Amsterdam ArenA; Amsterdam 8th September 2013

Taper : Ian Macdonald (ianmacd)

Type: Audience master, recorded from the front row of section 121, located along the right-hand side of the ArenA. The distance from the stage was too great to estimate.

Source: Factory-matched pair of Schoeps CCM 41V microphones (DINa mounted) -> Marantz PMD661 recorder with Oade Concert Mod (-18 dB gain/44.1 kHz/24 bit WAV)

Lineage: Audacity 2.0.3 * Amplified left channel by 1.7 dB. * Applied variable amplification across recording for consistent listening experience. * Added fades. * Split tracks. * Converted to 16 bit. -> FLAC (compression level 8) [libFLAC 1.3.0 20130526]

Taper: Ian Macdonald (ianmacd)

Act I:

01. [02:08] [prelude: Spartacus]
02. [03:26] In The Flesh?
03. [02:55] The Thin Ice
04. [04:05] Another Brick In The Wall, Part 1
05. [01:51] The Happiest Days Of Our Lives
06. [04:53] Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2
07. [02:04] The Ballad Of Jean Charles de Menezes
08. [03:25] [banter]
09. [07:48] Mother
10. [03:43] Goodbye Blue Sky
11. [02:46] Empty Spaces
12. [01:33] What Shall We Do Now?
13. [05:31] Young Lust
14. [03:38] One Of My Turns
15. [04:02] Don't Leave Me Now
16. [01:34] Another Brick In The Wall, Part 3
17. [03:22] The Last Few Bricks
18. [01:25] Goodbye Cruel World

Act II:

19. [04:52] Hey You
20. [02:45] Is There Anybody Out There?
21. [03:23] Nobody Home
22. [01:35] Vera
23. [02:11] Bring The Boys Back Home
24. [07:26] Comfortably Numb
25. [02:32] The Show Must Go On
26. [05:09] In The Flesh
27. [06:46] Run Like Hell
28. [04:05] Waiting For The Worms
29. [00:32] Stop
30. [08:10] The Trial
31. [02:44] Outside The Wall
32. [01:41] [banter]
33. [03:02] [band introduction]

Sample :
Roger Waters - Run Like Hell - Amsterdam 8th September 2013 [ianmacd]


I'm not a fan of Roger Waters by any stretch of the imagination, although the statement does need some qualification.

Waters isn't afraid of speaking his mind on subjects about which he feels strongly. He'll happily weather the storm that arises from being controversial if that's the inevitable consequence of voicing his conscience and confronting society with its own unpleasant underbelly.

That's a trait I admire in anyone, including Roger Waters.

Musically, though, I can't claim to be a big fan of the man. I'm not even a huge Pink Floyd fan, for that matter. I own all of the albums, of course, but 'The Wall' is way down on my personal ranking of the band's output. It came at a time that the band was already way past its prime and haemorrhaging at the seams.

So what am I doing at this show? you might reasonably ask.

Well, the stage production of 'The Wall' is arguably one of those things that you can enjoy without having to think of yourself as a fan of the music per se; in much the same way that one can enjoy the spectacle of a show by Lady Gaga or Madonna, for example, without feeling any level of commitment or affinity.

This type of audiovisual experience essentially stands on its theatrical merit alone. The music that ostensibly constitutes the production's foundation and forms its raison d'être is relegated to a supporting role, but if it's a solid basis and can withstand being held up to the light (or to the ear), so much the better.

And so it is with 'The Wall'. Enticed by the knowledge that years of iterative refinement have been ploughed back into the show and intrigued by the anecdotes of friends and acquaintances who have seen it before, I decided that now was as good a time as any (if not a better one: Waters isn't getting any younger) to shell out for a seat in a gigantic sardine tin somewhere and allow Waters his chance to enthrall me.

The Amsterdam ArenA is a huge football stadium on the outskirts of the Dutch capital. It is home to the city's famous Ajax squad. On the rare occasions that it is not in use as a football stadium, it has been known to be booked for high capacity concerts, such as this evening's impending showbiz extravaganza.

When an end-stage is used, as it is tonight, the ArenA's capacity is 50,000. Down on the pitch, the massive standing area is completely sold out and I can see just a few vacant red plastic seats dotted around the ArenA's seated perimeter. So, whilst the ArenA isn't technically sold out this evening, Waters has come impressively close.

Getting here was something of an ordeal. The ArenA is only a few kilometres from my home and forms a tight triangle with the Heineken Music Hall and the Ziggo Dome. Whilst those venues typically present few logistical problems, the ArenA can accommodate triple the capacity of the Ziggo Dome, a fact that places sufficient strain on the roads that converge on the stadium to completely choke them.

I left home at 18:20 and quickly reached the vicinity of the ArenA, but then stood in traffic as we all slowly funnelled towards the P1 car-park closest to the venue. When I finally made it to the front of the queue, it was only to be informed by a middle-aged woman in a fluorescent jacket that P1 was already completely full, and that I should now drive straight through it, out the other side, and make my way to P2.

The open-air P2 is quite a hike from the ArenA. By the time I'd parked there and hoofed it back to the stadium, I was starting to realise that my early departure from home actually hadn't been an early one at all.

I still have to walk halfway around the stadium to entrance gate M, make my way down the queue to the turnstiles, have my bag checked by security staff, go up the escalator, around the edge of the building, up the outer steps and squeeze past the throng of people at the merchandise stand, all vying to spend EUR 25 on a tour programme or EUR 35 on a T-shirt.

With all of that out of the way, I still need to disappear into a toilet cubicle to change into Taperman. Each gents' lavatory, however, contains but a single cubicle, so I soon find myself at the back of yet another queue. Eventually, I've advanced to the head of it, however, and I can finally don the gear.

Outside, I squeeze past yet more bodies on my way to section 121, pass through the doors to the arena and finally amble down the steps to the front row of my section.

I'm disappointed to discover how far I am seated from the stage. I'm about halfway along the pitch, so the stage is 45° to my right. Any closer to the stage and the viewing angle would be unacceptably sharp. A straight-on view of the stage, on the other hand, would require one to be sitting at the opposite end of the stadium, from which distance one might as well be observing an ant colony.

In other words, any seat in this venue represents a (calculated) compromise. I handpicked mine from the seating plan within a minute of the tickets going on sale, so I'm a lot better off than many people here tonight.

The best view in the house is the one to be had from the standing area on the pitch, but only if you are in the first quarter to a third of that section. To get that close to the stage would have necessitated being outside in the queue when the doors opened at 17:30, and I'm just not prepared to turn up almost three hours early and stand for close to six hours for a gig in which I have only a passing interest.

I finally flop down on my seat at 19:45, still in plenty of time for the 20:15 scheduled start. This "strict" curtain time turns out to be elastic: the lights don't actually go down until 20:30.

What follows is visually impressive and, at times, beautiful to behold. It's a true spectacle.

The wall that forms the frontispiece of the production stands 150 metres wide and 12 metres tall. Images and animations are projected onto it, along with close-up shots of Waters and the various band members during the show.

If you regard 'The Wall' as a work of genius, this is going to bring it to life in a way that far surpasses anything normally witnessed on a rock and roll stage, lending it a new dimension that will propel your enjoyment of the album to another realm.

If, on the other hand, you regard the second best-selling double album of all time as merely a competent piece of concept rock that contains a couple of monumental highlights, but feel that the record as a whole has taken on a stature out of all proportion to its artistic merit, then this is going to be a primarily theatrical experience that consigns its soundtrack to an auxiliary role.

And with no emotional connection to the music, that's how it is for me, too. The music tonight forms a backdrop for the visuals, the exact opposite of the kind of gig I typically attend.

Disappointment never enters into the equation, however, because my experience of the show matches what I was hoping to glean from it.

I'm impressed by the sheer scale of the project and by Waters' capacity to realise his vision on this level. I'm impressed by the pyrotechnics, the lighting, the projection, the colossal puppets, the animation and by the logistics I know are involved in putting a show like this together and touring it around the world.

And even though I'm not in love with the music, I still have a deep appreciation of the virtuosity of the band that Waters has assembled, in particular the amazing work of guitarist Dave Kilminster during 'Comfortably Numb'.

It doesn't matter to me that the plot, insofar as there is one, is more implied than conveyed. In that sense, it's hard to even think of 'The Wall' as a musical or opera. The narrative simply isn't there. Besides, the emphasis has shifted from a semi-autobiographical look at Waters' own sense of isolation to its current focus as a rhetorical statement against war and capitalism.

There's a temptation to see irony in the projection of falling dollar signs and company logos when one considers the amount of money being grossed here this evening, and that 'The Wall' is nothing if not a brand.

Further iRony can be found in the thought-provoking slogans of iPay, iBelieve, iLose, iProfit and iKill, as they are projected onto the wall and filmed by hundreds of audience members, arms aloft, clutching iPhones.

The show is divided into two halves, separated by a fifteen minute intermission. Although this allows punters the chance to visit the loo, buy another another round of beers, etc., I'm sure its primary purpose is to facilitate technical changes behind the scenes.

It's all over before 23:00, but it will be another hour before we've all filed out of this place and I've found myself something to eat, retrieved my car, suffered the interminable crawl to the car-park's exit and made my way home.

The ArenA is famous for its acoustics, which sounds tantalisingly positive, but sadly isn't. The ArenA provides an ideal environment for hosting a rock concert in much the same way that the Paradiso provides an ideal environment for hosting a football match. I mean, come on. This place was built for playing football. It would be shocking if the acoustics _were_ any good.

In particular, the ArenA suffers from a horrendous amount of echo. Its PA system is also underpowered for the cavernous space of this glorified aircraft hangar.

That said, supercardioid microphones all but eliminate the issue of echo and massively reduce the ambient sound. The resulting recording therefore sounds a lot better than the actual performance did on the night.

'The Wall' is rendered in surround sound, enabling one to, for example, hear an invisible helicopter make its way from the back of the venue to the front. This recording obviously can't capture that very impressive aspect of the show, so you'll have to wait for an official DVD or Blu-ray of one of the shows to emerge.

Sitting in the front row of my section, excessive audience noise wasn't an issue either. There are no manic clappers or chattering chipmunks to spoil the recording.

It would have been nice to be able to record from a little closer to one of the PA's satellite stacks, as this would have reduced some of the reverberation present in the recording, but all things considering, I can't be dissatisfied with how the recording has turned out. I daresay others will be happy with it, too.

Samples are provided in the comments for you to determine whether this is worth your time and share ratio depletion.