Review Summary: The biggest show ever performed of one of the greatest concept albums in rock music history, but did Roger Waters & Co. succeed in reproducing perfectly an already perfect record?N.B. This review is written by someone who rated 5.0 the original version of The Wall (1979), therefore the way the concert was performed will affect more the rating of this live version than the concept itself, which will not be examined. So, if you are not familiar with the album, you are highly recommended to read first its review(s).
In the late Eighties Roger Waters was asked by the city of West-Berlin to perform his well-known rock opera The Wall
, originally published with the name of his former band, the Pink Floyd, but substantially written all by himself. He stated that he would do it, but only with the city re-united under one nation, so when the Berlin Wall was eventually torn down in November 1989, he started summoning the musicians and the guest-stars to organise one of the biggest events in music history.
Of course, the results were considerably great: in only 8 months the concert was ready to celebrate the symbolic end of the Cold War on July 21, 1990 in what was once no man's land, Potsdamer Platz. More than 350,000 people joined the audience and the video of the show was broadcast in 52 countries.
Even if Waters, denying any possible reunion with the Pink Floyd now lead by David Gilmour, tried to hire as guests many important celebrities such as Peter Gabriel, Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen, in the end he announced a less-famous cast including Van Morrison, Thomas Dolby, Sinéad O'Connor, Bryan Adams, Joni Mitchell, the Scorpions and many more.
The visual impact of the show was outstanding: a gigantic wall was built during the first half of the show and an entire army marched on the stage during the second, a limo and an ambulance were driven, guitars were smashed against windows, and on the white wall very powerful images were projected.
Great was also the performance of the many musicans on stage, the two guitarists of The Bleeding Heart Band held up well the solos throughout the concert, even if both of them could not certainly compete with David Gilmour, just like the keybordist and the drummer could not compete with Wright and Mason; still, they all managed to do a very clean job without copying the peculiar style of the Pink Floyd members. The Rundfunk Orchestra instead helped creating a very solid accompaniment from the beginning to the end, especially throughout the most delicate passages, such as Is There Anybody Out There?
or Nobody Home
, while during Bring The Boys Back Home
, In The Flesh
, Run Like Hell
and Waiting For The Worms
the Marching Band of the Combined Soviet Forces in Germany lent a hand as well and made the atmosphere particularly powerful and glorious.
Not quite the same can we say about the guests' performances. At the times they interpreted the songs very well, for instance the version of Comfortably Numb
is much warmer than the original thank to the voice of Van Morrison while What Shall We Do Now?
, but especially Young Lust
is rawer, being sung by Bryan Adams. Pretty good is also Hey You
by Paul Carrack, though nothing exceptional.
Apart from those cases the other song performances are much below the expectations: the worst of all is certainly Another Brick In The Wall, Part II
by an awful Cyndi Lauper, who also thinks she can afford to “show” her inexistent breasts off (do not get fooled, she wears a bra), but also Joni Mitchell's Goodbye Blue Sky
is pretty bad, sung with an unnecessary too-expressive voice. Virtuosity was not quite needed there.
Average is the Scorpions' In The Flesh?
while Sinéad O'Connor seems a bit out of place in Mother
, though the accordion works somehow well in the accompaniment, even if it covers most of the rythm guitar parts.
Pretty much anything else is sung by Waters' thin voice which sometimes sounds a little too weak, especially during One of My Turns
and Don't Leave Me Now
, in which he has to reach a very high pitch, but it would have been much better if he had sung all the songs he had to, just like in the album, leaving to the guests only Gilmour's parts or just a few things more.
Waters has always been very selfish, probably he chose the wrong occasion not to be so or maybe he should have just made better decisions about the setlist: also excluding The Show Must Go On
was a bad idea in my opinion since it has some kind of importance conceptually speaking and is also a necessary transition track between Comfortably Numb
and In The Flesh
It could have been easily a 5/5 if the guests had not been so annoying here and there. Instead, this live album deserves just a 4/5
: it was still a massive event, very crucial at the time, giving Europe and the rest of the world a little hope for a definitive end of the absurd clash of ideologies between “East” and “West”, and viceversa, which sadly even nowadays is not over yet.
Anyway if you ever wonder which version to listen to, go for the original.