A Look Back:
“Comfortably Numb” featuring Roger Waters, Van Morrison & The Band in Berlin
By Max Stewart
Today we are throwing it back to July 21, 1990 when Pink Floyd bassist / songwriter Roger Waters memorialized the fall of the Berlin Wall eight months earlier by performing Pink Floyd’s The Wall in Berlin. The event is estimated to have been attended by 450,000 people, and it was held in a vacant terrain that had previously been part of the Berlin Wall’s “no-man’s land”.
Waters featured a melting pot of guest musicians to assist in the adaptation of the legendary album that includes a cast of characters that we will always associate with the 1980’s: Bryan Adams, Cyndi Lauper, Thomas Dolby, The Hooters, and the German gods of hair metal Scorpions (who opened with “In The Flesh?”).
A performance that definitely stands the test of time was when Roger Waters brought out Van Morrison and members of The Band (including Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson) to perform “Comfortably Numb.” The emotion is evident when Morrison, Helm, Danko, and Hudson assist Waters in vocal duties during the song’s powerful chorus. It should also be noted that there are two guest guitarists – Rick DiFonzo and Snowy White (Roger Waters Band, Thin Lizzy) – that attempt to fill the void of David Gilmour’s absence. Additionally, the song features an extra chorus and an orchestra.
This performance of “Comfortably Numb” holds up very well given the monumental circumstances of the event and the all-star collaborations of Roger Waters, The Band, and Van Morrison.
Fun facts about “The Wall – Live in Berlin” performance:
- After the performance, Levon Helm (a native of Arkansas) gave Roger Waters an Arkansas Razorbacks baseball cap, which apparently Waters still cherishes and wears at concerts. Waters asserts that the hat “will be with me until the day I day I die because it means a lot to me”.
- The Band also opened the event along with The Hooters, but the performance was never released. Hudson also played saxophone on “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)” and accordion on “Mother”.
- Initially, Waters attempted to get musicians such as Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton but they all either turned it down or were unavailable.