Revisiting Pink Floyd's iconic floating concert in Venice, 1989 footage
(Credit: YouTube)

Watch Pink Floyd perform a searing rendition of ‘Comfortably Numb’ in the middle of Venice

On July 15th, 1989, Pink Floyd played perhaps their most speculative concert of all time which is some statement for the innovative group. Overcoming a number of administrative issues, the band would step out on a floating boat in the middle of Venice and created history in Italy.

Their show, remarkably, was not just a moment of cultural significance for Venice but the performance would have dramatic consequences which reshaped the politics of the city. Following a backlash that came in the shape of local councillors, a number of political figures were forced to resign after furious traditionalists vented their anger about the forward-thinking concert.

Despite the huge crowd of 200,000 arriving to see the show, the worries of those traditionalists came true. While most attendees were on perfect behaviour, this didn’t stop a small minority from causing damages which included some monuments being urinated on which lead to a streak of rage to rip through the city.

The resulting anger left Mayor Antonio Casellati’s position untenable and he, alongside the entire city council who voted him into his role, resigned from office. The progressive mayor was attempting to turn Venice into a modern city, a decision which came from a good place. However, the Italian beauty spot is unlike any other location in the world and the residents want to keep it that way.

At the time of the event, Pink Floyd was going through a difficult period following the departure of Roger Waters and this was far from the golden era of the band. David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright had all pursued solo careers which didn’t quite reach the heights that they may have hoped for so, in a bid to relight their creative flame, they reunited Pink Floyd even if this meant having to do so without Waters. In truth though, it was more like a David Gilmour solo project rather than a band and is incomparable to the earlier work of Floyd. That said, their live shows were still something special even with Waters-sized hole.

Gilmour, who believes their Venice appearance was a huge success, confessed that the circus which surrounded it did dampen proceedings slightly: “The Venice show was great fun, but it was very tense and nerve-wracking,” he once commented. “We had a specific length of show to do; the satellite broadcasting meant we had to get it absolutely precise. We had the list of songs, and we’d shortened them, which we’d never done before.”

He continued: “I had a big clock with a red digital read-out on the floor in front of me and had the start time of each number on a piece of paper. If we were coming near the start time of the next number, I just had to wrap up the one we were on. We had a really good time, but the city authorities who had agreed to provide the services of security, toilets, food, completely reneged on everything they were supposed to do, and then tried to blame all the subsequent problems on us.”

‘Comfortably Numb’ is arguably Floyd’s magnum opus and, when they perform it live in such picturesque surroundings, there are truly few greater sight., Pink Floyd was still an unstoppable force who could do things that nobody else could pull off. Take a few minutes to soak this incredible moment in which captures Floyd’s unorthodox brilliance.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Delivering curated content