Roger Waters-The Wall: Live in Berlin (1990)

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Released 27-May-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio & Animation
Booklet-"Behind The Wall"
Featurette-"Behind The Wall"
Featurette-"Unseen Footage"
Featurette-"Animations"
Gallery-Production stills
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 110:18
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (52:48) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Roger Waters
Jonathan Park
Ken O'Neill
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Roger Waters
Scorpions
Bryan Adams
Joni Mitchell
Van Morrison
Thomas Dolby
Ute Lemper
Marianne Faithful
Albert Finney
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Roger Waters


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In a word, Wow! What a spectacle. This has to be one of, if not the, very largest one-off rock concert events of all time. Boasting an estimated audience of 350,000 people (they stopped selling tickets at 250,000 and simply took down the gates, for fear of crush/riots), a massive 300m wide stage and a scale of audio and visual production that leaves one awestruck. Plus, this concert features an (almost) complete beginning-to-end live rendition of what must undoubtedly be the most popular and successful rock "concept album" of all time. (Argue "Dark Side Of The Moon" in terms of record sales if you like, but "The Wall" simply dwarfs it in terms of sheer scale, execution and cohesiveness of the concept). Add to all this some truly spectacular live theatrics, drawing on concepts from both the original album and stage versions of this show and the successful 1982 film version. And then finally, on top of all of the above, add what must be the most powerfully direct metaphor for the time at hand - a wall symbolising the Wall, personal alienation symbolising political alienation - and stage it in a truly historic location, and you have the makings not only for a mammoth event, but one that more than any other successfully captures a feeling of global euphoria and newfound hope epitomised by the fall of the Berlin Wall just eight months prior, in November 1989. This concert is forever etched in my memory and will be forever associated in my mind with the most important historical event to have taken place so far in my lifetime. To me, this concert stands as an important chronicle of a period of world history that I was lucky enough to live through - the demolition of the Berlin Wall and the period of the "wind of change".

    I have always appreciated Roger Water's concept of "The Wall" since its initial release in 1979. To me, this magnum opus remains unsurpassed for the intelligence of its symbolism and depth of its song writing. It is highly appropriate and satisfying for me then, that of all projects that could have possibly come to fruition in 1990 as a celebration for the official end of the Cold War, that it should be this material, staged here on this scale that is chosen to successfully capture the mood of the time. The analogy of the material for the times is obvious and the mood of understanding is palpable. When the final act is played and the refrain "Tear down the wall!" is echoed and cheered by 350,000 people, I ask you who could not be moved?

    For those who may not be aware, Potsdamer Platz, where this concert was staged, is highly symbolic ground for several reasons. First, less than a year prior to the concert taking place, this ground was the effective "no-man's land" between the two Walls dividing East and West Berlin. It was heavily fortified and desolate space, standing as a stark reminder of the futility and hopelessness of a situation that could lead to the division not only of a city, but metaphorically the world. Potsdamer Platz was the sacred land where countless East Berliners had died between 1961 and 1989 in desperate attempts to run the gauntlet to the West and to democracy. If this didn't make it hallowed ground enough for the staging of this concert in this particular spot, the documentary featurette on this DVD also explains that when organisers were minesweeping the site in preparation for the concert, an excavation revealed a former SS bunker located here, believed to be the very site where Adolf Hitler ended his life at the end of World War II. Amazing, but true.

    A word about the performances of the artists in this concert. Some people have dismissed the success of this concert on the basis that the artists' interpretation of these well known songs strays too much from Roger Waters' original reading, leaving something to be desired. I must admit that I do find one or two renditions quite jarring, and for me the highest cringes are Van Morrison's sacrilegious staccato reading of the Comfortably Numb chorus (fine singer though he is otherwise) and Cyndi Lauper's unexpected and murderous assault on Brick Part II. But countering these two efforts, there are in my opinion far more good readings than bad, for example Ute Lemper's thoughtful The Thin Ice, Paul Carrack's tentative Hey You, The Scorpions' rocking In The Flesh? and Bryan Adams' brilliant nailing of Young Lust, to name a few. Most artists, like Bryan Adams, The Scorpions, Thomas Dolby and Paul Carrack, all understand exactly what this event was about and simply nailed their parts in the show. And Roger Waters himself of course delivers a technically faultless performance to bring the whole show together. What must be admired here - for better or for worse - is Roger's relaxed attitude that if you invite different artists in to do readings of your material, then you have to be willing to step back and let them perform it as they see fit, rather than impose exactly how it "should be done". It's great to see that he is not nearly so precious about his own material that he can't let go and let the artists run with it - even if many of the fans aren't quite so forgiving of anyone straying from the original.

    It is also important to acknowledge that, yes, there is more than a fair share of theatrics and miming going on in this concert and clearly not all of the artists are playing their instruments all of the time - that's why Roger's Bleeding Hearts Band is there behind the wall, doing the real playing admirably. Some of the more obvious examples of artists miming to The Bleeding Hearts Band behind them are Thomas Dolby's theatrics during Brick Part II, Bryan Adams "guitar" work in Young Lust (thank goodness he is significantly better at singing than he is at pretending to play an unplugged guitar!), The Scorpions' second run at In The Flesh (obviously miming, after having just stepped out of the limo and not plugged in), and the miming of several actors to their pre-recorded vocals during The Trial sequence. But whilst the concert could be faulted for these elements, the overriding point to note is that this concert is much, much more than just a straight reading of Roger Waters' masterpiece. It is about much more than just trying to achieve a faithful live version of each individual song. It is of course about the huge spectacle of a show that embodies the symbolism of building and then knocking down a 20m high by 300m long "brick" wall within two hours in front of 350,000 people. It is about a final and now optimistic reading of a musical work that was originally written in a darker world. On all these levels, this concert not only achieves, but excels. Thank goodness this significant event was recorded at the time and thank goodness it has now been cleaned up and faithfully transferred to DVD for posterity.

    The track listing and legend for the artists follows below. In case you are wondering where The Tide Is Turning comes from, this is the closing song from the (very strange) 1987 Roger Waters solo album "Radio Kaos". The song was originally written about the optimism following Live Aid in 1985 and whilst the lyrics are completely unrelated to the writing of "The Wall", this track couldn't be better suited as the closing encore for the concert.

    Legend for artists is as follows. Note this does not include the theatrical performers, during for example Brick Part II or The Trial.
1 = Roger Waters
2 = The Bleeding Heart Band
3 = Scorpions
4 = Ute Lemper
5 = Cyndi Lauper
6 = Sinead O'Connor
7 = Joni Mitchell
8 = Bryan Adams
9 = Paul Carrack
10 = The Rundfunk Orchestra & Choir
11 = The Military Orchestra of the Soviet Army
12 = Van Morrison
13 = The Company

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Track Listing

1. In The Flesh? (3)
2. The Thin Ice (4+1)
3. Another Brick In The Wall PartI (1)
4. Happiest Days Of Our Lives (var)
5. Another Brick In The Wall PartII (5
6. Mother (6+2)
7. Goodbye Blue Sky (7)
8. Empty Spaces (8+1)
9. Young Lust (8+2)
10. One Of My Turns (1+2)
11. Don't Leave Me Now (1+2)
12. Another Brick In Wall PartIII (1+2)
13. Goodbye Cruel World (1)
14. Hey You (9+2)
15. Is There Anybody Out There? (10)
16. Nobody Home (1)
17. Vera (1+10)
18. Bring The Boys Back Home (10+11)
19. Comfortably Numb (1+12+2)
20. In The Flesh (3+1+2)
21. Run Like Hell (1+2)
22. Waiting For The Worms (1+2)
23. Stop (1)
24. The Trial (actors+10)
25. Encore: The Tide Is Turning (13)

Transfer Quality

Video

    Being a 1990 analogue video shoot for TV broadcast, you would not expect perfect visuals and you certainly don't get them. However, the source material has been cleaned up and does look appreciably better than its previous VHS presentation. This is as good as this material is ever going to look, having received a careful transfer to DVD.

    The video transfer is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1, full frame.

    Sharpness and shadow detail suffer from the analogue video source, and this is only exacerbated by what is a very trying filming environment, a night-time outdoor rock concert under harsh spotlights and extreme contrast conditions. Low level noise is an inevitable consequence of this, and can be seen particularly with the low-light shots panning across the crowd or long shots of the stage with the night sky backdrop. As a few examples, see the pans starting at 18:28, 25:32 or 29:41. Sharpness in the image in many stage shots and pull-backs suffers from poorly defined or bleeding outlines, due to the video source material. Yet it must also be said that many of the closer images shot by the various steady cams on the stage right there in front of the performers looks quite nicely defined. Shadow detail by and large doesn't really stand a chance in this shoot, but to a certain degree it is not really relevant here anyway, as owing to the night-time outdoor shooting environment most images are either directly lit under harsh spotlight or else completely in the dark of night.

    Colour is pretty good (well, for analogue video). There are many bold and contrasting colours on display and for the most part (again, this is mostly the closer shots) colours are well serviced in this transfer. Of course the blacks are nowhere near solid, as analogue video and night time are not good bedfellows. Skin tones, when they do appear outside of the harsh coloured lighting, are surprisingly quite satisfactory (see Nobody Home).

    I did not note any apparent MPEG artefacts. What sometimes appears to be posterization in the images of some facial close-ups is I'm pretty sure just reflective of the amount of grain in the low-light source footage. Film-to-video artefacts are also not an issue. There are not even any substantive instances of aliasing on my setup, with all the usual culprits in a live concert environment, such as guitar strings and stage outlines, kept well controlled. Film artefacts (here source artefacts) are the problem. We have minor colour bleed and chroma noise evident throughout the feature (pick a scene), and ghosting and burning out of the image from the old tube-technology TV cameras used (for example in the camera covering the close up of Klaus Meine from 2:22 onwards, or when Cyndi Lauper runs on stage at 12:26 and at 14:27).  

    There are no subtitle languages available for the main feature. A lost opportunity to include a lyric sheet and broaden the potential audience for this title.

    The disc is RSDL formatted and the layer change has been for once very logically and appropriately placed smack-bang in the middle of the concert, during a screen fadeout at 52:48, after Roger has built his wall at the end of the first half of the concert and before the second half of the concert commences from behind the wall. If there is a score for thoughtful layer change, then this disc scores 5 stars.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer on this DVD is very effective in enhancing the scale of the event, albeit that the quality remains limited by the original source recordings and, to a lesser degree, a decision made in mixing the vocals for the new 5.1 track.

    There are two audio tracks on the disc, a default Dolby Digital 5.1 track (at full bitrate 448 kb/s) and a Dolby Digital 2.0 track (at 256 kb/s). I reviewed the default track.

    Vocals are for the most part quite clear and prominent in the mix, but the only complaint is that the vocals refrain from being more impacting in the latter half of the concert, owing to the quality of the original source recordings, and not helped by a decision made in the new 5.1 mixing (both points discussed next paragraph). It is to be expected that in a concert where there are so many different performers of varying singing styles and vocal strengths coming and going, there will some variability in the decipherability and strength of delivery of the vocals, however as a general comment the concert engineers can be congratulated for a great job in keeping all the different vocalists relatively clear and well balanced. I did not note any issues with audio sync.

    The quality of the live mix is on the whole quite successful, but the main complaint is it remains a bit reserved and is ultimately constrained by limitations in the original source recording/mixing. The first thing to note is that the concert sound can be a bit bright and harsh at times; if you listen to the guitar solo in Brick Part I or the acoustic-electric guitar in Mother you will hear what I mean. Next there is a tendency for the mix to get a bit muddied in parts, either in the vocals or in the instruments starting to become woolly. This problem really only manifests over the latter half of the concert, where the songs involve much more orchestration and marching bands and more "wall of sound". (The first half of the concert, in comparison, involves more paired down song compositions and the mix is perfectly fine here.)  The muddiness in the vocals evident in latter tracks like Bring The Boys Back Home and In The Flesh is not helped by a deliberate decision made in mixing the new 5.1 track to not dedicate the centre channel for vocals, but instead diffuse the vocals into the left and right front channels. The centre channel is used instead more subtly for drums and percussion. The dispersion of vocals away from centre channel and into the front mains is of course a technique employed in many a live concert 5.1 mix, and usually to healthy effect (for example it worked well in the Roger Waters In The Flesh DVD mix). The technique was probably employed in The Wall Live DVD in a desire to expand the front soundstage in line with the huge concert stage and the grandness of the event. That makes sense. However in doing so it also reveals a limitation in the source recordings, with the vocals tending to become swamped by the orchestration and instrumentation at times. This could arguably have been overcome if the vocals had the benefit of a dedicated audio channel, or more simply had the vocals just been bumped up a touch louder within the mix. As it is, the result of the mixing is a vocal presence that just is a bit too wide and thin in some songs.

    The instruments level mixing in the 5.1 track is by and large successful. Guitars are for the most part adequately loud, and their delivery impresses very well in tracks like Hey You, the Comfortably Numb solo, One Of My Turns, Empty Spaces and Young Lust. The guitars do remain a bit reserved in the mix in a couple of other songs, though. The drums sound fine throughout the concert - not an intimate drum sound as such, but nor would it have sounded so live in this huge stage set up, so the mix is appropriate. It is with the bass and use of reverb that this DVD mix delivers in spades, and the subwoofer is utilised fairly constantly and effectively in tracks like Goodbye Blue Sky (nice rumble), Brick Part I, Empty Spaces and Don't Leave Me Now. Overall it is an audio transfer delivering a healthy dynamic range.

      Surround activity also scores very well in this transfer, with the rears delivering healthy doses of audience noise and ambience, giving an effective front to back balance. As with the efforts put into the previous Floyd / Waters DVDs, The Wall and In The Flesh, you will be pleased to know that an equally impressive effort has been invested into the use of the surround channels again here. The rears are used for all manner of original studio-recorded sound loops and tape effects. Eerie cries, background TV voices, sound effects and vocal echoes can be heard clearly and precisely localised in left-rear and right-rear throughout, all of them timed to perfection in the relevant songs just where you listen out for them and know they should. Chalk up yet another outstanding example of localised surround sound effects mixing for the Pink Floyd DVD collection.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

   The main extra of note is a half-hour featurette documentary, which provides valuable insight and context to this mammoth event.

Menu

    All menus are in the appropriate aspect ratio of 1.33:1, commensurate with the feature and extras. The main menu and most of the sub-menus are animated. As you would expect from the superb menu design that went into the previous Pink Floyd / Roger Waters DVD releases, the effort that has gone into the menu design for this DVD is just great; very well themed indeed. An immediately striking aspect of the main menu is the full-on Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio; it is a very eerie and atmospheric mix of The Happiest Days Of Our Lives. This main menu audio goes on for a good five minutes or so before looping, and it is worthwhile just letting it run and listening to it in full before continuing on to the feature or other menus. Other menus are also scored with instrumental extracts from the concert, and all are highly effective. Pink Floyd / Roger Waters always scores top marks in my book for DVD design and attention to detail; this disc is no exception.   

Booklet

    A 12 page booklet, giving the full concert performance credits, some (poor quality) pictures and a short essay written by Tony Hollingsworth (the concert producer). The essay gives some background on how the event was produced and how the various artists approached. One interesting little fact to come out of this essay is that both Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker were initially approached for the event.

Featurette "Behind The Wall" (29:21)

    I must admit that I was a little bit disappointed not to see a longer running time for this extra, as given it is billed on both the back cover of the disc and in the extras menu as a "documentary", I was expecting slightly longer. However there is certainly a lot packed into this half hour and this extra alone scores highly in achieving the objective of DVD extras to provide insight into the main feature.

    The featurette starts off with a great little 5 minute summary of the historical events surrounding the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and what led to its demolition in November 1989. This is a mixture of archival black and white newsreel style footage and colour video, all good quality for what it is. The featurette then launches into a series of interview extracts with Roger Waters, Gerald Scarfe, Tony Hollingsworth and others, interspersed with footage of Potsdamer Platz before the concert, as well as footage from both the concert itself and the filmed dress rehearsal concert the day before. Fascinating little insights to come out of the Roger Waters interview include  the fact that the first third of the concert was plagued by power outages, with the concert grinding to a complete halt during Mother, as the concert audio was cut! (this little "technical hiccup" in front of 350,000 people having been cleverly edited out of the TV broadcast and was hitherto unknown). It is worthwhile watching this featurette first before the concert, as it will give a better context when watching it.

    This featurette comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, good quality video and also comes with English, German, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitle language options. Strange seeing not one of these subtitle languages adorned the main feature.

Featurette "Unseen Footage" (6.36)

    No, this is not unseen footage of the concert, as the title suggests. It is instead a rather strange featurette. Coming cold, with absolutely no introduction or explanation, this is unedited footage of what appears to have been scripted as a mock mini-drama, shot for the purpose of having some fresh "The Wall-inspired" dramatic footage to project during the actual concert. It seems to be "loosely inspired" by concepts from the original film and music, and looks suspiciously like some film-student was given carte blanche to go off at a tangent with their own "interpretation" or "dramatisation" of what the music meant to them. Anyway, if you figure it all out, then please let me know too!  It's interesting enough, but very weird and unrelated. Roger was obviously so impressed in the end when he got to reviewing this finished footage that he promptly did not find room to show 95% of it during the concert!   

    This featurette comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and decent quality video.

Featurette "Animations" (5:28)

    This extra comes without audio. It is a montage of Gerald Scarfe's original animation for the 1982 film of The Wall, shot against a moving backdrop of the Berlin Wall, replete with the graffiti and posters that decorated it just prior to its falling. (Note this montage was the footage projected up against the huge polystyrene wall during the second half of the concert.)  It is interesting to see this footage in more detail here in isolation as an extra.

Stills Gallery (27 stills)

    Broken down into four sections, sketches (6 stills), set design (6), character designs (5) and projections (10), and also with a handy "play all" option, this featurette provides some nice insight into how the concert stage itself was planned and designed. A worthy inclusion as an extra, as I for one was very interested to see just how this huge event was planned and conceived, and these technical and design drawings give an idea.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This music title has been multi-zoned and specified the same for worldwide release. Opt for Region 4 for price and the superior PAL resolution.

Summary

    Much more than just a Pink Floyd concert, and more than just one of the biggest rock concerts of all time, the staging of this one-off event in 1990 still beggars belief for its sheer scale of production. A highly appropriate and symbolic final staging of this rock masterpiece, this remains an ultimately moving experience no matter how many times you watch it.

    Video has been well preserved and is now presented on DVD to the extent the original source materials allow. The new 5.1 surround audio mix for DVD is, overall, very successful. Extras are rewarding.

    As an event-DVD, this is a must have for your collection. As a rock concert DVD, this is a must have for your collection. As a historical snapshot successfully capturing the optimism of an important time in our lifetime, this is a must-have for your collection.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Friday, July 18, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationElektra Home Theatre surround power amp
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
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