On May 29, 2006, David Bowie performed two songs with David Gilmour during the Pink Floyd guitarist/vocalist’s three-night stand at London’s Royal Albert Hall. It turned out to be Bowie’s last-ever U.K. live performance.
As befitting the Thin White Duke’s nonchalant demeanor, however, this cameo was low-key. During the encore, Gilmour casually welcomed Bowie to the stage. The musician took his place at the mic amidst a rapturous standing ovation from the crowd.
His presence was admittedly a surprise. At the time, Bowie had been lying low since his 2004 Reality tour had been abruptly canceled due to an emergency angioplasty, and his live appearances were few and far between.
Vocally, however, he showed no rust on “Arnold Layne,” a Syd Barrett composition dating from 1967. Bowie added desperate-sounding, velvety vibrato and a winking mod touch to the psych-folk classic, which also featured appropriately retro-sounding keyboards from Pink Floyd’s Richard Wright.
Watch David Gilmour and David Bowie Perform ‘Arnold Layne’
Bowie then sang the ominous verses on the set-closing “Comfortably Numb,” which you can see above. Unfortunately, the song wasn’t as much in his wheelhouse: During the first verse, his vocals had plenty of added echo and reverb, as if to add emotional heft to the thin-sounding performance, although by the second verse he sounded much more haunted and wary.
Still, it was a minor quibble. Bowie’s performances—which also marked his only live appearance at Royal Albert Hall—were strong enough to later end up on Remember That Night, a 2007 DVD of Gilmour’s residency. Perhaps more important, the Pink Floyd member was clearly pleased with the collaboration.
“David Bowie might not have worked with Pink Floyd,” Gilmour said in 2007. “But it fits with me.”
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