“a barbarian invasion of urban space.”
On July 15th, 1989, Pink Floyd accidentally brought down the Venetian government with their free live show. This is how it happened.
According to openculture.com, Pink Floyd was the first band to be played in space by the Russian crew of the Soyuz TM-7 in 1988. Also, there was a major increase in sales of their album A Momentary Lapse of Reason; which passed quadruple platinum status. This helped spawn a huge tour and live album.
The band was unsure of the sales of the album in 1987 (their first without Roger Waters) and had started with only a few shows. Over the next two years, the shows got bigger and bigger. They added more lasers and light effects, a giant disco ball flower contraption, and hospital beds that crashed into the stage. This was a lot more than the Venice City Council had anticipated.
This free concert was originally planned to take place in St. Mark’s Square. However, many of the city’s municipal administrators felt differently. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Lea-Catherine Szacka of The Archietects’ Newspaper “A number of the city’s municipal administrators viewed the concert as an assault against Venice, something akin to a barbarian invasion of urban space.” The show was “vetoed” before the July 15th date because of the fear of the amplified sounds damaging the surrounding architecture. A company had offered Venice this “free show” that they then live-streamed around the world. With contracts signed, Venice officials were concerned about backing out and instead settled on a compromise. The band agreed to lower their decibel level from 100 to 60 and to perform on a floating barge/stage 200 yards from the square. The floating stage was massive and brought in, via water, all the way from Norway.
The concert brought in over 150 thousand more people than the population of the city, nearly 200,000 people showed up. The fans were supposedly on their best behavior and very few statues were damaged. But officials claimed they left behind 300 tons of garbage. And, since there were no portable bathrooms, the fans relieved themselves in the streets, on the walls, and on the monuments (the company that offered Venice the free show did not include port-a-potties or any other amenities for crowd control on their end of the agreement).
Enraged residents demanded that Mayor Antonio Casellati resign after turning their beloved Venice into a toilet. The mayor resigned along with the entire city council. Pink Floyd might have brought down the Venetian government, but they also played a legendary show.
Here’s a link to rare photos from the show: Pink Floyd Venice Show 1989.
David Gilmour talks about this infamous show and what it was trying to do a live-stream at the same time:
Here’s the entire set list and performance videos from the show below.