BREAK DOWN THE WALL

When Mr Discrepancy Records mentioned a piece on The Wall, I confess my heart sank just a little. Although Pink Floyd are a lifetime favourite artist and my collection comprises well over fifty albums, Roger Waters’ 1979 psycho-drama is one I rarely reach for. This will stretch me, I thought. But the boss had not finished. Roger Waters The Wall Live In Berlin, he continued, has been re-issued on clear vinyl. 

Relief; excitement even. Why? Because this concert extravaganza staged between the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz is my favourite iteration of the Pink Floyd album. Let me tell you why, after a brief introduction to the project.

Perhaps it was a casual quip to a journalist, but Roger Waters’ remark that he would not perform The Wall until the Berlin Wall—a hated Cold War symbol that divided the city of Berlin like a monstrous concrete scar—was no more… well that comment stuck. Mr Waters, a man whose word is his bond, quickly decided the collapse of the wall in November 1989 demanded a response. Planning began for a spectacular performance cum celebration which ultimately took place in July 1990 and was released as a double album and a concert film a mere month later. 

Crammed with guest artists, both musical and ‘other’, the performance breaths fresh life into the Pink Floyd opus. From the moment German heavy rock outfit Scorpions roar onto the stage and smash into “In The Flesh” you know that this is no ordinary performance. Sure, not everything works; having Cyndi Lauper squeak “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)” was perhaps not the strongest option, while Jerry Hall’s brief cameo is best forgotten. But the good bits are very good indeed. Joni Mitchell—backed by The Band—presents a touching version of “Goodbye Blue Sky” while Sinead O’Connor singing “Mother” is astonishingly strong. So too is Van Morrison’s rendition of “Comfortably Numb”. And whether you like Bryan Adams as a pop-rocker or not, he absolutely nails “Young Lust”. Oh, and let’s not forget Roger himself (with Snowy White on guitar) — the pair are burning with passion.

Near the end, the melodramatic “Trial” sequence is performed with appropriately histrionic intensity, after which—just when you think it’s all over—there is an unexpected but moving encore. The entire company perform “The Tide Is Turning”, the standout track from Waters’ 1987 album Radio Kaos. This rousing finale lifts the event—and indeed, the album—out of the downbeat tone of the original and genuinely embodies a hope that is needed now even more than when the wall came down over three decades ago.

There are many versions of The Wall but musically, Live In Berlin is my favourite. The variety of voices, the interesting arrangements, and the expansion of the story from claustrophobic psychodrama to global statement make it very special indeed.

*

First published at Discrepancy Records December 12, 2020. Reprinted with kind permission.

Readers interested in the writer’s history with Pink Floyd’s Wall are invited to (re-)visit this story.

14 comments

  1. Pretty impressive Waters pulled this off. Having the Scorps open was a great move in making everyone pay attention!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It sure was, deKE. Would’ve been an amazing concert to witness, eh?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It would have something else for sure pal to have witnessed

        Liked by 1 person

  2. getsomeactionnow · · Reply

    Thomas Dolby is great playing some strap on synth thingy getting saucy with Cindy L. The only time I have vaguely even liked Bryan (not Ryan) Adams. The Band with Levon Helm singing back ups on one song is great. Very underrated music event.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Those of us who do rate it are very positive, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. getsomeactionnow · · Reply

    A mate of mine is friends with Waters. My mate was flown to the event in Rogers private jet drinking Dom Perginon. Ah the good ole days!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Now that’s a story. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pity about the typo on the album sleeve track listing. Guitar Dolo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m told a dolo is a dual guitar solo. In this case, the ghost of David Gilmour, presumably.

      Like

  5. Sounds like an amazing concert, the Berlin radio orchestra must’ve had a blast, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure you are right, Robert. The whole thing crackles with energy.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Here’s the weird thing. While I really dig Pink Floyd and also like “The Wall”, though it’s not my favorite album by them, I can’t necessarily say the same about Roger Waters. I also thought it was silly that he tried to legally prevent Pink Floyd from continuing to use the name after his departure.

    With all of that being said, after reading your post, now I’m curious to hear Waters’ live rendition of “The Wall”. Not quite sure what took me that long – well, I suppose better late than never!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d sure encourage you to give this version a listen, Christian. There are many iterations of “The Wall” out there—I have four or five—but for my money, this is the most entertaining and alive.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, I started listening to some of it last night and it sounded pretty good. I’m not really sure why it never occurred to me earlier to check out that album.

        “The Wall” was the first Pink Floyd album I owned on vinyl. The line, “Teachers, leave us kids alone,” was pretty attractive for a six grader! 🙂 I still like “The Wall”, though not as much as “Meddle”, “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here”.

        Liked by 1 person

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