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Inside The Wall

I might not be the world’s biggest Pink Floyd fan, but I’m fairly confident I’d make the Top 20. And while I don’t listen to their albums as frequently as I used to and when I do it’s usually their earlier stuff, the album that started it all for me was The Wall. After discovering that as a teenager I’d lay in bed in the dark and listen to it almost every night, deriving not just pleasure from the music but deep emotional catharsis from the meaning (or at least the meaning I perceived) behind it. By that time, Pink Floyd had been broken up for over two decades and it was an absolute certainty that a full-scale live production of The Wall would never happen again, and I lamented being born too late to have seen it. But when I learned to my astonishment last year that Roger Waters was going on tour with The Wall again, I knew I had to go.

Couldn't resist buying the shirt either.

Because I’m living in Germany I had to wait for the European leg of the tour, which just came to Germany this month. I bought tickets and saw the show in Mannheim, and last week went to both shows in Berlin. My blog entry for the Mannheim show was written more or less like a typical personal blog entry, focused primarily on my experience, but I’ll try to make this entry a bit more universal and write about the experience. While no experience of a show can be completely divorced from my subjective opinions of the songs, the seats I was in, and the people I was surrounded by—which I’ll describe at the forefront—I will write this as though for any fellow Floyd fans who saw the show and want to re-live the experience, or who missed the show but are curious as to how it was done. Normal readers who are not familiar with The Wall won’t find anything of interest here.

The Circumstances:

I’d bought a ticket for the Mannheim show as soon as I heard The Wall would be touring again because that was the first show in Germany. Just a day later it occurred to me how awesome it would be to see it in Berlin—what with the whole significance of “the wall” idea for that city, as well as the fact that the last time Roger did The Wall was in Potzdamer Platz shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, which at the time was the largest concert event ever staged. I bought a ticket for the first night in Berlin, and assumed those two shows would be the only shows I’d see.

But when I looked at the seating chart and saw that my seats for the first show, Wednesday night, were far off to the side of the stage just like they were at the Mannheim show (only on the opposite side of the arena), I wished I’d get to see the wall from straight on at least once. It’s a very visual show and when your view is drastically askew it’s a different experience. I’d also be at the mercy of whomever was seated next to me, and if like the first show it was near people who weren’t all that into it, I’d feel a little self-conscious about getting into it as much as I could. So to remedy both problems I called my friend Oliver and asked if he’d want to join me—he was also into Floyd as a kid, though his childhood was a decade before mine—and I got us two tickets on the lower level of the stadium, directly stage-center.

On Wednesday night I went to Berlin equipped with my camera, got a few nice shots of the actual Berlin Wall, the largest remaining section coincidentally right across the street from the O2 Arena where the metaphorical wall was being built, and eventually found my way inside and up to my seat.

The [Berlin] Wall The artwork was recently re-done by the original artists. A couple of interesting images. Trippy.

On the first night I hadn’t spoken to any of my neighbors and it made me feel self-conscious throughout, so I made it a point to talk to the friendly-seeming guy to my right before the show started. I learned he was from a nearby village and was seeing the show because he’d wanted to go to the Potzdamer Platz show back in 1990 but didn’t have the time, and this would make up for it. He said he never goes to live concerts so this would be a real treat for him. The people to my left I spoke to at intermission, and while they said they’d driven 200 km to see the show, they “weren’t really big Pink Floyd fans” and they sucked some of the enjoyment out of my experience by basically sitting on their hands the whole time and never getting into it at all. For some reason, that seemed to be the case for the whole audience Wednesday night, who were noticeably less enthusiastic than the audience in Mannheim had been. The audience then were always rising to their feet to dance and clap along, and the applause after the show lasted a solid five minutes until the lights finally came up. On Wednesday in Berlin, only the people in the floor seats ever stood up, there was much less clapping along, and the applause ended the moment Roger left the stage.

Wednesday's perspective. Vantage point from Thursday.

The circumstances for the Thursday show could not have been more different, both in terms of my own experience and of the audience at large. I of course had my friend Oliver to my left who was just as psyched about seeing the show for the first time as I was about seeing it again (and finally from the right perspective), and to my left was a middle-aged American couple who were obviously fans. Before the show started I heard the man explaining some of the meaning of the album to the woman, and I would have tried to talk to him but the show started just a minute or two after we sat down. He turned out to be a mega-fan, more enthusiastic than anyone I’ve ever seen at a Floyd show, and his presence was a hugely significant factor in my experience of the Thursday show for good and for ill. Ill because he couldn’t be ignored—he was obviously a little drunk and kept singing along and making loud comments about how “fucking great” everything was—but good because there could be no doubt that this guy appreciated the music. He was carrying on so loudly that the woman in front of me kept turning around with her camera to take pictures of him, which he thought was hilarious. At first it was quite a mental struggle to not let it ruin the show but I eventually figured out how to go with it, which was much easier once I actually spoke to him at the intermission.

I said “I have to talk to you because you’re obviously a fan,” and he immediately apologized and said “I’m sorry, brother, I just can’t help myself. My wife and I came all the way from Colorado for this tour. What do you think of the show?” I told him it was incredible and this was actually the third time I’ve seen it, and he grinned widely and said, “Yeah brother, I’ve seen it like five times!” and he immediately gave me a big hug of Floyd-fanatic solidarity. During the second half of the show, he switched seats with his wife and sat directly next to me, and took my hand to say, “It’s nice to be able to share this experience with you, brother.” So during the second half it was easier not to get frustrated by him. I just figured that’s how I would be if I were just as drunk. He was loudly singing along so I didn’t have to. I could sing along and dance in my chair as well, and I wouldn’t have to feel self-conscious at all because he was way more over-the-top, and my own visible enjoyment of the show would only add to his.

Strangely enough, just like on Wednesday my own immediate seating-surroundings were like a microcosm of the entire audience, and just as my neighbors on Wednesday hadn’t been too into it and the audience as a whole was relatively lame, my neighbors on Thursday were as enthusiastic as you can imagine and the audience as a whole was noticeably more into it as well. It wasn’t just my perception—I’d paid attention to the section I knew I’d be sitting in on Thursday from my seats on Wednesday and that section was seated throughout the whole show. But on Thursday night, when I was in that section, we were up on our feet and clapping along whenever the music was conducive to it. And when the show was over, the applause maintained its intensity right up until the house lights came up. It was strange but fascinating how different the audience-dynamics were for the same show in the same city, just one night apart.

So now I’ll go song by song and describe what the experience was like, mentioning my own personal experience only when relevant, and include any photos I took that came out half-way decent enough to include.

In the Flesh?

The lights go down and the crowd starts cheering. A couple of men dressed in the fascist-uniforms used later in the show drag a man-sized puppet to the center of the stage, and you hear the most famous lines from the film Spartacus as the Roman soldiers demand that the defeated rebel slaves hand over “the living flesh of the slave called Spartacus”. A spotlight shines down on one of the audience-members. “I’m Spartacus!” you hear. Another spotlight on another audience-member: “I’m Spartacus!” Again and again: “I’m Spartacus…I’m Spartacus…I am Spartacus!”

Then all the lights turn off and it gets very quiet. Suddenly you hear a lone trumpet player standing somewhere in the middle of the left side of the arena playing “Outside the Wall”. You’re probably getting chills at this point, especially if you know what’s coming. It goes on for a short while, longer than it does on the album, and just when you’re about to slip into a more relaxed state—BANG!!! Off goes the first round of fireworks along with the first notes of “In the Flesh?” blaring across the arena at top-volume. The crowd erupts as the band behind the not-yet-built wall plays.

That space-cadet glow. Then the man himself, Roger Waters, walks out on stage and the crowd erupts with applause again. He waves hello to those sitting stage left—they go wild. He crosses to stage-right and they go wild (I rise to my feet and wave when I’m up there, just in case he might take notice). He turns to the rest of the crowd and everyone is thunderously applauding until some stage-hands put him in uniform and he starts to sing: “So you thought you might like to go to the show?” After the verse is sung the special effects really kick into gear: a fireworks display that you’d have to see to believe, and finally a model airplane flying and crashing into the top of the right side of the wall, knocking off a few bricks and bursting into flames beyond.

The Thin Ice

On the screen there’s a picture of a soldier, which fades to a picture of a notebook page with some information about that soldier typed up on it: Eric Fletcher Waters, 2nd Lieutenant in the 8th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers of the British Army in World War II, who died at Anzio on 18 February 1944 and left his son Roger to grow up without a father. The first brick in the wall.

Then there’s a picture of a Muslim woman who might look a little familiar to some. The picture  fades to a notebook page of information about her: Neda Agha-Soltan, January 23, 1983 – June 20, 2009. I hadn’t seen this at the first show because my view of the screen was blocked, but I’d noticed her picture on the wall during intermission without knowing she had already made an earlier appearance. For those who don’t know, she was the woman whose gruesome death from a bullet-wound was caught on tape during the 2009 Iranian uprising after the stolen elections. Her death really made that whole event hit home and I was personally moved by it enough to write several blog entries about it, and I found it very moving that Roger would feature her so prominently in the show.

As the song is sung the screen cycles through several more pictures of dead soldiers and political activists along with their names and basic information. It’s half rock-song, half-memorial, and unless you’ve got a drunk American singing along at the top of his lungs next to you, it’s impossible not to be moved by it.

Another Brick in the Wall, Part I

Everybody knows “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” so the music at the beginning of Part I sounds familiar enough to everybody to get them excited and cheering for what they know is coming next. I personally love Part I and find the words much more moving than Part II: “Daddy’s flown across the ocean, leaving just a memory. A snap-shot in the family album. Daddy, what else did you leave for me?” While my biological father didn’t die in a war, I did have to grow up without him and it undoubtedly had a similar effect on me as it did on Roger, which is a huge part of the reason the album spoke to me so deeply when I discovered it. “Daddy, what’d you leave behind for me? All in all it was just a brick in the wall. All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.”

It’s a very dark number, with nothing but a bit of red light like waves projected across the stage as Roger plays bass alone in front of the wall. I’m getting chills on all three nights. On the third night Oliver turns to me and points out the goose-bumps he’s getting. The drunk American guy to my left says, “I’m in heaven,” which I can’t help but smile at. So am I.

The Happiest Days of Our Lives

The sound of a helicopter can be heard and a spotlight emerges from behind the left side of the unfinished wall and finally lands on a single audience member. “You! Yes, you! Stand still, laddy!” Then…BUM. Ba-BUM! Bum, bada bum, bada bum, bada bum, ba-BUM!

This is what everyone recognizes from the radio and they all go nuts. Even the third time around I’m still getting chills from knowing what’s coming and knowing just how much the audience is going to love it. “When we grew up and went to school, there were certain teachers who would hurt the children any way they could…”

I’m not exactly sure, but it’s either now or during the next song that the stage-hands bring out and place the first few bricks on the stage to start the construction of the wall. It definitely happens very subtly and unceremoniously, and on the first two nights I’d been so into the music that I hadn’t even noticed they’d started building the wall until it was under way.

In any case, the anticipation in the air is palpable, some hands are already clapping, and everyone braces themselves for what they know is coming next. “…but in the town it was well-known when they got home at night their fat and psychopathic wives would thrash them within inches of their lives!”

Another Brick in the Wall, Part II

Then come the most famous (and most mis-interpreted) lines of any Pink Floyd song of all time: “We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought-control. No dark sarcasm in the class-room. Teacher, leave them kids alone. Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone! All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.”

Everybody is singing along, lots of loud cheers and “woo-woo”s are erupting from the audience (especially from drunk Americans) and I’m remembering how this was the very first song by Pink Floyd I ever heard that got me to take notice of Pink Floyd, and eventually to buy the whole The Wall album (once I realized “Comfortably Numb” was also on it).

The second verse is even more memorable as it’s where the kids sing the lines, and Roger’s got a troupe of kids who come out on the stage and sing the verse before breaking into an awesome dance-session during the always-excellent instrumental section. The giant-inflatable teacher is lowered and the kids do a bit with that before leaving the stage.

Leave them kids alone.

Then the music changes to an unfamiliar piece of music at the end of the song, presumably to give the stage-hands some time to get things prepared for the next piece.

But on the second night in Berlin, this unfamiliar piece of music goes on for a bit longer. Roger steps back out center-stage and…what’s this? He’s singing new lyrics! For a moment the significance of what’s happening doesn’t register in my mind, but then I suddenly realize that this didn’t happen the other two nights. I tell Oliver as much, then take out my camera and start a video, only to capture the last couple of lines of the song.


This is when Roger pauses for a moment to welcome the audience and say a few words specific to where he is. In Mannheim he’d mentioned a few dates and places and asked if anyone in the audience remembered them—which I believe were dates and locations of previous shows he’d done in Germany. In Berlin, on both nights, he mentioned the Potzdamer Platz show and how that was a night he’d never forget. On the second night, he started by confirming that the extra lyrics to “Another Brick in the Wall” he’d just sung were indeed new—that it was the first time he’d ever done that. So I got to witness just a minor little bit of Pink Floyd history!

But whatever minor variations he makes to it based on where he is, the speech apparently always ends the same way. Back when they did The Wall the first time, they recorded a video in England of Roger playing “Mother” at Earl’s Court, so “as an experiment in time-travel, and at the risk of seeming somewhat narcissistic” Roger shall now “endeavor to sing a double-track vocal and play acoustic guitar along with a younger, miserable, fucked-up Roger from all those years ago.”

And so the projection on the wall during “Mother” is just Roger Waters from 1980 playing Mario was here? “Mother” at Earl’s Court. There are also a few little extra goodies, most notably what happens when he sings “Mother, should I trust the government?” On the right side of the wall the words, “No Fucking Way” appear, and on the left the words, “Auf Keinen Fall”. I assume the words on the left are some version of “under no circumstances” in whatever the native language of the country he’s in happens to be. The crowd, of course, loves it.

In the new version of the show, “Mother” is apparently a metaphor for the government, and there’s an animated security camera on the screen the whole time, the Big Brother who always keeps its eye on you, that “will always find out where you’ve been”.

Goodbye Blue Sky

One of my favorites in terms of the wall-projections is the new take on “Goodbye Blue Sky”. The Gerald Scarfe animation for the film is probably the best of all the animations in the film (it’s certainly his favorite) and while it may be somewhat disappointing that they go with a different animation, it’s reminiscent enough of the original to stay true to its spirit only with a meaning much more relevant to the world today.

“Did you see the frightened ones? Did you hear the falling bombs? Did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter when the promise of a brave new world unfurled beneath the clear blue sky?” These lyrics and the original animation for them were clearly inspired by the memories of English children during the war as the Germans repeatedly bombed London.

Blurry logos raining. The updated animation for the show, while still featuring war-planes dropping bombs, puts a different twist on it as the bombs are all in the shapes of various symbols. First the Christian cross, then the hammer-and-sickle of communism, and several other political and religious symbols including the dollar sign. But then the bombs start taking the shape of corporate logos, first Shell then Mercedes and McDonalds so on. For some reason, the crowd in Germany started applauding wildly when the Shell and Mercedes logos were dropped. Are they applauding because they like those companies or because they hate them? I could never quite figure that out.

But the meaning is clear enough for any idiot to understand. Whereas the fascist-dictator types of yester-year made their attempts at world-domination with bombs, today’s fascist-dictators are in the form of corporations or religions, whose attempts to spread their ideologies and/or products are just as much an act of violence as the bombings of London in WWII.

It’s absolutely brilliant, and Oliver remarked as much on Thursday night. But for me, at least on that night, the experience was somewhat ruined by the drunk American and his wife who had left before “Mother” and returned now with fresh beer and pretzels. Irony.

Empty Spaces

I fucking love this piece of music, but most people find the animation far more memorable. EvenBlurry flowers fucking. before I saw the film I always found this part of the album particularly intense and moving, but of course Gerald Scarfe’s animation of the two flowers that look like they’re fucking is an incredibly powerful image. The real treat of seeing it live is that while you can watch the original animation on the screen, it’s extended down to the wall—which at this point is really coming along. You see the flowers on the screen but their stems on the wall, so it’s like you’re finally getting to see the whole image of something you’ve only partially seen before.

What Shall We Do Now?

I always hated how they cut this from the studio album, as it’s one of my favorite pieces of music of the whole show due to its power and intensity. Seeing it live is really something else because the intensity is at its maximum potential and you can really feel the music blasting through your body.

It’s the same animation from the film after the female flower devours the male and flies away, only it’s much bigger because it’s being projected across the entire wall. “What shall we use to fill the empty spaces where waves of hunger gnaw? Shall we set out across this sea of faces in search of more and more applause?”

The banging of the drums, the iconic image of the face emerging from the wall and screaming (I bought a T-Shirt with that image on Wednesday night and wore it on Thursday), and then the powerful litany of lyrics which I couldn’t resist but loudly sing along to (accompanied by my drunk American friend, of course) while making sure to really derive as much appreciation of those lyrics as I could because this would be the last time.

“What shall we do now?” is a song about the wall itself, about the things we do from behind our walls and some of the things we use to help build them. It’s one of the most angry pieces of music Pink Floyd ever did, and I’ve listened to it many many times while furious about the bullshit circumstances of modern life that we’re trapped in. “Shall we buy a new guitar? Shall we drive a more powerful car? Shall we work straight through the night? Shall we get into fights, leave the lights on, drop bombs, do tours of the east, contract diseases, bury bones, break up homes, send flowers by phone, take to drink, go to shrinks, keep people as pets, train dogs, race rats, fill the attic with cash, bury treasure, store up leisure, but never relax at all…with our backs to the wall?”

My heart is racing a mile a minute when it’s finally over.

Young Lust

This is one of the only three songs from The Wall that David Gilmour has a writing credit for, and it’s the least good one by far. In fact it’s one of my least favorite songs on the album and one that if I hear out-of-context on the radio I barely even enjoy. It doesn’t really work too well on its own, but heard in context it’s still a perfect part of a perfect album.

The projections on the wall during this song get a little X-rated, and I’d be surprised if Roger didn’t get some complaints from parents in the United States who were dumb enough to take their kids to see Pink Floyd’s The Wall and expect it to be family-friendly. There’s a very long section with a topless woman dancing, which I’m sure doesn’t phase a European audience at all and the few parents with kids their probably didn’t care.

On the radio the song can sometimes sound like garbage, but live before your eyes it sounds fantastic and it’s even hard not to dance to. Not a highlight, really, but not a lowlight by any means.

One of My Turns

The next couple of songs are a bit strange for a rock concert due to the subject matter. “One of My Turns” opens with a film-projection of Pink’s girlfriend coming into the hotel room and doing her whole, “Oh my god, what a fabulous room!” monologue.

The song itself is very dark and melancholy at first, and while most of the audience seems to fade out at this point there are always a few cheers at the opening line: “Day after day, love turns gray, like the skin of a dying man.” I was surprised-but-not-all-that-shocked to hear the drunk American singing along to that, as he did…after all…have his wife right next to him.

I like the song for its sudden switch from melancholy to rage as the music picks up speed and Roger sings the angry lyrics: “Run to the bedroom, in the suitcase on the left you’ll find my favorite axe…” and runs around the stage. On Wednesday night when I was up in the stands he sang most of the song right in my direction, and I put my hands up and waved a lot in case he might notice. I think he might have because I was the only person in the section who appeared to be getting into it, and I’m pretty sure he pointed right at me when he sang, “Would you like to learn to fly?”

Don’t Leave Me Now

This is the darkest, most subdued song on the album and it’s almost hard to listen to, so it’s very strange and even a little uncomfortable to see it live. He’s singing about how desperately he wants his woman back in spite of how badly he treated her. There’s a picture of a woman’s face projected on the right side of the wall and as he sings lines like, “I need you, babe, to put through the shredder in front of my friends” or “to beat to a pulp on a Saturday night” blood starts pouring from her nose and eyes.

Ooooooh babe...I shouldn’t have been surprised at all, but when the American guy started singing along to this song I could hardly believe it. He even told his wife that it was his favorite part. On the other two nights the audience was a little disturbed by this, but here was a guy who was loving it. So on the one hand while it totally ruined the mood to have someone singing along enthusiastically to such a dark and disturbing piece of music, it was at least nice to know that someone was appreciating it.

But once he sings, “Why are you running away?” and the music picks up, the piece becomes extremely impressive visually as the inflatable wife drops down on the left and green slime appears to drip down the wall in a projection. It’s actually one of the most powerful visual moments of the first half of the show.

Another Brick in the Wall, Part III

Suddenly you hear the sound of a TV station switching, there’s a projection of a French guy on the TV apparently selling something, and this goes on long enough for you to get really annoyed by his face and voice. Then there’s the famous scream and the sound of something smashing against the screen. The channel switches to a brief clip of Barack Obama saying something about national security, something smashes the screen again, and it keeps dividing into smaller and smaller fragments with more and more stations blasting at once until one final smash gets the lyrics going:

“I don’t need no arms around me. And I don’t need no drugs to calm me.” Because they reprise the most famous song of the album and because they capture the entire meaning of the first half, I’ve always considered these to be among the most powerful lyrics on the whole album, and I sang along with them while making sure to appreciate their meaning. “I have seen the writing on the wall. Don’t think I need anything at all. No, don’t think I need anything at all! All in all it was all just bricks in the wall. All in all you were all just bricks in the wall.”

The Last Few Bricks

The climax of the first half of the show gets under way as this piece of music not-on-the-album Last few bricks (Mannheim photo)blares forth. It’s a completely instrumental number reprising “The Happiest Days of our Lives”, “Young Lust”, and “Empty Spaces” which as the title suggests provides enough time for the stage-hands to insert the last few bricks into the now almost-finished wall.

It’s a rousing piece of music that gets everyone going again after the last few more-subdued numbers, and visually it’s also one of the most remarkable. It looks as though some of the bricks are flying away even as they put more bricks in, and it was enough to make Oliver go “what the fuck?” before he realized it was just a projection.

Goodbye, Cruel World

I didn’t have a clear view of this iconic moment from the show on my first two nights because the angle was wrong, but from straight ahead I could see Roger singing the last few lines of the first half of the show through the last remaining hole in the wall. It’s a pretty powerful moment and would be even moreso if there wasn’t a bunch of “woo-woo”ing going on the whole time, and my drunk friend sucked up most of the potential for appreciating it by singing along loudly, but once Roger sings, “Goodbye all you people, there’s nothing you can say to make me change my mind…goodbye” and they put that last brick into place…you can’t help but feel chills.


On Wednesday night, the guy on my right who had come because he’d missed the Potzdamer Platz show twenty years earlier was clearly impressed by the first half of the show. When it was over he turned to me and said, “finish?” and I laughed because I thought he was joking. But when he didn’t come back during the second half, I realized that he’d probably thought that was the whole show. The poor guy had paid for the ticket and gone to all the trouble of coming there just to see a show he’d missed twenty years ago and now he missed the entire second half! It’s possible he found a better seat somewhere but he didn’t strike me as the type to go looking for one. I’m almost positive he left half-way through and while I feel bad for him, apparently he felt like he’d gotten his money’s worth anyway.

I can just picture him describing the show to his friends: “You’ll never believe it. They built an entire wall across the stage! It was incredible!” And if his friends know anything more about it, they’ll ask, “And how about when they knocked it down at the end of the show?” And he’ll say, “No, they didn’t knock it down,” to which they’ll respond, “Are you sure?” and he’ll say, “No, they just built the wall and it was over,” and they’ll say, “Um…we’re pretty sure the wall comes down at the end of the show…did you only stay for the first half?” And he’ll say, “There was a second half?” and then he’ll either break into tears or hysterical laughter.

Funnily enough, on Thursday night the people to Oliver’s right turned to ask him if that was the end of the show, so apparently people thought the first half was impressive enough to stand on its own as a complete show in its own right.

Intermission on Thursday was also when I talked to the American couple and made peace with the drunk guy, right before I embarked on a long and treacherous journey to the restroom.

During intermission the projections on the wall are all of pictures of people who died and sent in pictures and information about their lost loved ones to Roger who includes them in the show. It’s a really lovely thing to do, and I made sure to read about at least a few of them.

The wall at intermission (Mannheim photo)

On Thursday I also took some time before the second half started to explain to Oliver how the whole concept of The Wall stage-show came to Roger, how after the success of Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd started playing bigger and bigger gigs and the audience was composed less and less of true Pink Floyd fans and more of just generic rock-and-roll fans who were there for the spectacle and not really to listen to the music. Feeling increasingly cut off from the audience, Roger came up with the idea of actually building a wall between the band and the audience, and in the music made a more universally-appealing story by including different themes of isolation that work on a personal as well as a political level.

Oliver commented on how ironic it was that they were playing at this big corporate arena and all this capitalist-bullshit was going on when the show itself had a message that was very much against that sort of thing. Exactly.

Hey You

I feel like I’m writing this about almost every song, but “Hey You” really is one of my favorite songs from The Wall (it’s David Gilmour’s favorite, incidentally) so of course hearing it live is great. The only problem is that it starts before much of the audience has finished going to the bathroom and buying more beer, so people are continuing to flood back in throughout half the song.

There’s not much going on visually during this song either, as the entire band is behind the wall and there’s nothing but a still and solid projection of stone bricks across the wall to give it more texture. But there is a little animation going on during the awesome guitar solo in the middle, culminating with the famous lines: “But it was only a fantasy. The wall was too high, as you can see. No matter how he tried, he could not break free. And the worms ate into his brain.”

I sang along with my drunk American friend, now seated in the seat right next to me where I knew he would remain. He’d taken my hand as the song began and expressed his appreciation at being able to share the experience with a fellow fan. My feelings were mixed but if I was going to enjoy it I had no choice. “Together we stand. Divided we fall.”

Is There Anybody Out There?

A giant pair of eyes are projected on the wall and the spotlight shines down on random audience-members as the band sings the line “Is there anybody out there?” four times until the soft, lovely melody takes over.

Alone in the dark, it’s a much different song. When I was a teenager I’d ask myself “is there anybody out there?” and it had a real meaning to my lonely, isolated self. But here and now, there were lots of people “out there” and they clapped and cheered whenever the question was asked.

I made peace with the fact that this is what seeing The Wall live is like—it’s not going to be anything like it was when I first fell in love with the album and listened to it alone in the dark every night. While I may have been able to have a few fleeting flash-backs to the emotions of that time, this was an experience of an entirely different nature, and rather than lament what it might have been had I been able to see it during that period of my life, I should simply appreciate it for what it meant to me now.

Nobody Home

Another sad, slow song, this one dominated by piano. Part of the wall, the far-left part that’s already built even when the show begins, opens up to reveal a little mock-up hotel room with Roger seated on a chair in front of a table and a desk with a TV as he sings the song. “Got a little black book with my poems in…”

Got 13 channels of shit on the TV to choose from. This was actually most enjoyable for me on Wednesday night, as from my seat way off to stage-right I was much closer to Roger than I was from stage-center or stage-left as I’d been in Mannheim. As I snapped a few photos it occurred to me that it was probably the closest I had ever physically been to Roger Waters and the closest I’d ever be. When he turned around to sing to our section of audience I made sure to wave again, and to take note of the fact that this was the only time I could really make out his facial expressions with my naked eye.

Also from that vantage point I was able to see what was playing on the TV-screen, just some stock footage of warplanes that I then noticed was also being projected across the wall at large.


This is a beautiful song and probably the most under-appreciated of the album. It’s very short and very sad, with simple yet powerful words. “Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn? Remember how she said that we would meet again some sunny day?”

When I saw Roger on the Dark Side of the Moon tour with my friend Corey who loves this song, he played it as part of the encore and it was so unexpected that nothing will ever compare to the feeling we got then. Knowing that it was coming was something different.

But there’s a short little video I don’t understand that plays when he sings, “Vera, what has become of you? Does anybody else in here feel the way I do?” of a young girl in a classroom who starts off smiling and then suddenly bursts into tears, walks up to the teacher and wraps herself in his arms, apparently having just heard or witnessed something devastating. But the others in the video are still smiling, and the whole audience starts applauding. Not knowing the context I just found it to be a very moving little piece of video and I feel strong empathy for that girl, but maybe it’s a more well-known video and I’m just missing the point entirely because I don’t know the context.

Bring the Boys Back Home

When Roger played this during the Dark Side tour, I was so moved that I sang at the top of my lungs so loudly and strongly that I wouldn’t be surprised if Roger heard me all the way from on stage. I had wanted the American audience to listen to the fucking words and think about them, as their timeless and universal relevance is even more relevant to America today: “Bring the boys back home. Don’t leave the children on their own…no…no. Bring the boys back home.”

Again, knowing it was coming made it slightly less moving during the show, but the projection on the wall made it very powerful nonetheless. With scenes of war and destruction following one after another, a quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower is cut up and projected line-by-line across the wall between the scenes:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Powerful words, never more powerfully delivered.

Comfortably Numb

Just as your chills from “Bring the Boys Back Home” are subsiding, you hear the sound of knocking, the voices saying, “Hello? Time to go…he keeps hanging up…it’s a man answering…hello?…time to go…are you feeling okay?…” and the chills immediately start up again. The drunk American next to you says “time to go” and you take a deep breath. You hear the hum of the voices grow louder and louder drowning out the chaos until suddenly, one last “is there anybody out there?” and then…

The first note. The chills reach their maximum intensity. “Hello…hello…hello…is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anyone at home? Come on…come on…now…I hear you’re feeling down. I can ease the pain…get you on your feet again. Relax…relax…relax…I need some information first. Just the basic facts. Can you show me where it hurts?”

What can be said about the best song of all time performed in its full context live before your very eyes? It’s the best thing in the world, one of the most awesome and intense experiences that someone who appreciates the music as much as I do can ever experience.

The thing is—I’ve now seen it live seven times. The last three were at these shows, the time previously was The Australian Pink Floyd (if you want to say that doesn’t count, you’ve never seen them do it), before then were the two Dark Side tour shows—the second of which was the second-most intensely awesome concert experience of my life—and the very first was and always will be the most intensely awesome experience of my life, concert or otherwise: seeing the one-time-only Pink Floyd reunion at Live 8.

So unfortunately it loses a little bit of its power by the seventh time, but that’s not to say it doesn’t still reach deep into my soul and rip it into a billion tiny little shreds. It’s only to say that during the verses it’s harder to stay in the moment, to not think about the guy next to me, to not try and compare it in my head to all the other times I’ve seen it and to think about how the meaning has changed since all those years ago alone in the dark.

But when the final verse is sung it all comes around, because the difference in who I am between then and now is one of the elements of the song’s meaning, and recognizing how after all these years the song still holds such a revered place in my soul in spite of everything that’s changed is enough to put my mind right where it needs to be to appreciate the solo: “When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye…I turned to look but it was gone…I cannot put my finger on it now…the child is grown, the dream is gone. And I have become comfortably numb…”

From behind the wall, a singer rises on the left to sing the choruses, and the guitarist rises up to play the first instrumental and then the heavy guitar solo at the end—the most awesome piece of music of all time. I hadn’t seen them on my first night because my view was blocked, but when I noticed them on the second night I got chills. On the third night, seeing them both from straight on, it was something else entirely.

Roger moves around the stage and bangs at the wall as the solo gradually increases in intensity, and I’m sinking more and more into the music and squeezing out every ounce of appreciation I possibly can from what is likely to be the last time I’ll ever see it live (I’m greatly relieved that my drunk neighbor is lost in silent appreciation as well), and then the projected wall breaks open to reveal a shining sun behind as the song reaches its climax.

The most intensely-felt notes are always right at the very end when you know the solo is just about to wrap up and there are only a few seconds left before this incredible experience is transformed into a mere memory—a memory you’ll take with you for the rest of your life. When it is finally over, you (if you’re like me) immediately rise to your feet and applaud furiously, then turn to your friend and exchange a few “wow”s and “holy fucking shit, man”s.

That’s the highlight of the show, but it’s far from over.

The Show Must Go On

It’s almost impossible to follow “Comfortably Numb” with any other song, especially on the radio when it’s almost always something incredibly weak by comparison. When Pink Floyd without Roger went on tour it was usually an encore and usually followed by “Run Like Hell”, and when Roger went on tour he either followed it with a song called “Each Small Candle” which is brilliant or, on the Dark Side tour, that was simply the very last song.

But the only song that is a truly perfect follow-up to “Comfortably Numb” is “The Show Must Go On”. It’s nice and soft and melodic and lovely, the perfect lead-out from what came before and lead-in to what comes next.

In the show, this is the moment when most of the band now relocates to the front of the wall so you can see them for most of the rest of the show. You also get the additional verse which isn’t on the studio album but I know from the live album. It introduces the next part of the story in which Pink now descends into madness and sees himself as a fascist dictator. “It was just a mistake, I didn’t mean to let them take away my soul. Am I too old, is it too late? Where’s the feeling gone? Will I remember the song? The show must go on…”

In The Flesh

Roger Waters loves to perform this live. It was the opening song of the show on his last two tours, and it works well as an opener but even better in context. He’s there dressed in his fascist uniform, the wall is covered with awesome projections of the double-hammer emblem, and the spotlight shines on random members of the audience as he points them out and demands that they get “up against the wall.”

When he says, “If I had my way, I’d have all of you shot” he points to a few audience members, then takes out a fake gun and shoots at them during the end of the song. Ironically, the best vantage point for this was from my seat on the far upper right in Mannheim, as he seemed to be pointing and shooting directly at me.

We're gonna find out where you fans really stand.

It’s quite the spectacle, and it’s probably the most quintessential The Wall you can get—they even bring out the infamous Pig.. During this number you have to just take a step back and appreciate what you’re seeing, especially because you know it’s almost over.

Run Like Hell

After “In The Flesh” Roger steps up and asks, “Are there any paranoids in [insert name of city] tonight?” and a few random people cheer. I’m not a paranoid, so I don’t cheer, and apparently the drunk American isn’t paranoid either because he remains conspicuously silent. To those who do consider themselves paranoid, Roger says “this is for you. It’s called ‘Run Like Hell’” and the song begins.

Like “Young Lust” this is another song written partly by David Gilmour that works faaaar better in context than out of it. At this point in the show people are ready to get on their feet and clap along to what is really the last big rock-and-roll number of the show.

Oliver gets to his feet and claps along right with me, though the guy standing in front is a German guy who really isn’t into it at all and only stands up reluctantly when everyone else does. But his lack of enthusiasm is more than made-up-for by the over-enthusiasm of my drunk friend, whose presence I’ve now completely grown to appreciate (especially after his good behavior during “Comfortably Numb”).

There is a slight bit of awkwardness when it comes to rocking-out to a song like this however, which is augmented by one of the clips that gets played during the solo. It’s a clip I was actually already familiar with, a leaked video from an Apache helicopter in Baghdad that shows the gunner targeting and killing a couple of reporters whom they mistakenly believed had a weapon. From the video, (eventually made famous across the internet under the title ‘Collateral Murder’) it’s clear that the gunner acted impulsively and recklessly, that had he been just a little less trigger-happy he would have confirmed that those people were no threat to anyone. So after watching this tragic scene of two actual people getting killed, it feels very strange to immediately start clapping and dancing again, but there’s a certain artistic irony in that as well.

At the end of the song the names of the aforementioned victims—Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh—are projected onto the wall with the message, “We will remember you.” We certainly will.

Waiting for the Worms

This is another one of those under-appreciated but totally awesome numbers in the show, but it totally kicks ass and I love it. “You cannot reach me now, no matter how you try. Goodbye, cruel world, it’s over…walk on by.” It’s the last truly intense moment before the wall comes down, and it basically serves to make the transition from Pink’s fascist-dictator phase to the moment where he faces judgment. “Sitting in a bunker here behind my wall…waiting for the worms to come. In perfect isolation here behind my wall…waiting for the worms to come.”

All you have to do is follow the worms.

Another one of those iconic moments comes at the end when Roger is ranting and raving through the megaphone and the marching hammers are projected larger-than-life against the wall. That’s one of the most powerful animations of the The Wall film, and also one of the most simple (apparently it’s just eight drawings repeated over and over). Seeing it live is as awesome an experience as you can imagine.


Oh man, just thinking about the moment when the incredibly loud, incredibly intense marching beat of the previous song suddenly and without warning stops and the piano takes over for this brief little haunting melody…that’s one of the most awesome moments of the show as well.

“Stop!” Roger sings and everything gets dark and quiet. “I wanna go home!” my drunk neighbor sings so loudly that Roger can probably hear him. “Take off this uniform and leave the show. But I’m waiting in this cell because I have to know…” And I join him in singing the last line because I also have to know: “Have I been guilty all this time?”

The Trial

Some time during the marching hammers, so smoothly that nobody notices, they remove all the instruments from the front of the wall and now the stage is completely bare expect for Roger and his wall.

He moves around the stage and sings all the voices of the characters from the trial while the projection is, with just a few brief exceptions, the exact same animation from the film. “Good morning, Worm, your honour. The crown will plainly show the prisoner who now stands before you was caught red-handed showing feelings…showing feelings of an almost human nature…this will not do.”

"Call the schoolmaster!" The judge calls the schoolmaster who regrets not having “flayed him into shape” because his hands were tied by “the bleeding hearts and artists”.

Then during the “Crazy…toys in the attic I am crazy” part there’s a new animation as it look like the wall detaches from itself and spins around. I couldn’t see it from my vantage point the first two nights but on Thursday I could tell that Roger actually ducks to avoid the projected wall as it looks like it’s going to hit him while it spins.

The wife is called and she lambastes Pink for not talking to her often enough and for going his own way, and the mother comes in to beg the judge to let her take her baby home."Go on, judge! Shit on him!"

Finally, the judge—the giant ass—decides that “the evidence before the court is incontrovertible” and “there’s no need for the jury to retire.” The way Pink made his wife and mother suffer fills him “with the urge to defecate!” A funny little bit of animation that was cut from the film pops up now as another character pokes his head through the wall and cheers him on.

“Since, my friend,” the judge continues, “you have revealed your deepest fear, I sentence you to be exposed before your peers…tear down the wall!!!

It would have been awesome if the whole audience rose to their feet and started chanting “tear down the wall!” along with the pre-recorded voices from the album, but alas everyone remains seated. Roger runs around the stage, pumping his fists in the air, eliciting some fist-pumps from the crowd, until finally he exits to safety as the wall starts to sway, back, forward, back, and then finally the bricks start toppling over from the top of the wall to the bottom, crashing in a mess at the bottom of the stage.

Outside the Wall

The crowd immediately leaps to its feet in rapturous applause, which continues as the stage-hands push some of the bricks back to make room for the band to come out again and play the final song. Some sit down while they sing, but the true fans remain standing.

“All alone or in twos, the ones who really love you walk up and down outside the wall. Some hand in hand, 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.”

End of Wednesday's show.

More cheering, a bit more playing, the last two lines are repeated, and then it’s over. Roger thanks the crowd and the cheering and clapping goes on, then the music starts up one more time as each band member walks off the stage to Roger’s introduction and we clap for each of them individually.

Finally Roger thanks the people up on the left, and if it’s Wednesday I’m there to cheer and “woo-woo” when he does. Then he thanks some of the people on the floor and then looks straight ahead and thanks the people in the back. If it’s Thursday, that’s when I cheer and “woo-woo” the loudest. He thanks a few more people up front and then turns to those way up on the right and thanks them up there, and if it’s Friday in Mannheim that’s where I am from which to cheer and “woo-woo” before he finally walks off the stage and leaves.

End of Thursday's show.

If it’s Wednesday in Berlin the crowd stops clapping as soon as he’s gone and the lights go up almost immediately. But if it’s Friday in Mannheim or Thursday in Berlin, the crowd goes on cheering wildly for another five minutes, the sound not dying down at all, until the lights finally go up. On Wednesday Roger only told the audience, “You’ve been very warm and welcoming” but on Thursday he said, “You’ve been a great audience and that means a lot to us” so perhaps he could discern the differences in the crowd on both nights.

From back-stage I’m sure the band could hear us cheering until well after the end of the show and I hope they derive much satisfaction from that even after touring all this time.


Unfortunately there can be no encore because the stage is covered in wall-rubble, so when the show is over it’s over. After the lights went up on Thursday night I exchanged a few more words with my drunk American friend, whose name I then learned was Bob. Kind of a coincidence, as I remember talking to a Bob with Corey after our second Dark Side of the Moon show, though I suppose the odds of two random American Pink Floyd fans being named Bob are not that small. We learned he and his wife had been following the European tour for a couple of weeks but that this was their fifth and final show. I wouldn’t have minded seeing it five times either. Hell, I could have done ten or twenty…

Bob explained that he’s been a huge Floyd fan since he was a kid, but that he was only 18 when The Wall was on tour the first time and he missed it. He did see Pink Floyd without Roger Waters but that was the only Floyd show he’d seen before. He said he’d been to a lot of big concerts in his time but this was by far the best. I explained that I was a “next generation” Floyd fan, that I’d discovered The Wall as a teenager and it changed my life, and that I always regretted having never been able to see it live but that now I’d finally fixed that. I didn’t ask about his wife, but she at least enjoyed the music enough to go to these shows with her husband and put up with his behavior during them, so in that regard he’s clearly a lucky guy.

Oliver and I wished Bob and his wife a fond goodbye and then went our merry way. At one point we went out to the balcony of the arena and heard a street musician playing near the parking lot. I wondered if he was a band-member or roadie who just liked to randomly play for the audience as they left the shows, so we decided to check him out. At first I thought that’s what it might be because he didn’t have a hat or a cup or an empty guitar-case out to solicit donations, but after we’d been standing there for awhile and a decent crowd had gathered around him he stopped playing in order to solicit. “For those of you who have a little money and give, I thank you. For those of you who have nothing and give anyway, I really thank you. For those of you who have nothing and don’t give, I thank you anyway. But for those of you who have a little money but don’t give, I’m not gonna say anything because you know who you are.” Very effective. I gave him a few euros.

It was fun to watch him play there in the middle of the road as the cars and the taxis rolled right by, and he was pretty damned good too. Someone asked him to play “Stairway to Heaven” and he did the first couple of verses before getting too bored to continue. He mostly just kept playing a few lines from one song or another and then instantly juxtaposing it with a completely different song, playing everything from “Blue Moon” to “Smoke on the Water” to “No Woman, No Cry”. We stayed there and enjoyed it for about 20-30 minutes. A little encore of our own.

I won’t post the other videos because I don’t want to infringe on any copyrights, but that’s not an issue with this one:

Oliver and I hung out in the general vicinity for a few more hours before going to sleep at our hostel. He told me, as well as his girlfriend Lena when she called him on the phone, that it was easily the best live show he’s ever seen. He’s seen a lot of big concerts including Led Zeppelin and David Bowie, but he said they were shite compared to this.


As for my impression, I’d say The Wall was easily the most high-quality show I’ve ever seen, but I still enjoyed the Dark Side of the Moon concert with Corey more and I don’t think any show will ever top that. But seeing The Wall with Oliver was easily a close second and I don’t think anything ever will knock it out of that position.

I spent the whole next day and night with Oliver as we drove back from Berlin and I spent the night in Celle with him and his dog, having a very nice time as usual. We were going to cycle around the Steinhuder Meer on Saturday but the forecast called for rain so we had to postpone that, but it was a nice evening anyhow.

But I couldn’t escape the sadness that it’s over now. I’d been looking forward to those shows ever since I bought the tickets a year ago, it was great having them in my future, and now they’re in my past. But such is life. We can only move forward. The show must go on.

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