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The Wall Live in Berlin

In an interveiw during the early 1980's, after the last of Pink Floyd's Wall concerts, Roger Waters was asked if he would ever perform The Wall again. He said never, and then jokingly added, unless of course the Berlin Wall comes down or something like that. Little did he know that in less than ten years The Berlin Wall would be no more.

72 year old Leonard Cheshire, a former pilot of the British Air Force, had been an official British observer, and was an official eyewitness to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945. Mr. Cheshire, now an activist against war, decided to create a living memorial to all the people who had lost their lives in war in the last 100 years. With this aim a charity fund was organized, and on the 1st of September 1989, on the 50th anniversary of commencement of the second World War, the fund was established and it received huge international support. Cheshire's idea was very simple - to collect five pounds sterling for each life lost in all wars of the last 100 years, and thus to base the fund on 500,000 million pounds. The base would always remain untouched in honor of those 100,000 million dead, but the dividends earned on this sum would be used to offer assistance to the victims of future catastrophes and natural disasters (floods, famine, earthquakes etc.), such that the capital would be offered only if other sources were unable to meet the demands. Those adversities which go unrecognized by others will find help with us - said the founder of The Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief.

In late 1989, rock show merchandiser Mick Worwood asked Roger Waters to stage The Wall for Leonard Cheshire's Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief. Waters and Fisher/Park, designers of the original Wall concerts, had been talking around the idea of a revival of the 1980 show. Roger Waters, convinced of the correctness of the aim: for one life lost - one life saved, was uncertain whether signing up with the organization he should agree with the proposed performance of "The Wall". He was convinced the title was associated by the listening audience with the name Pink Floyd, but currently he wanted nothing to do with the group. On the other hand "The Wall" was his idea, and a product of only his ingenious imagination. The whole concept, lyrics, music and the unbelievable stage performance - who else if not he would have the right to perform "The Wall"? Perhaps the time had come to show everyone who in fact is Pink Floyd.

When in September 1989 the decision was made, the thoughts turned to finding an appropriate venue for the 10 year anniversary - the thirtieth performance of The Wall. Though Waters had stated, if he was to play "The Wall" again he would do so among the ruins of the Berlin wall, in September 1989 this vision was not to be even remotely entertained. Because of the enormity of the proposed staged event, only the locations withing the United States had been considered considered, the most suitable site being the Grand Canyon. Waters also, very much wished to perform "The Wall" on Wall Street, which would have been quite ironic. But when on the 9th of November, it soon became apparent that the Berlin Wall, that historical bastion of division and fear for over a quarter of a century was falling. In the same fashion as the one described by Waters. These ccurrences in Western Europe helped the organizers to make up their minds, and the rightness of this went unquestioned. Berlin was surely the best place to bring to stage this amazing concert. Therefore, when the Berlin Wall was demolished, they decided to stage the revival in Berlin in early June 1990.

In an interview with "Q" magazine, Roger said, "When I came to listen to the album again after 10 years, I thought, Christ, I hope I like it still. Then I put it on in the car and it was, This isn't half bad. I'm extremely proud of it. I'm proud of the fact that I get letters from schoolteachers who use 'Another Brick' as the basis of class discussion. And there's a book about psychotherapy in which the author mentions The Wall and says how extraordinary it is that an Englishman should write in this way. When I read that in an academic tome about child psychology I did feel a warm thrill that somebody had taken it so seriously. I get letters about The Wall too - I'm not saying the mailbag's bursting with them - but from people it meant a lot to, helped them free their feelings. It's given comfort. So the pay-off from having expressed myself before my peers and torn down my wall, if only to limited extent, the pay-off is... good."

Then Waters added; "If this concert is to celebrate anything, it's that the Berlin Wall coming down can be seen as an liberating of the human spirit," When asked if he was trying to top the accomplishments of the then touring "Surrogate Pink Floyd, he states, "No it's not 'Top that!' But it certainly will be most gratifying that a few more people in the world will understand that The Wall is 'my' work and always has been. There must be an element of that. Though after hearing them at Knebworth, I don't think I should worry. They just haven't got the faintest idea of what any of it's about. But then they never did. Still most of the audience for this show will probably think it's Pink Floyd anyway. The attachment to the brand name is limpet-like. It's something I live with."

Negotiations started with the mayors of East Berlin and West Berlin for a one night performance on the Potzdamer Platz, the no mans land on the East Berlin side of the wall. East Berlin was in political and bureaucratic turmoil and nobody in government had any experience of staging rock shows. For five months there was great uncertainty about who should or even could give permission.

Potzdamer Platz

Finding sponsors for the show was difficult, even though Roger Waters committed the royalties from the album of the show to the Memorial Fund in perpetuity. In January, when planning for the event started, all the large companies had committed their sponsorship budgets for the next year. Eventually the show cost around $10 million to stage.

Through January and February, Fisher Park worked on the visual and mechanical design, producing computer renderings and drawings. Park, with television producer Tony Hollingsworth and local production manager Sigi Paul, effectively took charge of operations until the East Berlin permit arrived on 20 April and a full production team could be assembled. At first, there was no proper budget and many of the people with whom Fisher Park usually worked were engaged by the other big touring shows running at the time.

By April the project had passed the latest practical start date for a June performance and the show date was moved to 25 July. The team had now been joined by production co-ordinator Keith Bradley and technical manager Chris Teuber. Fisher Park had worked with Hollingsworth on the two Mandela concerts and with Teuber on the original Wall. Sigi Paul, a Berlin Architect and theater producer, managed the labyrinthine process of getting the permit. Bradley, who had previously worked with Elton John and INXS, began to put the production team together.

Publicity at Tower Records

In mid April the permit to stage the show finally arrived. This left two and a half months to get it built and rehearsed, a ridiculously short time for such a massive undertaking one of the greatest concerts ever.

In pre-war Berlin, Potzdamer Platz was a large exquisite plaza surrounded my many city blocks of fine early 20th century architecture. Near to Nazi headquarters and the main government buildings of Nazi Germany, Potzdamer Platz was heavily bombed during the last months of the war. Most of it was rubble and in ruin when it became occupied by Russian soldiers after the war, and Berlin was divided amongst the allied victors. When the Berlin Wall was erected the land within Potzdamer Platz came into dispute as to in which sector it lay, even though it lay slightly inside East Berlin. It was agreed that no one would occupy this parcel of Berlin, and the Berlin Wall completely surrounded it, turning Potzdamer Platz into a no mans land. Anyone caught within the walls around the Platz was instantly shot on sight!

After the Berlin Wall was demolished, Potzdamer Platz was an open desolate field with the remnants of the surrounding wall still ringing its perimeter. Because this land had hardly been since the end of the war, during the clearing of the field in preparation for the concert, military personnel from the West German government had to be brought in to scan the soil and unearth bombs, grenades, and gunshells, some still live, from the Battle for Berlin. In the process of this, a maze of Hitler's secret bunker was unearthed, still containing Nazi banners on the walls. The entrance was later cemented over and buried in fear of pro-Hitler martyrdom. Yet is was true that Roger Waters wall was built over the site and the performers as Cyndi Lauper put it, were "dancing upon Hitler's grave!"

Potzdamer Platz consisted of 25 acres and was a oblong rectangle which widened at one end. Roger's Wall stretched across what was once both East and West Berlin, along the back quarter of the site leaving three quarters of the area for the audience and booths, grandstand and light and sound towers, and the back quarter for the performers, stage crew, catering, wardrobe, props, parking, and television transmission.

The 25 meter (82 foot) high wall stretched 80 meters (591 feet) across the site, each end stepping irregularly down to the ground. Inset into the wall near each end were large rectangular openings for video screens and scrim coverings for the PA. In front ran a long two lane wide forestage, wide and strong enough to take limousines, motorbikes, military trucks and the Marching Band of the Combined Soviet Forces. Two Truck mounted cherry pickers with spotlight gun turrets were located in from of the forestage and two were located behind the wall, forming part of the mechanical choreography.

Stage Sketch #1

The cardboard bricks used in the original production of The Wall were not strong enough to support the increased loading of a wall almost twice the height. Polystyrene bricks had been discounted on cost and ecological grounds. But one of the German production assistants, Werner Graf, discovered that they could be made from fire retardant polystyrene foam by the German firm Welkisch Papiergrosshandlung. They manufactured 2500 tongue-and-grooved bricks each measuring 75.5cm X 60cm X 150cm (29w in X 23h in X 59in) and afterwards recycled them as construction insulation. A wall of polystyrene bricks 18 meters (59 feet) high would have blown over unless tied back to some kind of structure. Local regulations insisted that the wall should be able to resist a 40 mph wind and wind speed were almost that high during rehearsals. Park had decided to use vertical masts as the supports, after discussing a variety of other solutions with engineers Whitby and Bird. Californian construction manager Chris Teuber, proposed using East Berlin builders' hoists with slim triangular lattice truss towers. The wind masts were fixed at 6 meter (20 foot) intervals across the center opening in the wall and painted black to blend with the rest of the set.

The bricks had to be tied back at regular intervals to the wind masts and scaffolding to stabilize them. A fundamental question was how to fix the bricks securely and yet allow a fast progressive collapse. Teuber cam up with the simple solution of tying a piece of cord around a 30-centimeter- (12 inch-) long wooden dowel in the top groove of a brick before the next course was placed on top. The cord was then tied back to the nearest wind mast or scaffolding upright. The 600 bricks of the middle section had to be laid in 47 minutes. The tightly scripted show was controlled by time code. This ensured perfect synchronization of the music, sound effects, live action and television transmission.

Stage side view

The first four courses, up to above head height, were laid by German extras from the stage. Then a 12 meter- (39 foot-) long lintel truss faced with simulated bricks was swung into place, creating and opening. Performers moved through it until it was sealed up at the end of the first half. The upper part of the wall was laid by stage hands working from a bridge rising behind the wall.

Fisher and Park had planned to use scissor lifts for the wall-layers' rising platforms. It turned out that none of sufficient height were available for hire. So a 40 meter- (131 foot-) long bridge was built across the stage behind the central opening. The bridge and lifting towers ere constructed from readily hired components. The 20-ton bridge was lifted by hydraulic motors to provide fine control and reduce noise.

Two 12 meter- (39 foot-) high PA towers were located behind the wall on either side of the stage, disguised by acoustically transparent brick courses. Two big video screens were positioned on either side of them. Behind the PA were four levels of scaffolding platforms for brick storage. The two inflatables were stored on platforms behind the top of the wall on each side.

The band played on a stage behind the wall. Behind them, under a roof, was tiered staging for the 80-piece East Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra and the 150-person East Berlin Radio Choir. The bottom of the 15.2 meter (50 foot) diameter circular back projection screen aligned with the front edge of this roof. The projection screen frame was supported by an elaborate scaffolding on either side. Behind the choir was the tower for the 70 millimeter (2 w in.) Cine projector focused on the back of the circular screen.

On either side of the stage, built into the scaffolding supporting the brick storage, were two 50 meter- (164 foot) high tower cranes with 30 meter- (98 foot) jibs. A mobile telescopic crane was parked behind on stage left. The cranes were used to fly in sextons of the wall, support the Teacher puppet inflatable, and, in the second half, to raise a 40 meter- (131 foot) long lighting truss above the front of the wall. Instead of the puppet of the first wall, the Mother was now a Scarfe cartoon painted on the translucent covering of a light box.

Stage Sketch #2

Waters had made some minor changes for the new performance: adding or dropping a song, extending some instrumental sections and having arrangements written for new live backing orchestra and choir. In 1979-80, The Wall had been a milestone in the staging of live rock shows. But with an undemonstrative band, long idiosyncratic guitar improvisations and projected animation in place of strutting performers, it was not good television. The Berlin version was to be watched by a live audience of more than 250,000 people and broadcast live to thirty-five countries to an estimated half billion people. The cameras needed continuous live action. In addition, the Potzdamer Platz site called for a set twice the size of the original. This all meant that, to keep the continued attention of both television and live audiences, there would have to be a shift in scale both physically and in terms of action: the storyline had to be strengthened into a clear narrative with an unambiguous message. Fisher and Park had already roughed out several ideas for changes to the set, notably the hotel room scene. This was now located in a three-dimensional hotel room set high in the wall, hidden until the beginning of the scene by a brick-painted lift-up flap.

Mother Brick Triangle

Scarfe's images had been designed to suit the scale of the original arena performances. The original Mother inflatable was replaced by a Mother brick, a large light box concealing a Scarfe cartoon which fitted into a triangular notch in the top of the wall. To save costs and cope with the doubled scale, the Pig was redesigned as a monster head to break through the top of the wall, its spotlight eyes glowering over the audience. Gerald Scarfe drew a new cartoon and sculptor Paul Wright created the 1:12 scale model for fabrication as an inflatable by Rob Harries' Air Artists. The size of a five-story house, the Pig was painted by Keith Payne in one of the pre-war airship hangers at Cardington.

The Pig

Fisher and Park wanted to strengthen the narrative to make the show read as a more contemporary event and to give it more of their own style. They wanted a new strength and toughness and worked with the design group 4i to produce the new graphic images.

The feeling of the 4i designs was in strong contrast to Scarfe's quirky scratchy line work and sharp violence: the scale of Potzdamer Platz called for less subtlety. The new graphics were mostly symbolic rather than literal thick, heavy, simple, relentless and frequently distressed with cracked and broken edges. They worked well with the Scarfe imagery and were immensely strong when they were used in their own right. During the first half, graphics were mostly back projected upon the circular screen. With various lighting effects projected upon the wall. But during the second half, after the wall was completed and stretched across the entire stage, graphics were projected across the entire length of the mammoth wall. It worked well as a huge broad screen.

An abstract, nightmarish, ravaged cityscape projected across the wall during the hotel room scene, the somber list of names of the dead which spread across the wall and turned into a field of crosses and the 13 meter (43 foot) high by 150 meter (492 foot) wide phrase "Bring The Boys Back Home," which came across with uncompromising force both live and on television.

The Helvetica Bold Condensed font type of 'Bring the Boys Back Home' had never before been used on this scale. It was computer generated, printed out, distorted and copied many times before being hand painted and turned into projection transparencies.

Among Scarfe characters and drawings, many other graphics were used; images which were montaged from press cuttings of a variety of twentieth-century conflicts, as Roger sung Vera, 4i cartoons portraying the overseas operator, projections of real Berlin Wall graffiti which were selected from photographs and montaged together, images of fascist architecture were distressed and montaged for projections during the rally scene, among others.

The rally and trial had originally been illustrated by large-scale projected movie animation's by Gerald Scarfe. Like the rest of the Scarfe graphic imprint, they would remain a fundamental element in the performance, augmented by additional footage some of it from the film of The Wall. But with an under-occupied Soviet army still resident in the city, Waters was enthusiastic about turning he rally into a live choreography of Russian tanks and soldiers. The local Soviet army command balked at tanks, but hiring troop carriers, General's jeeps and military marching bands turned out to by a matter of amicable negotiation with them. Anxious to foster artistic collaboration between the newly united countries, the radio orchestra and choir and many extras and crew were hired from East Berlin.

The trial sequence was reworked as a long vignette played by a group of star actors in fantastic Scarfian costumes: musician Thomas Dolby was dangled down the wall in a flying harness wearing a twice life-size costume modeled on that of the (puppet) Teacher. Albert Finney wore a heavily padded judges costume for the trial scene.

Thomas Dolby as the Teacher

Albert Finney as the Judge

Tim Curry as the Prosecutor

Marianne Faithfull as the Mother

Ute Lemper as the Wife

The extras were ranged along platforms on the scaffolding wings and the 15 brick-layers positioned on the long bridge. At the cure the bridge began to descend and the bricklayers progressively pushed off each succeeding course in a great cascade. Because of the need to conserve the relatively fragile bricks there had been only two partial demolition's before the show although there had been many wall-building rehearsals.

The Wall had been created in only two-and-a-half months, with access to the Potzdamer Platz site for only the last four weeks. By normal rock show standards that was an impossibly tight schedule: ideas, mechanisms, choreography, lighting, pyrotechnics, sound and logistics had all to be tested out and co-ordinated.

Roger Waters had asked scores of the top entertainers and music artists of the time to attend and perform at this event for this fantastic charity organization. However, Roger was surprised that few even responded let alone commited themselves. And of those aritsts who did commit themselves, several at the very last minute, did not even show up. Among them were, Eric Clapton, Stevie Winwood, Billy Joel, and Mel Gibson.

Those artists who did show up and performed the concert were; The Band, The Scorpions, Ute Lemper, Thomas Dolby, Sinead O'Connor, Joni Mitchel, James Galway, Brian Adams, Jerry Hall, Van Morrison, Marianne Faithfull, Albert Finney, and Roger Waters performed together with his group The Bleeding Heart Band, which was made up of Graham Broad (percussion), Rick DiFonzo (guitar), Andy Fairweather-Low (guitar), Nick Glennie-Smith (keyboards), Snowy White (guitar) and Peter Wood (keyboards) and also Joe Chemay, Jim Farber, Jim Hass and John Joyce (choir singers). Orchestral parts were performed by The East Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the irreplaceable Michael Kamen, and vocal assistance was provided by The East Berlin Radio Choir, and the Marching Band of the Combined Soviet Forces in Germany. Organizing this show was certainly a lot of hard work - Waters said - but it was excellent to work with Bryan Adams, Van Morrison, Cyndi Lauper and all the others.

Van Morrison

Brian Adams

Punctually at 2200 hours in "no man's land" - on the spot where a few months previously stood the Berlin Wall, Roger Waters commenced the building of his own "Wall". Fans of Pink Floyd waited almost 10 years for this moment! The concert was opened by Leonard Cheshire, and then for the next uninterrupted two hours there was Music.

Pyrotechnics began and ended the show, and among other lighting effects lasers were extensively used throughout the show, and especially during the collapse of the wall. The combined visual effects of the constantly moving cranes and other mechanics, musical theatrics, performers, musicians, orchestra, choir, graphic projections, animation's, lighting effects, lasers, pyrotechnics, moving stages and lifts, military vehicles and marching soldiers, the ever growing brick wall stage and props, coupled with the deeply moving music and storyline, became a multimedia extravaganza unparalleled in any stage show in history.

The program appeared in the following order:

In the Flesh:
The Thin Ice:
Ute Lemper and Roger Waters
Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1):
Roger Waters, saxophone solo by Garth Hudson of The Band
The Happiest Days of Our Lives:
Roger Waters together with Joe Chemay, Jim Farber, Jim Hass and John Joyce
Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2):
Cyndi Lauper,
    Solos respectively by:
  • Rick DiFonzo,
  • Snowy White,
  • Peter Wood,
  • And Thomas Dolby
Sinead O'Connor and The Band
Good-bye Blue Sky:
Joni Mitchell, solo on flute - James Galway
Empty Spaces:
Roger Waters
What Shall We Do Now?:
Bryan Adams
Young Lust:
Bryan Adams
Oh my God, what a fabulous room...:
Jerry Hall
One of My Turns:
Roger Waters
Don't Leave Me Now:
Roger Waters
Another Brick in the Wall (Part 3):
Roger Waters
Good-bye Cruel World:
Roger Waters
Hey You:
Paul Carrack
Is There Anybody Out There?:
Orchestra and choir,
acoustic guitar Rick DiFonzo,
And Snowy White
Nobody Home:
Roger Waters, guitar solo - Snowy White
Roger Waters
Bring the Boys Back Home:
Orchestra and Soviet Military Marching Band
Comfortably Numb:
Roger Waters,
Van Morrison
And The Band,
    Guitar dialogue on top of the walL:
  • Rick DiFonzo
  • And Snowy White
In the Flesh:
Scorpions, Roger Waters, Orchestra, choir and Soviet Military Marching Band
Run Like Hell:
Scorpions, Roger Waters
Waiting for the Worms:
Roger Waters,
Orchestra, choir and Soviet Military Marching Band
Roger Waters
The Trial:
Orchestra and choir,
Refrain performed by Roger Waters,
Trial performances by Tim Curry (prosecutor),
Thomas Dolby (teacher),
Ute Lemper (defendant's wife),
Marianne Faithfull (mother)
And Albert Finney as the judge
The Tide is Turning:
Sung by all performers.

There were other differences from The Wall concerts of the early 80s. Roger Waters did not perform the song "The Show Must Go On" and to finish the concert - instead of the expected "Outside the Wall" - he performed a song of hope, "The Tide is Turning". While the song was performed by all artists who took part in the event, the idea of such a finale is worthy of note.

There were a number of reports as to the quantity of fans who attendended. Two hundred thousand tickets were printed and sold, but it is estimated that well over 250,000 people were actually present, filling up Berlin Hotels. This was mostly because, shortly before the show began, after all paying ticket holders had entered the gates of the fenced Platz, the gates were opened and it essentially became a free concert.

estemates ranged between 300,00 to half a million people. All assembled at Potsdamer Platz were remarkably well disciplined. It is sufficient to recall that 2000 policemen on duty detained only 4 people - which is remarkable even for an audience of a few thousand. Much more work was done by 273 doctors who provided first aid to 1600 persons in areas specially designed for this purpose.

The press announced it as the biggest concert in the history of Rock. Certainly never previously had a single performer (because despite the invited guests it was in effect a concert by Waters and his group) drawn such an audience. On 21 June Berlin became an instant Mecca for the fans of Rock. Special bus lines were established to transport youth to the concert, in addition every ticket for the show enabled the bearer to free travel along any transport route in order to get to the show - the organizers ensured that everyone could get to the venue on time. In the mean time, a number of hours before the show was due to begin the vast territory around Potsdamer Platz was full of people. It was difficult to determine the number. Official sources claim 250 thousand, despite the fact that 300 thousand tickets were supposedly sold. In effect this is unimportant if we realize that with the marvels of modern technology the show was transmitted live via satellite to millions around the world.

David Gilmour did not go to Berlin. In an interview with "Q" magazine in the middle of July, he said: "Certainly, I am tempted to go there, but I won't do so. None of us will go there. I will probably watch it on television. I could not stand it if someone from my profession was to see me somewhere at the back, secretly watching the concert. I am not interested in this to such an extent that I should go there. Actually I never really considered on a deep level as to what I think about the whole thing. We fought with Roger for freedom, and if I want to be free, I should also permit his freedom. As far as I am concerned, I have no objections to "The Wall" being performed. I am certain Roger will do it well."

The show was a tremendous success. A multimedia extraviganza of the proportions never seen before in history. This historic event was of such monumental proportions it will be remembered as one of the most spectacular concerts in musical history, and also as a historic celebration of the fall of The Berlin Wall.

But let us not forget the reason behind why this event was staged in the first place. This can be best summed up in Roger's own words:

"All alone, or in two's
The one's who really love you< BR> Walk up and down outside the wall
Some hand in hand
And some gathered together in bands
The bleeding hearts and the artists
Make their stand
And when they've given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it's not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall"

"We (the bleeding hearts and artists) stand in the spotlight for a few hours and take our bow. Day by day, week by week, year by yrear, 'the ones who really love you' - the nurses, the aid agencies, Amnesty, Greenpeace, the initiative Against Troture, the Cheshire Homes, the Memorial Fund and all the others - do their work. It is THEY who deserve OUR applause!"

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