The stage show that Mick Jagger wanted to copy

News The stage show that Mick Jagger wanted to copy

The success of a rock band often hinges on the power of their live performances. While groups like The Beatles famously shifted towards studio work later in their careers, they recognised the importance of bidding farewell to their audience with a final live show, exemplified by their iconic rooftop performance at Apple. While The Rolling Stones may have outlasted The Beatles in terms of live excitement, Mick Jagger believed that the pinnacle of rock and roll production was embodied in Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

If you look at any of The Rolling Stones’ shows at the height of their fame in the 1960s, there was very little adornment going into the production. Much like the bluesmen that came before them, the band were willing to let their music do the talking for them half the time, playing the kind of rough-and-tumble rock and roll that left most fans with their jaws on the floor.

While they did eventually get decked out in the fashions of the day with the glamorous psychedelic look of Their Satanic Majesties Request, Pink Floyd was already beginning to change the way most people looked at rock and roll. Although the band’s days with Syd Barrett at the helm would be numbered, they never forgot the importance of the stage show once their leader left.

After delivering one of the ultimate performance spots in Live at Pompeii, the group turned every other stage production into a spectacle, featuring incredible light shows and letting the audience focus on the visuals just as much as the music. Once Roger Waters saw the drawbacks of people not coming for the music, the image was planted in his head to turn rock and roll into high theatre.

Since The Wall tells the story of a rock star who closes himself off from society, the stage show would be one of the most ambitious undertakings of the late 1970s. Outside of the lavish movie that was made alongside the music, the stage show would feature a massive wall being built up halfway through the album sequence and eventually being torn down at the end of the show.

The whole thing may have cost the band an arm and a leg to actually get off the ground, but Jagger knew that they had upped the game in terms of stage shows. When talking to Rolling Stone, Waters remembered Jagger running around backstage looking to steal some of their ideas, saying, “I remember Jagger coming to the Nassau Coliseum gigs in late 1979 and seeing The Wall. He came backstage, trying to find out how he could get that. ‘I want that.’”

While Jagger would mistake drummer Nick Mason for the visual director that night, it’s not hard to see how The Stones stole from Floyd’s production. If you look at any of the tracking shots from their concert film Shine A Light, many of the band’s greatest hits got that kind of theatrical makeover from Martin Scorsese, including the entire stage being draped in a red hue when playing through ‘Sympathy for the Devil’.

Rock and roll is always in a constant state of change, but Jagger learned a valuable lesson the minute that he saw The Wall. It might be one thing to be exceptional at singing or playing your instrument, but if you don’t have anything to keep the audience entertained, no one’s going to care.

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