You couldn’t go anywhere in Berlin on July 21 without bumping into The Wall. No, not that Wall. The good old ”Antifascist Protection Barrier” has been chipped, hammered, hacked, spindled, mutilated, and bulldozed into history, leaving only bare earth and the spy novels of Len Deighton and John LeCarré to mark its passage. I mean Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the 1979 concept album and rock opera that was staged live in America and Europe in 1980-81, and made into a movie the next year by British director Alan Parker. From the Kurfürstendamm in the west to the Friedrichstrasse rail station in the east, Berlin was crawling with hordes of backpacking young people sporting The Wall T-shirts, caps, and assorted promotional paraphernalia that mixed hope and hype. And all because, for one night only, former Floyd leader Roger Waters was staging an $8-million revival of his show that was billed as the biggest rock concert in history.
On this hot Saturday afternoon, Potsdamer Platz, for 28 years a bleak no- man’s-land knoon as the Death Strip that separated the two Berlins, was transformed into a 35-acre German Woodstock. All morning, a crowd estimated at more than 200,000 had gathered outside the temporary wire fences, and at 2:30 p.m. the gates opened and people started thronging in. Quickly, they formed a mass that stretched from the old Wilhelmstrasse across the square to the Berlin Philharmonic’s concert hall, the Philharmonie. The weather was hot (at least 300 people passed out from the heat), but the scene was cool: very little fighting (30 arrests for scuffling with the police), no drug busts, and just 20 people taken to the hospital, overwhelmed by the crush.
The warm-up acts began at 5 p.m.: the Hooters, three members of the Band (Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, and Levon Helm), and the Chieftains, joined by Irish-born James Galway, former principal flutist of the Berlin Philharmonic. Chieftains’ piper Paddy Moloney had lost none of his irrepressible way with the Irish pipes, but overall the set (”Drowsy Maggie,” the inevitable ”Danny Boy”) proved that traditional Irish music is better heard in the cozy confines of a traditional Irish pub than before a quarter of a million people, most of whom can’t wait for the next act to come onstage.