9 November – Part 1
I’m going to do two blogs today. This one is about last night, the celebration of 25 years since the Wall came down. The second will be my thoughts on that day, on what it means today, and what it means to me. So it will be more personal. But first – the show.
Let’s just start with some of the people who were up on the stage during the evening (and I will apologise throughout for mentioning people who might not be (well) known (it at all) outside the German-speaking world, but here goes).
We started with the people who weren’t there, the people who were killed while trying to escape East Germany to find freedom.
Wolf Biermann – thorn in the side of the East German government, he was a songwriter and singer for many decades, even having his citizenship of the GDR revoked while he was outside the country on tour. I never thought I would get to see him in person. He is a legend, and not the only one there tonight.
Peter Gabriel – singing Bowie’s song Heroes. I suspect the last time it was played by the Brandenburg Gate was by Bowie in 1987 (you can see it on YouTube). It definitely needed to be included in the show. You can see it here courtesy of Reuters. Their view was rather better than mine and it’s much better close up when you can hear the details, from a distance it was underwhelming.
Lech Walesa – leader of the Polish Solidarity movement that paved the way for the changes decades later throughout the Soviet bloc
Gorbi – the man who made sure the peaceful revolution in East Germany remained peaceful
Daniel Barenboim – only one of the best conductors in the world. It was quite something to see him projected onto a huge screen, and to see him from the front as he was conducting, rather than just his back as you normally see. The orchestra played Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, which is the “soundtrack” to this short clip which shows you some of the events of the last couple of days.
and…because you couldn’t have the event without him, Udo Lindenberg, the thorn in the other side, also a musician, but who came from the West.
His story – as he told it tonight – with East Germany began with a girl he met, who became the Maedchen aus Ostberlin, the Girl from East Berlin, in his song (which, of course, he played tonight). That story has also been turned into a musical performed in Berlin using Udo’s songs – only not between 9 and 13 November this year – and there was me determined to go to see it this time. It remains a reason to come back, as if I needed one.
He had the actress from the musical with him on stage (she is wearing the uniform of the East German youth movement, the Freie Deutsche Jugend, Free German Youth):
As part of his set (by far the longest, somewhere close to an hour I think) he had a crane. Not just a crane, but a huge one. Acrobats came in during one of his songs…
The Brandenburg Gate was the backdrop for the whole day, and I’ve never seen it so spectacular.
There were huge moving screens throughout, onto which films, photos and the various acts were projected. At one point, there was a series of values which will resonate far from Berlin. They included
And of course the balloons were released, the ones which marked where the Wall had been. I did a long run this morning and was able to run along the route marked by the balloons for much of it. It was a run I will never forget and one I can never repeat. Yes, it’s a terrible photo, it was the point at which everyone else decided to hold up their mobile phones to get a picture and I realised it wasn’t going to work out so well for me. At least the rest of the photos were largely good. I did take 620 though. Be glad these are the very very select few. My family is going to have look at the other 600+. And the videos.
What an evening. Only in Berlin.