Almost everyone I knew in the 80’s had a copy of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I don’t think anyone, including myself, knew what the hell it was all about at first, but it was a marvelously bizarre musical journey that made Pink Floyd a household name. An album in 1979 and then a film in 1982 it astounded, sickened and confused music and film fans alike. Originally considered overblown and pretentious by critics, it has since become knows as one of the greatest albums of all time.
Fast forward to July 1990, Berlin. The Wall had fallen in the previous year and reclamation of what was “no man’s land” hadn’t yet begun. Reportedly, Roger Waters had said he had no desire to do a live performance of The Wall ever again as it wouldn’t work indoors and that part of the concept behind the album was to take a dig at the largess of rock shows, so it would have been hypocritical to do so. Anyway, long story short, Waters had previously stated that he might do an outdoors concert if they ever took down the wall in Berlin. Well, they did and he got to put on his concert in an area of “no man’s land” between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate.
I recall watching it on TV and being blown away by the sheer enormity of the undertaking. A 450,000 strong crowd watched Waters and a host of big names of the day perform the songs from the album on an enormous stage that featured a 170 metre long, 25 metre high wall. Most of the wall had been constructed prior to the concert beginning and the remainder was completed during the show. It was subsequently demolished from the top towards the end of the performance. But enough about the video, that’s a whole other kettle of fish. Let’s talk about the music.
To begin with, the list of guest artists that joined Waters was impressive and reads like a who’s who of the day. Scorpioins, Ute Lemper, Cyndi Lauper, Thomas Dolby, Sinead O’Corror, the Band, The Hooters, Joni Mitchell, James Galway, Bryan Adams, Jerry Hall, Paul Carrack, Van Morrison, Tim Curry, Marianne Faithfull, and Albert Finney. If the wasn’t enough, also featured were the Marching Band of the Combined Soviet Forces in Germany and the Red Army Chorus (the wall may have come down, but the Soviet Union didn’t disappear overnight), and man can they sing. Water’s choice of which artists to perform which songs was interesting and I’d really like to know what his logic was with some of the choices. We hear Sinead O’Connor perform Mother (totally apt) and later Cyndi Lauper perform Another Brick in the Wall (part 2). One great choice, one very interesting choice. It’s not that Lauper does a bad job, it’s that she isn’t who I immediately think of to perform that track. It takes a little getting used to.
This live performance of the album pretty much stays true to the original and I’ve enjoyed listening to it over the original due to the variety of performers and the fact that it’s live. Hearing the voices of performers such as Van Morrison, Paul Carrack, Sinead O’Connor performing Pink Floyd tracks is the overall highlight for me. The cast come together at the end to sing “The Tide Is Turning”, a track from Waters’ 1987 album ‘Radio K.A.O.S’, just before the final track and it’s a pretty good rendition. It does come across as somewhat sentimental these days, but was appropriate social commentary of the day.
If you enjoyed the original at all, give this a go, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The video is definitely worth watching too. On a big screen. Through the stereo.