There are few experiences that top watch Pink Floyd perform their iconic song ‘Wish You Were Here’ live. The band’s masterpiece is highly regarded as one of the finest moments both on record and on stage. But perhaps nothing can top this moment as the band deliver a searing performance of the song while on a floating stage in the middle of Venice.
The gig will go down in history as a moment where pop music and politics crossed and Pink Floyd proved they were not reliant on one man. Below we’re revisiting the performance of ‘Comfortably Numb’ live from Venice in 1989.
After Roger Waters had left the band the group, comprised of David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason go to work on the band’s 13th studio album A Momentary Lapse of Reason and were ready to start taking their show on tour once more.
When the announcement for Pink Floyd’s date in Venice in 1989 was made, nobody could’ve predicted the impact of the gig—not only on the band’s infamy but on the government of Venice.
Arriving in the glamourous canal city, the band had planned to play a free concert in the middle of the famous St. Mark’s Square to coincide with the celebration known as ‘Feast of the Redeemer’. The council of the ancient city was not impressed by this flagrant disregard for precious architecture and tensions grew.
In fact, the city’s superintendent for cultural heritage ‘vetoed the concert’ just days before its scheduled July 15th date, “on the grounds that the amplified sound would damage the mosaics of St. Mark’s Basilica, while the whole piazza could very well sink under the weight of so many people.”
Compromises were eventually made by both parties as Pink Floyd agreed to both turn their amps down from 160 to 100 decibels and also that they would perform on a floating stage on a Venetian canal. The stage was certainly set.
The show welcomed 200,000 people to the city, 150,000 more than live within the city limits, and the show went off largely without a hitch. However, the performance the band give will live long in the memory of all those who watched it. The crux of that performance came with this show-stopping rendition of ‘Wish You Were Here’.
Despite the minimal damages, the show became a scandal in the city and the resulting anger left residents calling for the head of Mayor Antonio Casellati, demanding he resigns. There were even reports of residents shouting him down with “resign, resign, you’ve turned Venice into a toilet”.
Casellati and the entire city council who voted him into power resigned. Leaving this gig as one of the most interesting in the history of rock music.
Watch Pink Floyd perform ‘Comfortably Numb’ on a floating stage in Venice from back in 1989.