I have been a Pink Floyd fanatic since buying my first Floyd album, "Saucerful of Secrets" in 1968. I have seen Pink Floyd on two occasions, once at Winterland in San Francisco in 1972, and again at the Cow Palace in South San Francisco in 1975. Unfortunately I was living in Hawaii in 1977 during the "In the Flesh Tour" when they toured North America, so I missed that tour. Then again in 1980, I had to work as night manager of a record store while the manager got to go to Los Angeles for "The Wall" concert. The Wall is my favorite of all Pink Floyd albums and to have missed that tour was very depressing.
I had lost interest in Floyd after "The Final Cut" and became heavily absorbed musically in Modern Jazz and Jazz Fusion. Not even aware of a first Roger Waters solo album, I had heard about his second, Radio K.A.O.S. in 1987, and enthusiastically bought the album. Then when I heard about his KAOS tour I immediately got tickets for the show at the Oakland Coliseum. From this time on my interest and devotion as a Pink Floyd fan was totally revitalized and even redoubled, for now my fanaticism was for Roger Waters music, for in my mind Roger Waters was the Pink in Pink Floyd. I had begun subscribing to both The Amazing Pudding and Brain Damage fan magazines and corresponded with many Pink Floyd fans from around the world exchanging opinions, greetings, and trading tapes.
In 1990, I had heard that Roger Waters would perform The Wall at a concert in Berlin. Again, I was to miss seeing The Wall performed live. I wished so much that Roger would do the concert in California for I knew I could never go halfway around the world to attend the show. Then in May, I received a letter from one of my Pink Floyd friends and penpals from around the world, Yoshiko Ogiso from Japan. She told me that she had gotten her ticket for the Berlin show and she hoped to see me there if I was going. Me, I thought, go to Berlin, preposterous! Then all of a sudden I asked myself seriously, why not?! Then and there I resolved that I would go. I would take my two week summer vacation from work and go to Germany. I had never been to Europe and became very excited at the thought of such a fantastic opportunity. I contacted another of my Pink Floyd friends and penpals, Michael Gerth from Frankfurt, and arranged to go to the show with him. I got my passport and sent away for my ticket which did not arrive till a week or so before I was to leave. Fortunately, Glenn Povey (editor of Brain Damage) kindly offered to buy a ticket for me in London and send it to me to make sure I got one.
I flew from San Francisco to Frankfurt and met Michael at the airport. We took a bus to his flat and waited till the next day when we boarded our train for Berlin.
The show was beyond any words I can possibly try to explain or describe. Berlin was fantastic and Germany was fantastic. A few days after the show I traveled by myself by train through East Germany and through Poland to Crakow and visited Auswitz. I then traveled again by train through Poland and Czechoslovakia into Hungary, where I was thrown off the train at the Hungarian border because I did not have a proper visa (which I was told I could buy at the border). Well, I found that only if you came by car, not the train could you buy a visa at the border. So at 5 AM, half asleep, with all my suitcases in hand, I was let off the train on a dirt road just inside the Czechoslovakian border where I had to walk to the nearest highway and hitchhike many miles to a border station to buy my visa. Ah the pros and cons of hitchhiking! At first no one would pick me up, I even began waving dollar bills at the cars. The drivers must have thought how American of me trying to buy a ride. Anyway after finally getting a ride, buying my visa, and getting back to the train station inside Hungary, I was put on another train, filled with gypsies or refugees and continued my journey to Budapest. After a harrowing experience of almost getting jumped and robbed on the train, I finally arrived in Budapest where I rented an apartment for a few days. Budapest is a fantastically beautiful and CLEAN city! I then traveled by hydrofoil boat up the Danube river to Vienna Austria and again for a few days admired the beauty of that city. I then returned to Frankfurt by train and boarded a plane for my return flight to San Francisco. I had a fantastic time in Europe and Eastern Europe, but the concert at the Berlin Wall was the most fantastic spectacle I have ever witnessed.
In the ensuing months I had read several articles in 1990 issues of Brain Damage which criticized Roger's The Wall Live in Berlin concert. I especially became incensed by one written by one Joe Tocci, who chose to trash Roger and the concert having not even been at the show. I therefore had to write an article refuting and rebutting such un-called for criticisms. As both a Pink Floyd and Roger Waters fan, the editor of Brain Damage at the time, Glenn Povey, was happy to print my article in Brain Damage issue #22.
Now, after almost 10 years, I thought what better forum to reprint my article than REG. The following is that article. I thought you might enjoy it.
The day of the concert was bright and sunny. A perfect day for the concert. As I got off the U-bann in East Berlin you could see Roger Waters' Wall from miles distant, stretching across the landscape, a mammoth white expanse accross the skyline with it's huge cranes reaching out into the blue sky like the tentacles of an octopus. The excitement was contagious the closer to Potsdam Platz we got, and soon the throngs of people were streaming down every street and converging upon the entry gates. A crowd of thousands waited hours before the gates for entry into the Platz at 2 PM. It seemed like Woodstock revisited, but better, for people from around the world, speaking many different languages came together in peace and harmony for this one fantastic event. Before the gate, bags were searched for recorders, cameras, alcohol and glass bottles. At the gate everyone was given a ‘Pink' mask and a leaflet for fan-info and the crowd bunched in the thousands at the gates, emptied like the grains of sand in an hourglass onto the acres and acres of Potsdam Platz. All were dwarfed by the many light and sound towers and the huge white monolith wall which stretched to the right and to the left into the distance.
I and my friend Michael from Frankfurt went immediately to the left side of the wall at the front, as the area immediately in front of the wall stage area was already completely packed with people. There we waited through the rest of the beautiful afternoon, basking in the warm sun-shine and visiting with neighboring Pink Floyd fans from around the world. I left once to buy more t-shirts and discovered just how huge the crowd was. I was lucky to find my way back at all, and you really had to be good at making your own paths through the hundreds of thousands of people sitting and standing around.
The show was not to begin till it got dark but the festive atmosphere and watching all the people (and reading our programs of course) were more than enough to keep us from getting bored. But also on stage, to entertain the crowd were various bands. Among them, The Chieftains from Ireland, and the reunion of The Band, who played all of their old great hits. They were really great! (I'd love to have a tape of their performance if anyone can get me one, and also an audience tape of The Wall concert itself!) I wonder why their music wasn't a part of The Wall concert album? It was rather disheartening that most of the crowd were too young to remember The Band and didn't know their music, or appreciate the significance of their reunion after so many years after having disbanded. Many of course did, and we all danced to their hits.
Water was scarce, and in demand at first until you knew where to get it. Restrooms were positioned throughout the rear and up the sides, but for many it was a real trek and a long wait in line. The wait for t-shirts and programs was really unbelievable, at least an hour! First aid tents were set up at the back as were booths with umbrellas to protect you from the sun.
At one point during the afternoon as a band played on-stage, some neighbors pointed to a section high in the scaffolding above the stage amidst the wall near the top center, and shared their binoculars with me. Indeed there was Mr. Waters looking out over the crowd with his wife (I guess) in tow and smiling from ear to ear, dancing to the music atop the scaffolding.
Finally 10 PM came and went, but it still was not completely dark yet. I was amazed how late the sunset. About 9 PM, Michael and I had made our move from the side front of the wall, and skirted through the thronging masses of people toward the center and up front nearer to the stage. We got as far as one or two hundred meters from the stage and the front. We waited there until it was really dark. Then the Mayor of Berlin made a speech after which he welcomed Leonard Cheshire, (the founder of The Memorial Fund For Disaster Relief which is what charity the show was to benefit) who began the show with a toot of his whistle.
Electricity filled the air as did the fireworks carrying mini parachutes (I'll pay for one if anyone has commandeered and extra for a souvenir, let me know), as the Scorpions limo drove up onto the stage and across the front of the wall. Then the "surrogate band" began the show with "In The Flesh" which was really fantastic. Then, as we all know, "The Thin Ice" began and the sound went out. This technical glitch didn't put a damper on the show at all. Roger apologized, saying they would try to do it again later in the show. You could only empathize with him at how he must have felt. He's such a perfectionist and putting a show together of this magnitude was amazing in itself. During "Another Brick In the Wall Part's 1 & 2", and "The Happiest Days of Our Lives," the Teacher, immense and ominous was inflated above and over the wall, as video clips of The Wall movie and stills were flashed across the circular screen high above and behind the stage. (The spectacle was thrilling, though it might have been much more enjoyable without Cyndi Lauper's vocals! )
Russian soldiers began building The Wall brick by brick to fill the gaps, and although the musicians were great, Mr. Gilmour's guitar was missed throughout! Guitarists, Rick DiFonzo and Snowy White were more than adequate however and gave outstanding performances, even at times outshining those of Dave Gilmour!
Then again, during Sinead O'Connors vocals on "Mother," the power on the sound went out. Again the glitch was only a mild hindrance of the overall event and it was soon overcome and the song continued. In the wall, on the right and left sides, were huge video screens where close ups of the stage show were shown for those not close enough to see well And again, halfway back towards the rear of the crowd, mounted upon huge light towers were more mammoth video screens and speakers for those at the back of the unbelievably immense crowd of 500,000 people! Everything possible was done to allow everybody to enjoy the show as much as possible!
Joni Mitchell's rendition of "Goodbye Blue Sky' was surprisingly good and sung with great feeling. Though throughout the first half of the show, it was very strange to see and hear my favorite music performed by strangers. The changes, made for great entertainment and comparisons. However, when I heard Roger's voice during "Empty Spaces," I knew Pink was there to oversee it all.
Then Brian Adams sang "Young Lust" and did a fantastic job. When "One of My Turns" began, the wall lit up with pictures and effects and I looked up to the apartment, inset into the wall to see Roger singing. I was just below him a few hundred yards into the crowd. God, seeing and hearing him sent goose-bumps through me! New videos and pictures were done especially for the show and were shown and projected as Roger continued with "Don't Leave Me Now." All the while, bricks continued to be laid building the wall. Now, the wall almost completely blocking off the back of the stage, the orchestra in the background adding extra music and effects not heard on the original Wall production. After "Another Brick in the Wall Part 3," and at the end of "Good-bye Cruel World," the last brick was laid and the wall completely closed off the musicians from the audience.
During all of this first half, the cranes and lifts were in constant motion, hoisting huge clumps bricks, and moving lights and cameras. It was all so complex, with so many things going on at once! And because of so much sensory stimuli going on at once, it was hard to keep track of it all. No video can even possibly come close to capturing this event. The atmosphere, filled with excitement was contagious. There was an electricity in the air you could actually feel! You had to have been there and have witnessed it all to even minimally understand and experience all the nuance, symmetry and multimedia frenzy. There was so much sensory input and brain candy happening at once that no-one attending the show could even assimilate it all, let alone anything on video.
During the intermission, we were reminded what charity this benefit concert was being performed for, with a video for the Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief playing upon the huge round screen, and also upon the completed monolith wall. The second half began, the wall now complete, with "Hey You." Roger and Paul Carrack sang it and moved on into "nobody Home" with Roger again in the apartment but this time it had been setup on a platform outside the wall. Tingles went up my spine watching Roger, now in all his glory, singing and performing as ‘Pink.'
The only way to see everything that was going on was to view the video screens embedded within this gigantic wall which stretched from West Berlin into East Berlin intersecting where once the Berlin Wall stood enclosing Potsdam Platz. This was once "no-mans-land," a space between East and West Berlin, where just months earlier, anyone caught inside would have been shot dead. It was not until after the show that I had learned that underneath Potsdam Platz, Hitler's bunker had been unearthed during concert preparations. We were, as Cyndi Lauper pointed out, dancing on Hitler's grave!
Then East and West German soldiers lined up across the stage in front of the wall, torches held high with projections shown behind them on the wall. As Roger sang "Vera," and the Marching Band of the Soviet Army marched across the stage. Then as Roger sang, the East Berlin Randfunk Orchestra played "Bring The Boys Back Home."
After this, an ambulance drove across the stage in front of the wall and stopped at the stage center. As the troops marched away, Roger dressed up as a doctor got out of the ambulance carrying a huge 4 foot syringe. "Comfortably Numb" then began with Roger and Van Morrison singing — Roger injecting the wall. At the very top of the wall itself standing upon scaffolding on opposite sides of the main stage area were Rick DiFonzo and Snowy White both playing lead guitar and trading off fantastic guitar solo's.
From its beginning, the concert got better and better as each song was played. You wondered how anything could top the last song, but then the next song does! I have no words to explain how the combination of the music and the visuals stupefied the senses, nor the emotions this spectacular event evoked. No video could possibly have captured it, you simply had to have been there!
As the concert had built to a peak of frenzy, The Scorpions limo again drove across the stage and the surrogate band played "In the Flesh" on a small stage. But this time Roger, dressed in the full military uniform regalia of a Field Marshal General stood upon a large platform above complete with crossed hammer insignia and body guards. Hundreds of storm troopers then deployed from about 20 troop carrier trucks which drove upon and across the stage. The troops formed in ranks with huge crossed hammer banners and flags, as Roger screamed out this classic song. Then, as "Run Like Hell" began, a huge evil looking pig rose from behind the left top of the wall, crossed hammer emblems and all. It was so huge that it toppled down the top-most bricks as it broke through the top of the wall. With the hundreds of thousands in the audience holding up their Pink face masks or their arms in crossed fists above their heads, and Roger ranting with his crossed fist salute and the troops marching with banners across the stage, it felt almost like the Nazi Nuremberg rally revisited.
The scene then became unbelievably even more spectacular as "Waiting For the Worms" was played and more soldiers appeared at the top of the wall and repelled over 200 feet down the wall face to the stage on ropes. The song reached a fever pitch as Roger screamed through a huge megaphone as marching hammers were projected marching across the gigantic wall.
Roger sang "Stop," stripping himself of the uniform as Albert Finney playing the Judge steps out on the platform, and the Prosecutor played by Tim Curry began "The Trial." Each character appears from Pink's past to testify against him. The Schoolmaster, Thomas Dolby as a puppet, is hoisted on strings and lowered over the wall from a giant crane, The Wife played by Ute Lemper and The Mother played by Marianne Faithfull, all appear in Scarfe costume. After the Judge pronounces the sentence that Pink is to be exposed before his peers, the chant tear down the wall is echoed amongst the audience. Whereupon the unbelievably huge mammoth wall came crashing down in an unbelievable spectacle of light and sound.
Unexpectedly, "Outside The Wall" is not played and an encore of "The Tide Is Turning" is performed as every cast member takes their turn singing a line each from the song. How appropriate a song to end an event like this, an event which tried to raise millions of dollars for a charity to help millions recover from various disasters around the world.
From what some may have termed a troubled beginning, The Wall carried on through to the end without a hitch. It was musically and theatrically a spectacle of sight and sound unequaled anywhere in the world EVER! No words can describe this event, no video can show the complexity, atmosphere or mesmerizing multimedia occurring simultaneously. No tape or recording can capture the stimulation of emotions this concert evoked. All that can be said is thank you Roger Waters for that once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.
Those who came away from the show disappointed or complaining, had to have gone there with a cynical and critical or negative attitude and the determination not to enjoy the show in the first place. Roger has given us all another chance to look inside ourselves, and look out upon our world with another and perhaps different perspective, where we can see more clearly, and are reminded of the walls which exist between us, and the hope that we can tear down those walls and begin to promote more love among one another