By Christopher Scapelliti
While touring in support of his album On an Island in 2006, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour presented a special three-night stand at the Royal Albert Hall on May 29 through 31. To celebrate his performance at the celebrated venue, Gilmour brought along several guest singers, including David Crosby and Graham Nash, British songwriter and musician Robert Wyatt, and—the evening’s star attraction—David Bowie, making his first live appearance in two years.
Bowie’s participation, in particular, was noteworthy for his artistic interest in Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett. Bowie had been heavily influenced by Barrett in the Sixties and had even named his short-lived 1971 group Arnold Corns after the 1967 Barrett-penned Pink Floyd song “Arnold Layne.”
“The few times I saw him perform in London at UFO and the Marquee clubs during the Sixties will forever be etched in my mind,” Bowie said in July 2006 upon Barrett’s passing. “He was so charismatic and such a startlingly original songwriter. Also, along with Anthony Newley, he was the first guy I’d heard to sing pop or rock with a British accent. His impact on my thinking was enormous.”
Bowie’s presence at the concert was significant for another reason as well. It was his first live performance since he suffered a heart attack in 2004. His appearance was the highlight of the show, which he capped with performances of “Arnold Layne” and the Pink Floyd classic “Comfortably Numb.” He and Gilmour shared vocals on the latter, with Bowie singing Roger Waters’ verse parts and Gilmour reprising his vocal contribution from the original Pink Floyd performance.
Among the other performers joining Gilmour that night were the late Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright, saxophonist Dick Parry (whose contributions can be heard on several Pink Floyd albums, including The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here), and Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, who coproduced On an Island and continues to work with Gilmour in the studio and onstage.
The concert is documented in the film Remember That Night: Live at the Royal Albert Hall.