I saw an excellent show with my friend Autumn last night in San Francisco: Pink Floyd's classic album The Wall, performed live. There was a band (two guitars, drums, bass, keyboard) playing the album all the way through as other cast members sang, danced, and acted out the story of the album. It's like a rock opera, in that the music is always playing, and all of the words in the piece are sung. It is not, however, acted out on stage as explicitly as a play or opera ordinarily would be; the movement of the characters is more symbolic than realistic, if you know what I mean.
Besides the band, there were performers playing the parts of the mother, the schoolmaster, the wife, the manager, the doctor, Pink, and Pink's alter-ego. There were two to four background singers, and a group of dancers who were deployed from time to time throughout the show.
Finally, there were the visual images, which were projected on a screen behind the stage (with the same video stream shown simultaneously on one of the side walls), which were absolutely stunning. John Jansen, who created the video, told me that he intentionally forewent the usage of any of the images from the movie, and instead created a stream of Vietnam war (and war-era) footage, along with various animations and effects. As cool as the onstage show is, it wouldn't have been half the experience without the video. It was not like seeing projected images during a concert, in which the video and the music complement one another; this video was synchronized to the music -- not blatantly, but subtly -- so that what you were seeing a what you were hearing always worked together, though you'd frequently be at a loss to explain how or why.
Especially worthy of mention among the performers was Daniel Knop, who played Pink. He would take the stage, standing still, almost rigid, with one hand behind his back, then at just the right moment cut loose with an agonized scream that showed the torment that roiled inside of him. Whether sitting slumped over as the doctor and the manager tried to revive him during Comfortably Numb, or screaming at his wife in Don't Leave Me Now, he hit just the right mark.
If you're in the San Francisco area, the remaining shows are on May 22 and 23 at Studio Z (formerly Transmission Theatre) at 11th and Folsom in San Francisco, and tomorrow, Friday, May 17 at Club Fab in Guerneville. It's well worth the time and the surprisingly low $10 ticket price.