We all recognize The Wall, Pink Floyd’s magnum opus released in 1980. We might not know it as well as the band’s ever-popular The Dark Side of the Moon, but we know it well enough. It is one of the greatest concept albums ever released, so what the hey? Why not a live release? The Wall was only performed by the original members a total of three times, twice in America and once in London. Twenty years after the original release of The Wall, we’ve been given a live version of the classic 2-CD set and guess what?
It was worth every ounce of the wait.
I am going to forgo talking about the live music on Is There Anybody Out There? for a moment and remark on the booklets included with the 2-CD set. There are actually two booklets, both of them illuminated by brilliant pictures from the live show 20 years ago. My favorite picture is most certainly the shot of the huge black pig hovering over the audience—awesome. Included are notes from the band members themselves as well as notes from the original stage designers, the art director and even the sound mixer. As a whole, the liner notes are fulfilling in both their content and in their photographic splendor.
Judging from the quality of the recording, the sound mixer-James Guthrie-did one hell of a job with the show itself. The quality is top-notch from the opening introduction to the final notes of “Outside the Wall.” The album transports you into the very front rows of the concert, there before the lights and the madness of the live show itself. The recording makes it immediately lamentable that I missed the live shows 20 years ago—of course, I was only seven years old, but I can still lament. If you were one of the lucky people to catch The Wall live, then this recording will most certainly have you pining for an encore. The energy bristles in the clean guitar, the screaming lead; thunders in the crash of snare and cymbal, rolls unchecked in the backbone of the bass. The sound was captured perfectly and presented without a hitch. Most live recordings fail to capture the energy and the sound, but on Is There Anybody Out There? this is hardly a worry.
As to the songs themselves, they are just as powerful as they were on the original album. Most of them seem even more powerful recorded live. The extended jam session tacked on to the end of “Another Brick in the Wall-Pt. 2” is an outstanding mix of Gilmore playing some searing lead and Wright’s Hammond Jammin’. “Goodbye Blue Sky” is even more haunting than before-hearing the little girl say “Look Mommy, there’s an airplane up in the sky,” and then the beautiful acoustic picking taking up from there, along with the grave wall of voice and keyboard in the background, is almost more than one can comfortably endure. “Hey You” finds an even more powerful voice than before, as do “Comfortably Numb,” “Vera,” and many others. A few songs are almost exact copies of their album counterparts, but for the most part every track is in some way or another better than the original.
All in all, Is There Anybody Out There? is an awesome live expose of Pink Floyd performing their unforgettable concept album live. Twenty years later the album has lost none of its appeal; moreover, the album is even better than the original, something very rare in the world of live albums.
What else can one say? Long live The Wall!