After reading the review of The Wall live at the L.A Sports Arena in 1980, I thought I'd send in my own review of another long-ago-but-not forgotten Pink Floyd concert at Wembley Stadium, London, 6/8/88. Rather than a song by song review, it's more a reflection on my feelings and reactions to it at the time - it was my first ever live concert experience and I was 17 years old.
I got into Pink Floyd through a friend in 1987 who reccommended A Momentary Lapse of Reason to me, which after buying and listening to then prompted me to go out and buy (literally) their entire back catalogue using the money from my first ever pay packet at my first ever job (and it was actually proper money in an envelope back then!) And so began my obsession with The Mighty Pink Floyd!
The same friend also told me Pink Floyd would be playing live at Wembley in summer 1988 (nearly a year away) and that we HAD to get tickets - and so we did!
During the course of the next year I devoured everything Pink Floyd (the way 16 year olds do I guess) until I was practically foaming at the mouth by the time August came round!
2 weeks before the concert I had motorcycle accident and ended up on crutches and spent 2 weeks sweating over whether I'd be off them in time for the show - which fortunately I was.
They played 2 nights - Fri. 5th and Sat. 6th August. We had tickets for the Saturday show but decided to go up on the Friday anyway to listen outside the stadium and take in the atmosphere - and it was brilliant! I remember walking up the long walkway to the famous Twin Towers in scorching hot sunshine and a guy selling knock off sunglasses saying "You'll need these to protect your eyes from those lasers mate!" Hundreds of fans were partying outside, listening to stereos, selling dodgy posters and t-shirts, singing and just having a great time - and this was before the show even started!
When the show did start, the roar of the crowd inside was huge! I had never been to a football match or anything resembling a large gathering of people before (the old Wembley held about 80,000 people at a push). The sound made my hair stand on end. You could hear the low rumble of Shine On starting up, sounding like thunder echoing through the walls and foundations of Wembley. All the fans outside were going mental, like they were actually watching the band. The whole thing was just total excitement.
As the show went on and got darker, we could see the lasers coming out of the roof of the stadium and recognised each song in the set. It was a great teaser trailer for our Saturday show! After the Friday show ended, thousands or ecstatic fans came flooding out which just lifted the atmosphere even higher. My friend and I along with hundreds of other fans ended up spending the night on the steps of Wembley (fortunately it was a hot summer) just partying the night away and getting hardly any sleep.
So, Saturday morning came and we had breakfast at a dodgy hot dog van (I bet they made a killing!) and already fans were arriving and the atmosphere was already great. I remember buying a programme and reading it from cover to cover, looking over the pictures of the screen / lasers etc and feeling the excitement buidling.
The fans entertained themselves until the doors finally opened at about 1pm and having to squeeze myself through Turnstiles D. Entering the stadium was like entering another world... you could see the haze in the massive stadium, like it had its own atmosphere. It was just huge and is still the largest building I have ever stood in. I remember looking to the right and at the end of the pitch, there it was - the round screen... and their massive stage set up. Seeing it all made me feel giddy. After a year of waiting I was here and was really going to see Pink Floyd live!
As we were among the first in the queue after camping out all night, we had the choice of pretty much anywhere in the stadium - and we ran straight down to the pitch, getting a place center stage about 50ft from the front barrier. Brilliant! The weather was again scorching and I remember looking out of the roof and not seeing a cloud in sight.
The stadium slowly filled up, Pink Floyd t-shirts EVERYWHERE and the crowd entertained themselves all afternoon, doing Mexican waves, singing and drinking. I remember thinking how mixed the crowd was; ages, accents, nationality, but the one thing everyone had in common was total excitement waiting for the start of the show. The crowd were getting louder and louder by the hour. At about 7:30pm the sound effects started - the tape they used to play with birdsong, flowing water, footsteps walking along a gravel path. This was it! This was the beginning! I remember it going on for a really long time, maybe half an hour and getting gradually louder until there was a sound effect of a plane flying over, and then at about 8pm....
Pink Floyd walked on stage! The "real" 3 Pink Floyd first, then the rest of the live band. The crowd noise was huge! You could hear it going round and round the huge oval stadium. The atmosphere was electric! I can remember looking at David Gilmour and having this really weird feeling of like, "there he is!" He was the first famous person I had ever seen, Nick and Rick were the first famous people I had ever seen - and the group were my total idols! I remember noticing weird mundane things, like DG wearing a watch, RW having a bottle of water on the keyboards, just everyday stuff, but in my head it had this weird new meaning - to associate these normal everyday objects with my total heroes! This feeling lasted for some time and I hadn't really noticed Shine On was slowly building up, and up, and UP! It just got SO LOUD! I can remember feeling the bass rumble in my stomach and just wondering how loud it would actually get! Then eventually, DG plays those first few notes.. and the crowd ROARS! This is it! Pink Floyd are playing and I am here!!
It was just magical. Everything I hoped it would be and more. They finished Shine on and then played pretty much all of Momentary Lapse. They had the Icarus figure fly out over the crowd during Learning to Fly. As it got darker they started using more lasers and the show just got bigger and bigger, I can remember feeling the heat of the flames on my face when they were bursting out of the stage to Dogs of War. The first half of the show finished and then there was a 20 minute interval. I can remember all the fans talking in total awe, including my fiend and me, and the excitement of knowing the second half of the show would bring all the classics!
At the time, One of These Days was my favourite song of theirs and after the interval, the wind sound effect started up and it was a feeling of "Yes! This is the real Pink Floyd and they're gonna play the "real" Pink Floyd songs!" At the time I loved Momentary Lapse, but it was the second half of the show that was really going to light up the crowd.
You could hear the famous bass line (wish it had been Roger, but dodgy Guy Pratt would have to do) booming out around the stadium, all the fans clapping along, and then it came to the last few bars before the Doctor Who middle section and 2 large bright lights appear stage right behind the equipment and start to slowly rise up, and up, and up... then.. hold on a minute! It's a face! It's THE PIG! And then he was up and off, floating above the crowd (with his new rather large appendage for legal reasons...). He was rocking back and forth quite violently with his searchlight eyes scanning the crowd. I remember being totally overwhelmed by the whole experience at this point; the atmosphere, my favourite band, my favourite song, the volume, the crowd noise, the weather, the night sky and the whole weekend. I remember crying and laughing at the same time (I've got a lump in my throat remembering it now). It was just the best moment in any show I've ever been to.
They then played all the classics including Time (Nick's glowing drum sticks!) Money (cash register sound effects all in quad), Welcome to the Machine (I remember being transfixed by Gerald Scrafe's scary metal dinosaur / sea of blood animation), On the Run (flying bed exploding on stage was brilliant!), Great Gig in the Sky (the girls sounded great), Another Brick Pt.2 among others. Wish You Were Here was also another emotional moment and also the biggest karaoke moment! Comfortably Numb sounded epic (so was the mirrorball in front of the screen!) and for me it always represents Roger and David's Last Great Moment. They finished with One Slip and then encored with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink effects laden Run Like Hell. The lights around the circumference of the screen exploded with the very last note and that was it. All the band took a bow at the front of the stage among the smoke and waved their goodbyes. I remember watching every one of them leave the stage waving and watching them as long as I could see them.
I remember frantically saying to my friend, "Do you think we'll see them again?! Do you think we will see them again?!" and we did.. on the tours in 1989, the Knebworth show, Roger doing The Wall in Berlin, the 14 nights at Earls Court in 1994 (the end??) and then Roger's new Wall show in 2011/12.
I've been to hundreds of gigs and festivals since 1988, but that first ever show will always be the best. It was the total high point of my long obsession with Pink Floyd and one of my greatest ever memories. It was the start of my adult life, but I was still young enough to go home that night and stay up for ages telling my mum and sisters every little detail (they were very patient and could see I was going nuts about the whole experience). My ears were still ringing about 3 days after the show...
I've bored many people with this story, and now any of you lot out there in internet land who might be reading this - sorry if it's too long... but hey, I'm at work and it's Friday and I felt like typing this :) The whole experience was utterly life changing.
If Roger does do another round of The Wall in 2013, anyone who hasn't seen him yet should go. This will probably be the last chance to ever get a taste of a really authentic, large scale Pink Floyd show. For me they will always be my favourite ever band and they must be the greatest live band of all time. I don't think we will ever see their kind again.