Tearing Down The Coliseum Wall
Pink Floyd played five sold out nights at the Nassau Coliseum on the short but expensive Wall tour in 1980 and 1981. All five were taped from the audience with the final night on February 28th being the most popular show to appear on silver releases.
On Tearing Down The Wall the Godfather label present the three rare middle shows, February 25th, 26th & 27th. The February 26th show was included on the four disc set on Sigma Your Favorite Disguise (Sigma 23), but the second and fourth concerts from the New York shows are making their silver pressed debuts in this box set.
The New York concerts were heavily promoted on metropolitan radio, creating a media blitz. All the shows were sold out within five hours. Scalpers were fetching as much as $100 for orchestra seats. At one of the shows 150 fans destroyed the glass in the box office and ran into the Coliseum, blending in with the crowd.
Newspapers published serious articles about the spectacle, offering mixed opinions. Martha Hume in the Daily News wrote that “cannot figure out just what people see in a menopausal British rock band that seems to be contemplating the Guyana solution as the nearest exit from life.”
On the other hand, John Rockwell, reviewing the shows in the New York Times, opined that “The Wall show remains a milestone in rock history though and there’s no point in denying it. Never again will one be able to accept the technical clumsiness, distorted sound and meager visuals of most arena rock concerts as inevitable” and concluded that the Wall show will be the “touchstone against which all future rock spectacles must be measured.”
After the final gig the band hosted a party attended by Carly Simon, Mark Knopfler and other luminaries. Andy Warhol, when asked if he liked the concert, replied “I always felt that the Velvet Underground was a good psychedelic group.”
With all the attention being paid to Pink Floyd with the recent release of the big “immersion” and “deluxe” versions of their catalog, it’s also an opportunity to discover more of the unofficial tapes in circulation. And as good as the February 28th show is (and sounds), it’s nice to hear the other New York shows in the best available sound quality.
The packaging is also excellent. It includes a mini tour program, liner notes, and a button commemorating the gigs. Tearing Down The Coliseum wall is the most impressive Pink Floyd release since Behind The Wall (Stonehenge Records STBX 022/23/24) came out in 1993, which contained the Feb. 28th show along with the Los Angeles rehearsals and Roger Waters live tracks from the early nineties.
Monday, February 25
(GR BOX 05 A/B)
Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY – February 25th, 1980
Disc 1 (57:37): MC Atmos, In The Flesh?, The Thin Ice, Another Brick In The Wall – part 1, The Happiest Days Of Our Lives, Another Brick In The Wall – part 2, Mother, Goodbye Blue Sky, Empty Spaces, What Shall We Do Now?, Young Lust, One Of My Turns, Don’t Leave Me Now, Another Brick In The Wall – part 3, The Last Few Bricks, Goodbye Cruel World
Disc 2 (55:53): Hey You, Is There Anybody Out There?, Nobody Home, Vera, Bring The Boys Back Home, Comfortably Numb, The Show Must Go On, MC Atmos, In The Flesh, Run Like Hell, Waiting For The Worms, Stop, The Trial, Outside The Wall
The sound quality for the second New York show is very good to borderline excellent. There is slight damage to the source tape at the beginning and slight cuts in “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2.” Except for some conversations by the recorder, it captures the music very well with an emphasis on the lower end.
In fact, one funny moment occurs during “Nobody Home.” About two and a half minutes into the song a female security guard asks our taper, “Is that a pipe you’ve got there?” The taper ignores her, so she asks him again. He responds, “No, it’s a microphone.” Despite the admission she lets him continue to tape.
The February 25th show begins with Gary Yudman’s little speech. In addition to the usual statements, he adds: “I do have a couple of ‘good luck’ telegrams you might be interested in hearing from. We have a telegram from President Carter. It says, ‘You guys blow my mind. Stop. Rosalyn too. Stop. Rosalyn ooo. Stop. Ooo, oo, Rosalyn. Stop.’ Signed Lover of the Year. We have one from Bob Dylan. From Bob Dylan it says, ‘You can call me Bobby, and you can call me Zimmy, and you can call me absent, cause I won’t be there.’ Let me see, uh, we have one from Neil Young. It says, ‘My, my, hey, hey, hope your show goes well today.'”
The opening is very energetic with the highlight “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2,” the first real hit from the album. The audience become so enthusiastic that someone throws fireworks on she stage at the very beginning of “Goodbye Blue Sky.” Roger and the band keep their cool thankfully (unlike their visit to Madison Square Garden in 1977) and continue the song without incident.
“You having a good time? Goody, goody, goody!” Waters says before introducing “Young Lust.” Both Gilmour and Wright on keyboards sound like they’re having much fun in this track. But something seems wrong with Waters’ microphone during “Don’t Leave Me Now.” His vocals sound much heavier and he’s out of sync with the music.
The first half ends with the instrumental “Last Few Brick.” The piece goes on longer than usual because the road crew weren’t finished assembling the wall. Wright continues the piece with a spacey bit of keyboards reminiscent of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and Gilmour uses an echo effect on his guitar giving it a Queen sounding timbre. Waters sings the gentle “Goodbye Cruel World” before they take a twenty minute intermission.
The audience are a typical noisy Long Island audience excited to see the band play in the Coliseum for the first time in five years. So much so that Rogers takes the unprecedented step (for a Wall show) to addressing the audience before they start the second half. He tells them “I’m sure there are a lot of people here who want to listen to the quiet bits. So if you could shout and holler in the loud bits and keep quiet in the quiet bits. That would be wonderful. That’s all I gotta say. We’ll have a good time and enjoy the second half.” (Similar sentiments to what he said in the Garden on the last tour).
“Comfortably Numb” is the obvious highlight of the second half. Before “Run Like Hell” Waters asks the audience, “Do you our pig? Yeah! He’s not a very nice pig, but he’s a BIG pig! This next tune, I’d like to dedicate to all the paranoids in the audience. I’m sure there’s a few in the house, and it’s called ‘Run Like Hell.'” It starts off with several strange grunts as Waters shouts “DISCO!”
Richard Wright plays a very loud organ in “Waiting For The Worms” and the Long Island give a loud approval to the trial and the wall’s destruction. During “Outside The Wall” Waters uses poor clarinet embouchure and hits two nasty screeches.
“Thank you, good night” he said to a rapidly cheering audience after the triumphant second night in New York.
Tuesday, February 26
(GR BOX 05 C/D)
Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY – February 26th, 1980
Disc 1 (54:59): MC Atmos, In The Flesh?, The Thin Ice, Another Brick In The Wall – part 1, The Happiest Days Of Our Lives, Another Brick In The Wall – part 2, Mother, Goodbye Blue Sky, Empty Spaces, What Shall We Do Now?, Young Lust, One Of My Turns, Don’t Leave Me Now, Another Brick In The Wall – part 3, The Last Few Bricks, Goodbye Cruel World
Disc 2 (53:58): Hey You, Is There Anybody Out There?, Nobody Home, Vera, Bring The Boys Back Home, Comfortably Numb, The Show Must Go On, MC Atmos, In The Flesh, Run Like Hell, Waiting For The Worms, Stop, The Trial, Outside The Wall
The third night in New York was released several years ago on silver on Your Favorite Disguise, a four disc set by Sigma which includes the superior sounding February 28th show. Plomerus speculated that was a two source edit given the fluctuations in the sound found throughout the show.
Godfather use only one source. They use the superior recording which, according to the source, was recorded on the middle right hand side of the stage with a “Nakamichi 550 using (2) Nak 700 shotguns w/nak700 omni blend” mics. It picks up all the detail from the stage and with a gorgeous mix with the audience reaction producing a beautiful live sound.
There are cuts at the beginning of each half, cutting off much of Gary Yudman’s initial atmos and the first ten seconds of “Hey You.” Sigma is slightly more complete because they have these bits, but Godfather sounds much better and engaging.
The band are tight and the audience are even more loud and demonstrative than the previous. In “Another Brick In The Wall Part I” Wright really tickles the ivory on the piano and plays the same spacy keyboard interlude found in “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 6-9.” The psychedelia sound scape is rudely interrupted by the helicopter and the Scottish school teacher.
It builds up nicely to “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2,” motivating the audience to dance in the aisle (so it seems). The audience are particularly vocal during the performance of “Mother.” Waters’ lines about “Mother, should I run for president?” draws cheers since February 1980 was the start of the presidential primaries. (New Hampshire held their elections this night with incumbent president Jimmy Carter beating Edward Kennedy for the Democratic vote and Ronald Reagan beating George H.W. Bush for the Republican).
The next line “Mother, should I trust the government” draws an even louder response, as loud as Bob Dylan received for the line “Sometimes even the president of America must sometimes stand naked” in “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” during his 1974 tour with The Band. The cheering, and the elections in November, illustrate the frustration with Carter’s presidency.
After “What Shall We Do Now?” Waters give a curt “This is called ‘Young Lust.'” The rest of the first half continues without incident.
“Hey You” draws a big cheer, as does the glimpse of New York television in “Nobody Home.” The highlight of the show, and perhaps of the entire box, is this performance of “Comfortably Numb.” Everything sounds very strong in the mix including an additional, faint guitar melody. Waters’ vocals are biting and Gilmour’s sound very sweet and convincing.
Before “Run Like Hell” Waters asks, “Do you like our pig? We like him. He hasn’t got a lot of class but there’s a lot of him.” He gives his dedication to “all the paranoids in the audience” and yells at the pig “Home, piggy, go home. Raus!! Schnell! (German for “OUT! QUICKLY!”)
There is a malfunction with the backing tape on “The Trial.” It takes a few embarrassing seconds to correct (seconds which feel like hours). Waters’ PA also malfunctions for a bit, really messing up the track. But “Outside The Wall” goes off much better than the previous night and, overall, another great show for New York.
Wednesday, February 27
(GR BOX 05 E/F)
Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY – February 27th, 1980
Disc 1 (56:25): MC Atmos, In The Flesh?, The Thin Ice, Another Brick In The Wall – part 1, The Happiest Days Of Our Lives, Another Brick In The Wall – part 2, Mother, Goodbye Blue Sky, Empty Spaces, What Shall We Do Now?, Young Lust, One Of My Turns, Don’t Leave Me Now, Another Brick In The Wall – part 3, The Last Few Bricks, Goodbye Cruel World
Disc 2 (61:08): Hey You, Is There Anybody Out There?, Nobody Home, Vera, Bring The Boys Back Home, Comfortably Numb, The Show Must Go On, MC Atmos, In The Flesh, Run Like Hell, Waiting For The Worms, Stop, The Trial, Outside The Wall
Wednesday, February 27 is the fourth and penultimate night of the New York concerts. This concert was filmed for potential use in The Wall film. It has never been released officially, not even in the new The Wall – Immersion box coming out in February 2012 (thirty-two years and one day after this performance). But it has been released unofficially, most recently on U.S. Wall (No Label).
Three unique audience tapes exist and are in circulation for this concert. Godfather use the first of the three. It is the most complete of the three, having no cuts during the performance. It is good sounding but muffled and fuzzy at points. The beginning is worse, but it clears up by the middle of the show.
Of the three shows in the box, this is the most “average.” It is good, but lacks the excitement, energy or inventiveness of the others. Perhaps the band were self-conscious before the cameras?
The audience obviously loves the performance, and become loud during “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2.” Gilmour misses the cue for the guitar solo, but Mason keeps the beat going for an extra measure until the guitarist can figure out what to do.
“Mother,” as usual during these New York shows, receives a lot of applause in response to the words with the biggest reactions to the lines about trusting the government. Gilmour plays a strange little “mandolin” over the main melody.
Before “Young Lust” Waters asks “you having a good time so far? Oh good. That’s absolutely marvelous” in a sarcastic tone. The audience are very quiet during “One Of My Turns,” concentrating on the narrative.
At the start of the second half of the show they play “Hey You,” Gilmour has a laughing fit while singing the track. “Is There Anybody Out There?” the radio picks up a New York Islanders hockey game, drawing slight cheers (this is when they were actually good).
The same game is picked up before “Nobody Home.” Tuning into local radio was a gimmick from the In The Flesh tour in 1977 and it works very well in metropolitan areas with many radio stations.
Before “Run Like Hell” Waters shouts: “Do you like our pig? He’s not a very nice pig, but he’s a big pig. There’s more to our pig than meets the eye. Go home pig, go on, fuck off!” The audience laughs hard as Waters continues, “Puffed up, overblown, pork-eyed garlic fat thing, go on, go. This next tune I’d like to dedicate to all the paranoid folk, in the audience tonight, of whom I’m sure there are many.”
“Waiting For The Worms” builds up tremendous amounts of excitement in the audience. “The Trial” goes off without a hitch (unlike the previous night), and Waters hits some screeches on his clarinet on “Outside The Wall.”
The tape ends with several minutes of the audience leaving the coliseum to the post-concert music piped in over the PA system including the Glenn Miller recordings of “Pennsylvania 6-5000” and “In The Mood.”
Overall this is a very enjoyable performance which lacks a bit of the excitement of the others nights in this collection, but is very tight.
Tearing Down The Coliseum Wall is a tremendous release by Godfather for the art design and mastering of the tapes. Although the February 28th show is the definitive New York Wall show is not included (it’s been out many times before and Godfather wants to tread new ground), all these shows have very good sound and are very exciting to hear. And the packaging makes this one of the most beautiful releases of the year.