We are digging into the Far Out vault to look back at two of our favourite artists coming together for one searing performance. David Bowie intertwined much of his career with that of mercurial rock pioneers, Pink Floyd, both cultivated in the underground scene of sixties London and the both championed evolution over stagnation. The singer also particularly connected with one later member of the band, guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour.
Here, we’re taking a trip back to 2006 as we revisit David Bowie joining David Gilmour at the end of his performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London to perform both ‘Arnold Layne’ and a bone-chilling rendition of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’. It’s one of the band’s most well-known songs and ranks as one of their finest live songs too. Simply put, it is a rich piece of Pink Floyd iconography.
It would be a spectacular end to an already glittering evening when Bowie and Gilmour shared the stage. Gilmour had become well-versed at traversing some of Floyd’s classic numbers into his solo set with utter authenticity. Without Roger Waters, songs like ‘Comfortably Numb’ would fall flat without another vocalist to bounce off of, it was a simple lightbulb moment.
It wouldn’t deter Gilmour and the singer has played the song at almost every live appearance of his solo career, never scared to provide himself with a vocal partner of some seriously good calibre. It has seen him invite a wide variety of guests to fill in for Waters, including Bob Geldof, Robert Wyatt and Kate Bush—but nobody could have predicted the arrival of David Bowie to the stage.
Bowie had been enjoying a reclusive period following a near-fatal heart attack on his Reality Tour, only emerging to perform a stunning set at VH1 Fashion Rocks event in 2005. The audience must have had their jaws on the floor when Bowie appeared near the finale of Gilmour’s set at the Royal Albert Hall that evening, singing on Floyd’s ‘Arnold Layne’. It’s a sumptuous performance which shows Bowie was still capable of constructing everlasting moments for the audience.
Bowie then joined the guitarist on stage to sing a staggering version of ‘Comfortably Numb’ which even through YouTube will have your gaze transfixed. Vocally it may not be as on point as ‘Arnold Layne’ but what it lacks in technical prowess it more than makes up for in heart and passion.
The clip may well be a joyous piece of music to watch but it’s also a touching moment between two lifelong friends. Bowie and Gilmour have travelled much of the same road together and their warmth towards each other is palpable in the video. It would be Bowie’s final performance in England before his death in 2016.
Watch David Bowie join David Gilmour to sing ‘Comfortably Numb’ back in 20096 at the Royal Albert Hall.