DVD: Divided We Fall – The Wall Live at Earls Court
Pink Floyd The Wall Live at Earls Court, London
Due to the logistics and overwhelming costs of producing and transporting the show, Pink Floyd performed The Wall live just 31 times in 1980 and 1981. The “tour” played in just four cities — Los Angeles, New York at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum, Dortmund in West Germany, and two runs at London’s Earls Court. The elaborate show featured a wall 31 feet high and 160 feet long, much of which was built brick-by-brick during the first half of the performance.
Nick Mason explained to Charlie Kendall in 1984:
“The problem, really, with the show is that it wasn’t a touring show, so it had to be set up, and left, and taken down again. There were a lot of light operators and stage operators and wall builders. Because of the amount of stuff that went up and down, floated across, did this, did that, there were a lot of operators, rather than just people putting stuff up. And, of course we had lots of semis, as I believe you call them, because of the special lighting pods that we used which needed, each one needs a trailer unit to hold it. And the special stage, because of the way the stage was actually used, there was a sort of structural bracing piece for the building of the wall. So it was all special equipment, I mean it was absurdly expensive. It’s not something other people will do, generally, because it’s just so expensive to put on, it’s simply not feasible. But it was great to have done it once.”
Director Alan Parker shot 35mm film during the 1981 Earls Court shows that was originally to be used in Pink Floyd The Wall the movie. Due to lighting and other staging conflicts, that idea was scrapped in favor of the more surreal narrative that was released. Most of the footage was said at the time to have been unusable — dark and murky. Only a minute and twenty four seconds of footage, “The Happiest Days of our Lives”, has ever been publicly released. It can be found in The Wall: Immersion box set.
In March, 2000, David Gilmour talked to Record Collector Magazine about the footage that was shot:
“The ’81 shows were put on for the film, but by the time we got to do them they’d already decided they didn’t want to use very much. About 20 minutes were shot – for example, “Hey You”, where the camera was behind the wall focusing on us, then it went up and over the wall onto the audience. That’s a great bit of footage. But only three tracks were filmed.”
Several videos shot at two of the venues exist, however. Two of them have been making the rounds with collectors for years. According to Gilmour, four or five of the 1980 shows were captured on video. A Nassau Coliseum performance was shot on video using a two-camera setup. That bootleg video was first sold and shared on VHS. It is now pretty easy to find online. Most of the video is dark and, due to generation loss from subsequent copies over the years–especially copying from tape to tape, the video quality is low resolution and blurry.
In 2004, a bootleg DVD with fairly good picture quality surfaced. Divided We Fall – The Wall Live at Earls Court (Harvested DVD006, an unauthorized release) was different footage than the 1981 film shot and abandoned for The Wall movie. This video was shot at Earls Court using 5-6 cameras. Most of the performance comes from the August 9, 1980 show with a couple of numbers from the August 8 show edited in. Unlike most of the earlier bootleg videos of The Wall live, Divided We Fall was mastered from a newly-discovered low-generation video tape with a higher quality picture. Although still not broadcast quality, the clarity of the video is a huge improvement over any other non-official video I’ve seen of the 1980-1981 Wall live shows — not razor sharp and pristine but still good for a bootleg. The resolution is a respectable 655×480. To get that, the video was probably cleaned up, processed a bit and resampled. The end result? It’s not painful to watch.
The DVD uses the original audio from the performance, so most of the tracks are a little different than the high-quality audio on Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980-81. The audio is soundboard (albeit lower-quality due to copy degradation) from August 8, 1980 show in the first set, and August 9 in the second set. I like that the performances here are raw and are not always perfect. Because they come from (mostly) a single show and were not cherry-picked to be the best of the best, the viewer gets a better idea of the sound of the live show. If you’re familiar with the live album, you’ll hear and appreciate the subtle differences in the performances. Gilmour’s guitar flair is a little different here and there’s more of it throughout the show. Rick Wright’s keyboards are present and his performance hasn’t been practically mixed out of the recording.
Audio quality is tinny. There’s not much low or high end at all. Bear in mind that although professional-grade video and audio would have been recorded in full resolution (which was 625 scan lines at the time) and full-frequency audio, outside of a studio, VHS and Betamax were only starting to become popular. Rudimentary audio for both formats was recorded in a single linear track near the edge of the tape. VHS Hi-Fi was still a few years away.
But the performance speaks for itself and is an incredible show regardless of date. For 1980, these shows redefined state-of-the-art for large arena shows and many concerts today don’t match the spectacle and production levels of this performance. The video captures the workings of the band, the Surrogate Band, as well as giving the viewer a better idea of the scale of the original shows. The improved video quality helps the viewer appreciate the performance much better than watching a tiny, blurry, pixelated image.
This is the full show. The viewer gets to see M.C. Gary Yudman’s complete performance. With the added visuals, the surreal nature of his second bit of banter now makes sense. Roger stops to tune his bass between songs. It’s not always perfect, and that’s what makes it perfect.
It’s fascinating to compare the original 1980-81 shows to the recent Roger Waters The Wall shows which toured 2010-2013. Despite the improved technology of the newer shows, there are still a lot of similarities between the two. From a technical standpoint, what Pink Floyd accomplished in 1980 is just as impressive almost 40 years later.
Divided We Fall: The Wall Live at Earls Court is not as easy to find as the lo-fi boots. I wish I could share a link here — finding a quality copy of this bootleg is worth the effort. Until film or remastered video is officially released, this is probably the best way to see the original 1980 Pink Floyd The Wall live performance.
Updated 31 December, 2020