THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Wish You Were Here

Now THAT was an extravaganza.

Just before the show began, Barbara Skydel and I were reminiscing about the heyday of Premier Talent, when Frank Barsalona was the godfather, the Tony Soprano of his domain, keeping concert promoters throughout this vast land of ours in check, preventing them from invading each other's territory. Barbara told me how she remembered when if you had a hit single, or were in a movie, it killed your career. Boy have times changed. But if you wanted to know how it used to be, you needed to be at the Hollywood Bowl last night, when in a thoroughly modern production, Roger Waters took us right back to the heyday, when music ruled the world, when everybody was in on the game, in the seventies.


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.

Maybe I don't go to enough shows. I remember seeing Yes on their "90125" tour and marveling at the descending light rig. Then Rod Smallwood told me Iron Maiden had been doing this for YEARS! Maybe everybody on the road is using a hi-def screen, but I'd never seen one before.


Yes, ensconced in the bandshell of the Hollywood Bowl was a screen as large as that inhabiting any movie theatre. And the images were so detailed, so warm, that your whole mood was changed just looking at them. You were brought back to your bedroom, listening to albums as you fingered the jackets.

And then a hand reached in to change the station on the multi-band radio on the screen, and the show began.

I've got to tell you, I don't think Roger Waters exists. I don't think ANY of these classic rock acts exist. Those are OUR records. They weren't made by human beings, but GODS! And this God, he was only a few dozen feet away, prowling the stage. How can this be?

Oh, it's not like running into a reality TV star on the Sunset Strip. This guy, he's the soundtrack for a nation, the WORLD! He WROTE (along with David Gilmour and others, of course) that material. How did he come up with it? What was going on in his mind? And how is it that he's a mere mortal, walking the stage?

They say we're jaded here in Hollywood, that we've seen all the big stars, up close and personal. That they're a dime a dozen. But when you see a creator, in the flesh, you TINGLE!

And tingle I did as Waters and his band played "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun". I bought "Ummagumma" when the hoi polloi had no idea who Pink Floyd was. Long before "Dark Side Of The Moon", long before "Money". It was dreamy music for alienated people, not made for Richard Nixon and the Administration, but US! Albums like this were our soundtrack. Their contents never appeared on Top Forty radio, and oftentimes you didn't even hear the music on FM either. You were clued in by the buzz, in your high school, amongst your friends…you dipped your toe.

Now this was not a modern concert. Not a usual dinosaur production.

Somehow everybody's seemed to have gotten the message, that seats are SUPERFLUOUS! That gigs are high energy, that you need to STAND to participate. But nobody was standing last night. Everybody was sitting tight, in the groove, enjoying the music.

This is the way it used to be.

Oh, the production values were unbelievable. They had flashpots. And the triangle from "Dark Side Of The Moon" appeared atop the bandshell, emitting laser beams.

But really, it was about the music.

Yes, it was billed as a full performance of "Dark Side Of The Moon", that was what was bringing the people in. But really, I enjoyed the first set better, with the tracks from "Wish You Were Here".

Everybody in attendance seemed to know "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" was about Syd Barrett. This was not an audience made up of casual fans, only knowing the hits, these were not dedicated followers of fashion, but dyed-in-the-wool BELIEVERS!

And "Have A Cigar"… You're gonna go far!

The day the bands started believing the handlers, the fat cats at the labels, that they were on their team, is the day this business started falling apart. NO ONE IS ON THE ARTIST'S TEAM EXCEPT THE AUDIENCE! Screw the corporations… I saw no logos last night, who can trust someone who SELLS OUT? No, you've got to REACH, following your muse, and your muse only, and record what's in your head. Chances are you're far ahead of the businessmen, the audience too, it's gonna take some time for them to CATCH UP!

Who knew that "Dark Side Of The Moon" was gonna break through? Just another Pink Floyd album, right? But all those years of dedication, establishing their base, their sound, their ethos, paved the way for mass success. Pink Floyd didn't come to the audience, the audience came TO THEM! Really, no one thought that "Money" was gonna burn up the airwaves, but when it did people wanted the whole album, the whole EXPERIENCE! Which is still in heavy demand TODAY!

When this tour hit L.A. last year, there was a backlash. How could Roger Waters be so political? Couldn't he just play the songs, why did he have to offend all the REPUBLICANS! But in the year that's ensued, the public has caught up with Roger. Now they too are against the war. And to hear Roger rail against the Christian Right, a taboo the politicos won't commit…I stood up and CHEERED! FINALLY, someone speaking their MIND! You've got a mind, do you use it? Or do you calculate the response before you utter a single damn word…

And all this came as part of Roger's new song, "Leaving Beirut". Which, stunningly, no one left during, even though he set it up as being new. You see the hi-def screen had cartoons, with the story of his trip to Lebanon back in '62. With the lyrics emanating in bubbles from the characters. He brought the story alive. Aren't we all brothers? Isn't this war being fought in the name of religion more than dissension? Can't America get off its high horse?

I don't know if it can, but contemplating this, a giant pig started flying over the audience. With anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-religion graffiti painted all over it. If you want to know what it was like way back when, this was it. When the artist wasn't just giving us a show, but enrapturing us, collecting us in his tiny little hand, and then leading us into his mindspace.

Oh, there was confetti raining down from the sky. And surround sound. It was a cornucopia of sensory effects. If you weren't caught up in it, you weren't alive.

Yes, the second half was comprised of "Dark Side Of The Moon". With the band, including Andy Fairweather-Low and P.P. Arnold, handling almost all of the vocals. You wanted the original four, with David Gilmour's sweet voice.

But that's not what we got.

It's hard for us on the outside to understand the hatred within. You've got to live with each other for years, you've got to battle the egos, it's a wonder ANY of these bands stay together. But if they got back together…

The last musical highlight was Pink Floyd at Live 8. If Pink Floyd would just go on one more damn stadium tour. Playing whatever the hell they liked. Our heads would explode.

Only one problem… How to get the youngsters in. Yes, teenagers love Pink Floyd as much as those who experienced the band's music when they were still together. If only there was a student price. Maybe for sitting WAY in the back, but…

Maybe the venues have to hold two or three hundred thousand.

But the audience is there. Because Pink Floyd is raw, unadulterated art. Uncompromised by the system. It's the best of us.

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