I haven’t been to a laser light show in about ten years, so Friday night I was stoked to see Dark Side of the Moon interpreted by our local planetarium. My first laser light show was a Led Zeppelin show that my mother took me and a group of my friends to go see for my eleventh birthday. I’ve been a huge fan ever since. My expectations upon entering a laser light show are: bright colors, abstract patterns, mind-melting fractals, near-seizure strobe lights, trippy animation, a free-spirited audience, and an all-around awesome time. However, this particular show delivered a mixed bag of wicked geometric designs with decent use of smoke and color with boring animations, terrible content and mixed feelings of disappointment and violation. Yeah, I said it, violation. You bet hardcore Pink Floyd fans are gonna get pissed when pervasive, ground-breaking albums are wildly misinterpreted and shoddily represented.
Let’s start from the beginning:
The show started off slow with Speak to Me, as expected, priming the audience for the neon trip into the madness of the album. No worries there, I was giddy with anticipation for what was to come.
Breathe was executed in an acceptable manner. Animations tended to dominate over the abstract laser patterns, but their timing of switching from one to the other seemed appropriate. When I saw how literal and uninspired some of the animations were, I became a bit worried that the rest of the show would follow suit. When we got to the lyrics, “Run, rabbit, run. Dig that hole,” I was pleasantly surprised to see a trippy, neon pink, bipedal rabbit with a shovel pop on the screen. There is hope yet, I thought. Perhaps they are still warming us up? Their choice of which lyrics to match animations to and which to ignore seemed random, but the more crazy geometric laser patterns, the better, in my opinion. After all, that is what I go to the shows to see; I have plenty of cartoons at home.
On the Run was awesome. There was great use of strobe lights and smoke effects with spiraling and shifting patterns. I would have been completely satisfied if the show kept up that aesthetic. I was almost in an exuberant meditative state, and then the song was over. Thankfully, Time was up next. I won’t lie, I had high hopes for it.
Time opened as expected, with many clocks and time pieces spinning and ringing. There were one or two flashes of melting Dali clocks, which I greatly appreciated. The we got to the lyrics, and it all went to shit pretty quickly.
“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town”
These lyrics do not make me think of athletics. To my dismay, this verse of the song was paired with crappy images of baseball, football, basketball, and canoeing. I was irritated and confused. I also got the distinct undertone of ‘Americanism’ since the sports that they chose to focus on are much more popular in the states than in the UK. (I’ll get back to that point later.)Feelings of irritation increased when I saw the animations for the next line:
“Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.” Before me was a lit up bible. I can see how/why this line can be interpreted in that way; however, it is my firm belief that religious symbolism should not enter the forum of a laser light show geared for public viewing unless the musicians SPECIFICALLY refer to a set of religious symbols or the content of the song is obviously spiritual. They could have just as easily interpreted that line with sign posts or maps, something more neutral than a definite religious affiliation or reference. I remained disappointed for the rest of the song, as their animations became repetitive and too literal. Whoever was in creative control for these songs seemed not to be a Pink Floyd fan. They certainly didn’t demonstrate the content and messages in the songs up to this point. OH! I forgot to mention the ubiquitous and obnoxious saxophone. For some reason, every time a sax would be featured in the song, it got its own close-up in the show, disrupting any abstractions or other content threads. The saxophone became that annoying child that everyone knew in elementary school that bounced in front of everyone’s face given the chance and would never shut up. We would see more of the saxophone in Money (oh the joy).
Breathe Reprise came on, and I was not dazzled. The same repetitive images appeared with many American and Christian references. There were no geometric patterns to salvage this portion.
My confusion and irritation continued. What was more clear to me than anything was the personality or background of the person or people that put the show together. They were not die-hard Floyd fans, they were American, and more likely than not, they were Christian. None of these things are bad, of course, but none of the commentaries attached to these traits belongs in Dark Side of the Moon. Pink Floyd are NOT American, and they are not religiously affiliated. Dark Side of the Moon is not about any of these concepts. I was apprehensive about the content of The Great Gig in the Sky, to say the least. But none, NONE of my concerns and projections prepared me for the violation to lie ahead.
If you have never heard The Great Gig in the Sky (which, frankly, is difficult for me to imagine, but, then again, apparently there are those that are so blatantly unfamiliar with Dark Side of the Moon that they interpret Time as song referring to athletics), let me briefly describe the sound and aura of it. First off, the song is all instrumental and non-lyrical female soul/gospel singing. With a name like The Great Gig in the Sky, it is obvious what the reference is. If there is any place in Dark Side of the Moon for spiritual and religious overtones, this is it. Here, any and all religious connotations are not only expected, but welcome. After all, the song is about the experience of death, the travel to the Heavens, an experience of unity and the spiritual journey of a soul. Buddha, Jesus, the Creator, the Goddess, Allah, have at it. Go, do it. It’s appropriate here.
Now, given the tone and message of the song, imagine my shock and disgust when I see the whole song interpreted as a theme to a strip club. All the images were silhouettes of women disrobing and assuming compromising or revealing positions. To make matters even worse, towards the end of the song, there was girl-on-girl stripper action. I am not such an uptight broad to be offended by something like this when it is in context. If the song was explicitly sexual, this kind of interpretation would be fine, although not necessarily my cup of tea. Also, I see no problem whatsoever (and perhaps I even encourage) fusing sex with spirituality. Hello, people, Tantra. But this was NOT that. This was objectifying women in the context of a song about spirituality, death and the soul’s journey. Not OK, in any way, shape or form. Just, no. This should have never happened. I almost feel like calling the planetarium to complain and tell them to excise this segment. The creators obviously don’t get it.
Moving on, the first half of Money was meh with the same animations all over again, throwing in the anticipated dollar signs and coinage. The second half rocked minus the annoying saxophone, but I was still too peeved to really get the most out of the experience.I did notice that they tried to add some humor with throwing up an image of someone smoking a joint with the lyrics, “Money, it’s a hit.” The overall effect, though, was a bit lame, and I was left wondering what their actual intention was. Were they now trying to appeal to the stoners in the audience that they anticipated?
I won’t go into Us and Them and Any Colour You Like much. There were some images of war and the image of Uncle Sam with certain vague overtones.
Brain Damage was done better than I had expected after the botched The Great Gig in the Sky. They took the clever literalization of “lunatic,” using the image of a crescent moon-headed man as the primary animation. He was seen in cages, drunk, dancing in hallways, riding a carousel horse, running through a man’s head and floating among balloons. I assumed they didn’t want “to go there” as far as the serial killer references in the song lyrics. Overall, I was pleased with this one. This is also where I started wondering if the second half of the album was in control of other artists and directors since it was certainly a step up from the beginning.
Moving onto Eclipse, the previous subversive American and Christian messages changed quite a bit. The American overtones were almost completely gone in the song. They kept with some of the literal imagery with each line: hands for “All that you touch,” eyes for “All that you see,” a carrot (?????) for “All that you taste.” When we came to “All you distrust,” there came a bit of unexpected commentary with an image of a priest. Hmmm… wait a minute… what they pushed in the beginning as a potential Way, they are now saying is untrustworthy? Or are they assuming the audience is anti-Christian? I raised an eyebrow and sat back calmly. Did I really expect anything more at this point? I as hit with a couple more offenses before leaving. “All that you deal,” as accompanied by pills and cannabis. Great, it was just implied that the audience may be drug-dealers. We love that. Really, we do. One last insult was another image of a priest matched to the lyrics, “All that you slight,” which increased my warm-fuzzies. Again, we are assumed to be anti-Christian or at least, contemptuous and not spiritual.
We have reached the end of the laser light show, and the audience has been preached to, violated, called drug-dealers and assumed to be anti-Christian. Meanwhile, Pink Floyd has been misinterpreted, misrepresented and their messages and content have neglected or butchered. Needless to say, this is not the best way to cater to your audience and conduct business.
Good luck getting people to see The Wall. I’ll make sure they don’t ruin it for me.