Monday, 7 November 2016
Pink Floyd: Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part Three 1990-2015
(Universal, July 1990)
"Who holds the aces, the East or the West?"
Roger and his big mouth! Asked whether he'd ever revive The Wall at a later date after a paltry four shows he made a statement that must have seemed pretty safe back in the early 1980s: 'There's no way I'll perform The Wall again while the real-life Wall still exists in Berlin'. As well know, the events of 1988-1989 saw the Russian bloc crumble and the Berlin Wall torn down, so of course there were calls for Pink Floyd to come back and stage it all over again. Even in the height of hope and political brotherhood the full Floyd were too closely at each other's throats for that to ever happen, but as the chief writer no one could block Roger staging his own version and he was eager to replace his former bandmates with as many guests as possible. Which makes sense as a money-making spectacle, but even further distances Roger from what is perhaps his most personal work and already sounded occasionally odd in the hands of Gilmour and co. Oddly perhaps for such a joyous moment, tempers reportedly frayed backstage (Roger saving his biggest ire for Sinead O'Connor', who dared to ask whether she could alter the arrangement of 'Mother' ever so slightly - he was merciless in the press considering she gave her time for free) and Waters was at the peak of his megalomaniac years (which you can actually see if you own the DVD and star into the guest artist's cowed eyes, eager for Roger's praise - yes he really is turning into 'Pink' here), so this is not quite the happy singalong you expect (well, not until 'The Tide Is Turning', the finale of Roger's last album 'Radio KAOS' which is an intriguing alternative to 'Outside The Wall'). In fact it's rather symbolic that by the time this show was ready all the wall had been torn down so a small portion of it had to actually be re-built for this show, Roger re-encasing his old feelings by a wall.
To be fair, you can see why he'd get cross in some circumstances because the guest stars - the main reason for buying this work - done' exactly add a great deal to proceedings. The Scorpions miss the irony of 'In The Flesh?', Bryan Adams misses the fun of 'Young Lust', Van Morrison misses the layers of 'Comfortably Numb', Cyndi Lauper clearly doesn't understand the wider subversive nature of 'Another Brick In The Wall' and Paul Carrack makes a hash of 'Hey You', while Joni Mitchell understands 'Goodbye Blue Sky' all right but struggles singing a song so alien to her own style. Only Sinead, who clearly identifies with 'Mother' (though she gamely sings it the way Roger wants after all) and Jerry Hall as the under-used demented groupie who leers 'wanna take a bath?' feel like the right sort of casting; everyone else has been chosen either at random or because Roger wants another Roger on stage - alas he's still doing most of his parts, it's David's he mainly wants to re-assign. To be fair, the actual band are excellent and are much enhanced by two costly additions who really add to the drama and epic scale of this event: The East Berlin Radio Choir who after decades in a colds war combine forces with The Soviet Orchestra for the War memories 'Vera' and 'Bring The Boys Back Home', which have never sounded better. As for Roger himself, he starts off well in the first half, with alternating between manic and gloomy as the song's demand, but gets rather far into the skin of his character during the 'Nazi' phase of side two, which given that Berlin was a major rallying point for Hitler's rallies just a half century before must have been pretty uncomfortable for the older members of the crowd (not already put off by 'In The Flesh'). Though designed in good faith and raising great amounts of money for good causes in both ticket and record sales (mainly The Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief), there's something slightly cold and distasteful about this version , which only dares to match the Floyd's own performances in a couple of places. Of course back in 1989 the live Floyd version wasn't out yet which made this record a lot more valuable at the time - unless you're a big fan of one of the guesting artists though, this is dispensable now that you can buy 'Is There Anybody Out There?'