.

Whilst the tour is now over, and this blog has always been about the touring and the shows, Kami and I fly out to Denver this Sunday—we are then driving back to D.C. over the following 4 or 5 days in Kami’s new car. This should be a fun trip, and maybe I’ll blog a little while we are on the drive back.

Full album below of show pictures.