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The Wall: Live in Berlin (1990) – DVD Review

The Wall: Live in Berlin DVD cover art


Written by: Roger Waters
Directed by: Ken O’Neil & Roger Waters
Original Music and Lyrics by Robert Ezrin, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters & Richard Wright
Starring: Roger Waters, Bryan Adams, The Band, Paul Carrack, Tim Curry, Thomas Dolby, Marianne Faithfull, Albert Finney, James Galway, Jerry Hall, The Hooters, Cyndi Lauper, Ute Lemper, Joni Mitchell, Paddy Moloney, Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor & The Scorpions


  • Making of documentary
  • Unseen footage
  • Animation sequences
  • Still gallery

Released by: Universal Music
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format

My Advice: Rent it; Floyd fans should own.

[ad#longpost]Once there was band called Pink Floyd. Well, there’s still a band called Pink Floyd, but at one point, right before Roger Waters split from them, they produced a magnum opus entitled The Wall. It was a concept album that covered the alienation of the spirit and the cyclic nature of how generations learn from their predecessors how best to cut themselves off from the rest of the world–and it’s just bloody brilliant. It became a film directed by Alan Parker that was fairly successful in its translation. And then, shortly after the Berlin Wall came down, Waters drew together some people and said, “Let’s put on a show.”

The concept sounds simple when you just say it: stage a ginormous live performance, one that’s been done large and live before, of a classic concept album and get name artists of the time to take part. Sounds simple enough, yeah–but not really. The logistics had to have been nightmarish–something that the documentary takes you through. And it makes sense–to mark the end of an isolation of a political nature, you do this performance about personal isolation–it’s a bridge that works, although the details are really a mixed bag. You go from the sublime (Ute Lemper doing “The Thin Ice”) to the odd as hell (Cyndi Lauper as a schoolgirl performing “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)”) to the looked-good-on-paper (Van Morrison and The Band providing the chorus of “Comfortably Numb”) to the downright embarrassing (Albert Finney looking ridiculous and bored during “The Trial”).

The biggest problem, though, is Waters himself. First up, his performance on stage as the character of “Pink” is incredibly uninspired. Compared to Bob Geldof from the film, it’s just downright sad. Granted, after watching the documentary (which details how they lost power for two songs) and given that he’s not really an actor, but having to act in front of somewhere around a half-million people, I can forgive him a bit in retrospect. But still–I’m not sure how
they would have worked getting an actor to do it (although they had Rupert Everett play Pink in some unused footage on the disc), but they should have thought of something.

The Wall: Live in Berlin stage

Secondly, regarding Waters, the last song on the album, “Outside the Wall,” basically wraps up the cyclical nature of the proceedings and explains the entire thing for you. The song does not appear in the concert, it is instead replaced with a company-wide performance of “The Tide is Turning,” a song from Waters’ album Radio Kaos. While I understand what Waters was trying to do–underscore the whole Berlin Wall bit–by leaving out the wrap-up of the actual Wall album, he shot himself thematically in the entire leg. What would have made a lot more sense is to have done “Outside the Wall” with just Roger and a small band in the carnage of the wall’s bricks, doing the orchestral version that ends the movie, and then returned with “Tide” as an encore. But what the hell, they didn’t consult me.

Lest those last two paragraphs put you off, it’s still worth seeing, if for nothing else to check out a monster concert that involves one hundred and twenty foot-tall inflatable marionettes and a three-hundred meter wide wall set. And like I said, it’s worth a watch for the spectacle and the interesting choice of participants if nothing else. And, you know, there’s always Thomas Dolby flopping around attached to a crane like a loony.

Roger Waters from The Wall: Live in Berlin

The disc comes with some features, which is a pleasant surprise. The thirty-minute long documentary, talks with everybody involved, especially Waters and artist Scarfe, as well as the producer and director of the stage show. Apart from the fascinating information about the reshoot (Lemper in “The Trial”) and the songs that went gonzo and how they recovered (note to everyone: always film your dress rehearsal), there’s also the fact that they staged this thing on Potsdamer Platz–the no man’s land between East and West Berlin. The producer wasn’t sure if the thing was riddled with mines or not–nobody was sure. So they swept the land and found a slew of munitions and a previously unknown S.S. bunker. Crazy, crazy stuff.

The rest of the features are good for posterity, once you know what they are. For example, the previously mentioned footage with Everett as Pink–I wasn’t quite sure what this was, and had to confirm elsewhere that it was indeed Everett. It would have been nice to have had a title card stating specifically what this footage was and, hey–why wasn’t it used? Hearing the director or Waters give a little commentary would have been nice and given the stuff context. The other features are fairly plain. The animation is just the Scarfe animation with bits of actual Berlin Wall graffiti merged in with it, and the still gallery is short, but it’s nice to have.

Rupert Everett from The Wall: Live in Berlin
Rupert Everett as Pink

The DVD is a fairly nice edition. Sure, there are some qualms–an audio commentary from Waters and others would have been priceless–although I don’t know if he’d be up for reliving the entire thing again like that. And it’s a bloody shame the thing wasn’t shot in widescreen, so you would have more of the stage to look at, but again, we work with what we have. Fans of Floyd or Waters will probably want to own this, but any music fan will want to rent it for the spectacle, if nothing else.

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