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Roger Waters The Wall Live In Berlin Special Edition
Roger Waters The Wall Live In
Berlin Special Edition DVD
Further to our news items (and competition) relating to the recently released Special Edition of Roger Waters Live In Berlin 1990 on DVD, a Brain Damage regular has taken time out to give the title a full review.

The DVD, released in seemingly limited quantities on 18th October 2004 worldwide (with the US receiving the title on 19th October), includes a number of new features:

  • New widescreen version of Roger Waters legendary concert
  • New DTS 5.1 Surround Sound (in addition to Dolby 5.1 surround sound and stereo)
  • Special multi-audio option on "Goodbye Blue Sky" and "In The Flesh", which enables the viewer to select different sections of the audio to listen to
  • Behind the Wall documentary complete with subtitles
  • Animated picture gallery
  • Gerald Scarfe's original animated stage projections
  • Revised menus and artwork, released in a special digipak
but how does it fare when put under the critical spotlight? Graham Hignett looks at the DVD and does a comparison to the previous version...

WHAT IS IT?

It is the most spectacular and mind-blowing concert you will ever see. Well, its more of a performance really and takes Pink Floyd's awesome 'The Wall' gigs to a new level. It's got stretched limos, huge inflatable characters, abseiling soldiers, tellys thrown through windows, and much more.

Filmed in Berlin in 1990, this concert has now been upgraded from the original 4:3 (aspect ratio) DVD to anamorphic 16:9 so that we can witness this event in glorious widescreen (although there is a caveat to this - as noted later in this review).

THE CONCERT ITSELF

Roger Waters Live In Berlin SE DVDA fantastic start is attributed to 'The Scorpions' who drive onto the stage in a stretched limo with mini parachutes falling all around them and fireworks exploding in the sky above them, and that’s only the first few minutes of a 110 minute show.

I will try not to go into too much detail but it is difficult not to, as this show is just packed with moments that make you think... "wow, they took a chance doing that".

So, straight into 'The Thin Ice' sung brilliantly by the stunning German classical singer Ute Lemper with Roger Waters dueting towards the end of the song.

Going through to 'The Happiest Days Of Our Lives', if like me you were listening to a 5.1 surround sound system, you will be treated to the thundering helicopter sounds flying all around you. Cue a cheesy but definitely worthwhile shot of Roger in a helicopter shouting the "...stand still laddy" line at the crowd and we eventually slip into 'Another Brick Part 2'.

Now, this concert IS the ultimate eye-popping experience, of this there is no doubt. But my views on the artists’ interpretations of the songs will not be so agreeable with everyone’s tastes. So when reading this, you can make your own mind up I suppose, but I will give you some reasons why I think certain performances are good and some are dire.

Out of the dark runs Cyndi Lauper wearing a crazy long wig, her dancing and antics showing that she is enjoying the show already. It has been said by some that getting Lauper to sing Another Brick Part 2 was a bad move. I disagree, bearing in mind that this was a show and not a straight stand up and sing affair, she did a great job of entertaining the huge crowd. Pulling her blouse off to reveal the skimpy silkies underneath was a master move and she acted out the rebellious undertones of the song perfectly. She even ran around various parts of the stage dancing with the musicians for the last few instrumental minutes of the song. Not something I would casually listen to, but this performance fitted snugly in the set.

Roger Waters Live In Berlin SE DVDNow then... 'Mother'. From one extreme to another. I have also heard some heavy crits about 'Sinead O'Connor', and I agree that looking at the floor throughout her static performance was a little odd. Although I don't think this song calls for a great deal of visuals by the singer, looking at the floor made her look a little withdrawn from the show and to me, it seemed as though she didn't really want to be there. Having said that, and as much as I do not like the woman anyway, she does have a great voice and sung Mother very well indeed.

'Goodbye Blue Sky' by Joni Mitchell should have been renamed Goodbye Joni Why. She should have not bothered hailing a Big Yellow Taxi that day as I thought this short piece was wrecked by Joni. She even looked as though she didn't know the song; she looked bewildered I honestly don't think this worked at all.

But, we are saved! The version of 'Empty Spaces' that should have been on the original album is opened by 'Bryan Adams'. I think this is an awesome song and Adams does it great justice. Roger joins him on vocals and the concert gets a strong boost as Adams steps forward from behind the partially built wall onto the main stage and sings an equally brilliant version of 'Young Lust'.

The engineers throughout all this are continuing to build the wall, first laying frames and then filling the frames with the bricks. This is slowly done by hand and by crane and is mesmerising to watch and it is done very subtly.

With comic-book images of the 'rockstar pad' being displayed onto the huge white wall, on strolls Jerry Hall and squeals the '...what a fabulous room...' lines. She looks like she just fell off the Christmas tree but is tasty all the same. Although, I would have preferred to see Ute Lemper back on stage in her figure hugging white dress.

A pan across the crowd and a long shot that slowly creeps forward accompanies the start of 'One Of My Turns'. By now, the wall is very much complete except there seems to be an illuminated gap in the upper left hand corner. As the camera zooms in, we see the set of the hotel room/rockstar pad and Roger sitting in his comfy armchair. As the song progresses, the view switches to a camera inside the room and we get a first hand look at Roger trashing the room by throwing a guitar, TV and lamp out through the glass windows of the room. This is all very convincing and looks awesome. Remember that this is a set built into another huge set makes the sight even more special.

Roger Waters Live In Berlin SE DVDShortly to follow is 'Another Brick Part 3' which sees Roger back down at the base of the wall which by now only has a few bricks missing to allow Roger to step through it. One of the many classic Roger moments follows as he belts out the song and gives the camera a growly hard stare - brilliant! After performing this album so many times, it is great to see Roger displaying so much dedication and visual performance to the songs. The times when Roger gives the camera a purposefully scary or aggressive look always brings a smile to my face, because he does it so well.

Retreating back to the rear side of the wall, Roger then, with bass in hand, gives us 'Goodbye Cruel World' as the engineers put the last few bricks in the wall... all except one brick. You are now only just about able to see Rogers head through the small gap but as he says the final "...goodbye' the final brick is placed and the wall is complete. The crowd go wild and the camera treats us to a full shot of the completed wall.

And thats only the first half!

With the wall fully built, part 2 open with a great version of 'Hey You' by Paul Carrack. This song is performed completely behind the wall and hidden from the audience. Carrack seems to be another artist who gets into the swing of the songs very well. It is very strange to see it all being performed behind the wall and out of sight to everyone except the cameras.

Next we see huge spotlights sweeping above the crowd as 'Is There Anybody Out There' kicks in. The first half of this song sounds amazing on the 5.1 Dolby track.

'Nobody Home' sees a small set outside the wall and Roger relaxed in his chair. This set and most others for the 2nd part of the show are raised up the wall, presumably so that the crowds can see what is going on. This sparse set is not overdone, it seems with a simple tall lamp and T.V. set scenarios from the wall are instantly recognisable. Cue another manic stare from Roger as he calmly sings about his "...wild staring eyes".

Again, keeping in part with the character from the film, we get the obligatory rocking motion in the seat and a final bow of the head when the song is complete. This is a stunning song that is served well by some great camera shots, the best of which sweeps out away from Roger, moves over the top of the wall to reveal the band and other artists behind then zooms in on them.

Roger Waters Live In Berlin SE DVDWith people pouring onto the huge stage from the left and right, Roger then continues with 'Vera'. This slow and easy song means only one thing... 'Bring The Boys Back Home' is on its way. A slick image of memorial names completely covers the wall and a huge band now assemble on stage to drum the song very well indeed. As the song is in full flow the memorial names fade out and the words 'Bring The Boys Back Home' appear crisp and clear along the whole length of the wall. This is where the widescreen version really wins over the original.

With the marching band leaving the stage slowly, a Mercedes ambulance drives onto the stage and the intro to Comfortably Numb starts. The set with the lamp and chair lowers itself to normal stage level and the ambulance pulls up; the men in the white coats give Dr Waters (also dressed in a white coat) his medical equipment which he uses to inject the wall. During this song, he is of course on the viewable side of the wall but performs the song facing the wall and not the audience. He gives the wall a friendly reassuring pat and explains "...that'll keep you going through the show..." again letting Waters give much more then a vocal performance of his music, the scenes he acts out really add to the show.

This is my favourite Floyd/Waters song and so lets not forget this song was co-wrote with David Gilmour and so mutual respect goes to him for writing such a great song. Unfortunately though, I do not much care for Van Morrison’s chorus contribution to this song and it does suffer a little from 'Joni syndrome'. He does not seem to know the song properly at all and you can see at the end of the first chorus he sings at the wrong place although on the DVD you do not hear it. At one time, I had convinced myself that Van The Man had spoilt the greatest song ever written, but with the emergence of the version by Scissor Sisters, I can easily forgive Van. 'Nuff said!

Then, chants of 'Hammer' as a stage built onto the back of a lorry drives onto the main stage, various army jeeps and personnel carriers scream at speed across the stage. The white stretched limo also return to the stage and huge flames roar up from the front of the stage. The Scorpions return, mount the mobile stage and strum their hearts away to 'In The Flesh'. The raising platform stage used in the Nobody Home section rises up again and from out of a door in the wall Roger appears. Dressed in an army uniform and donning a long black cape and 80's style shades he launches into the song giving a strong performance.

At the end of In The Flesh, the surround sound speakers kick into life again and a huge inflatable pig towers over the left hand side of the wall. When I say huge, I mean HUGE. Just as the main riff of 'Run Like Hell' kicks in, the pig lurches forward slightly demolishing a section of the wall with one of its many chins. This is all timed to perfection and looks so good.

Roger Waters Live In Berlin SE DVDMeanwhile Roger remains perched upon his raised stage and manages to give a great version of 'Run Like Hell'. He manages to sing the song flawlessly and fits all the lyrics into it perfectly, without seeming to take any breaths. This particular song has everything happening at once. We catch Roger giving the crossed hammers sign with his arms just as the camera pulls away to show a row of people abseiling down the wall. Soldiers with huge hammer flags then appear at the left of the stage and you realise that whoever scripted this portion of the show has thrown everything at this great rock song. Oh yeah, and The Scorpions are still strumming their hearts out!

There are some superb shots of Roger during this song; we see him striking his fists together and giving a menacing, sweeping look across the whole audience. This has got to be one of the highlights of the show and a good reason to use the repeat chapter on your DVD player.

With Roger eventually retreating back through the door in the wall, we get the start of the theatrical 'The Trial'. Tim Curry strides on stage as the prosecutor and gives his case to Albert Finney who, dressed as the judge, is on the raised platform. The teacher, played by Thomas Dolby, gives his slant on things, suspended and dangling around on a bungee type harness.

As if this wasn't bad enough, Dolby has got huge flaying arms and legs and presumably nerves of steel to be dangling around in front of a huge polystyrene wall that is due to collapse in about 3 minutes time. We hear Roger Waters’s vocals during this song but do not see him, probably because none of the vocals seem to be live, that would just be too much to ask for such a crazy finale to the show. The wife then appears (played by Ute Lemper) and is soon followed by Marianne Faithful playing Mother.

Finally, we get the judgement that the wall should be torn down and the troubled character of 'Pink' is to be stripped clean of his mental wall and forced to face his fears and peers.

Chants of 'Tear Down The Wall' are heard as the judge goes back through the door in the wall and the platform lowers to the floor for a final time. All of a sudden, the wall starts falling from the top until eventually the whole thing lies in ruins on the main stage. This is by far the most impressive part of the show and seems to all go exactly according to plan. There is not much more to say about this really; I know Pink Floyd have done this before, but on such a large scale and to such a large crowd... I think not. This just has to be seen to be believed.

Finally, the whole cast line up on a large stage which raises itself just over the fallen bricks and we get an encore. Roger performs the opening lines to 'The Tide Is Turning' and the rest of the cast improvise the song between themselves. I must mention Bryan Adams' contribution here; he doesn't go over the top and add a load of musical warbles onto the end of each note, he sings the lines normally but with vigour and it is this that makes his vocals more impressive than his fellow artists.

Roger Waters Live In Berlin SE DVDOne last quick point about the whole concert though. Although I have commented on how bad I think one or two of the performances were, remember that the artists were thrown together quickly and so under the circumstances I suppose they all did well in a way.

VIDEO QUALITY

The concert itself is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen (16:9), but let’s clear something up first. The video is simply a cropped version of the original, 4:3 framed concert recording. So, you may think you are getting to see more of the show, when in fact you are getting to see less as the top and bottom of the frame is missing. For example, on the original, you can see the tops of certain people’s heads; on this new version you cannot. The same can be said for lower portions of the screen.

Although I normally hate this cropped treatment, I think that it works very well for this particular concert. Fair enough, it is frustrating that some of the shots looks terribly cropped, but on the other side of the coin, you are able to see A LOT more detail. Even though I have watched the original concert many times, I have definitely noticed a lot more on this version, mainly because everything is bigger. The quality of this 16:9 print is also very good indeed and for a concert filmed 15 years ago, I have no complaints. So, don’t be put off by the cropping, if you have a widescreen television of at least 28” – you will not be disappointed by this DVD.

It is also worth mentioning that the filming of the whole thing is first class. They have really done a good job with the cameras, and seem to capture just about every important part of the show. The impressive set is made even more impressive by some of the great camera shots that climb over the wall and then sweep across the stage.

AUDIO QUALITY

One of the main selling points of this DVD is the 5.1 DTS track, well unfortunately I don’t have the equipment to review that, but can say that the regular Dolby 5.1 track is pretty good.

The rear surround speakers do not seem to over-intrude on the sound coming from the front left, right and centre speakers. There are the odd sound effects that seem dedicated to the rear channels, but overall they are used to just give an open and immense feeling to the audio. Most impressive is the crowd noise between songs, listening to this and watching the camera fly across 350,000 people makes you really feel part of the show. For acoustic and small gigs, I like to hear a lot of instrument separation spread across the 5 speakers, but for this concert, the big 360 degree sound works very well; my only negative with this would be the lack of LFE (sub-woofer) activity.

EXTRAS

The ‘Behind The Wall Documentary’ is the same as shown on the original DVD and is very interesting indeed. It starts with a small history of why the Berlin Wall was built and why it was torn down. We then get a great insight into the show from lots of people involved, including Roger himself, and Gerald Scarfe. It is great to hear Roger and co. telling of how certain parts of the show caused a problem on the night.

Although the concert seemed to go without a hitch on the DVD, it is obvious that such a huge event will have thrown up some rather unsettling problems on the night, all of these are discussed on the documentary and makes for very interesting viewing. Keep and eye out for Roger tap dancing for the 350,000 strong crowd as all the power goes off on the stage. This is easily the best extra on the DVD and is not too short either.

The new Multi-Audio Option allows you to change between, and isolate, certain parts of the audio. For example, you could listen to just the choir, or just the orchestra or all performers together. Unfortunately, the only tracks for this feature are ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’ and ‘In The Flesh’. This extra is as the label says... an extra, and so this audio feature cannot be operated during the concert. Not a bad extra, but nothing to write home about.

The Stage Animations extra is ok but only runs for a few minutes and seems to have been made simply as a ‘filler’ for the DVD.

The DVD cover also states there is Animated Picture Gallery although I couldn’t find one. The original DVD does have a nice picture gallery feature however.

MENUS

The menus on the original DVD were nice but these menus are even better. We get some nice animations of the set from Mark Fishers original designs. The DVD opens with bricks falling from the top of the screen, making up the wall, and then we get a view of the whole stage complete with spinning hammer logo. Each menu selected gives a different animation, and although the animated sections themselves are short, they are just enough to look good.

OVERALL

A very worthwhile buy.

It is a nicely packaged DVD, that contains an updated booklet in which the producer of the show tells us that royalties from this special edition will go to support long term post-conflict and disaster relief – if nothing else, there’s one good reason to buy it!

Of course this huge event was the product of many people, but you gotta hand it to Roger for having the guts to stick his neck out and do this. Again, let it be said that Roger Waters is a certain genius who not only wrote the best album of all time (Amused To Death coming a very close 2nd) but also turned the album into a film, one of the biggest concerts of all time and now a range of ornamental figures for your nearest shelf unit – pure genius! Buy it now!


This limited edition can be ordered through the following special links: Amazon UK/Elsewhere, or Amazon Germany.

Finally, much thanks to Graham Hignett for this indepth review. We always welcome contributions - if you fancy submitting a review, a feature, or simply have some ideas or pictures of the band, or past/present members of the band, that you want to share, do please get in contact. Thanks!


 
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