When Pink Floyd reunited at Knebworth in 1990, they successfully stole the show on a line-up that included Elton John, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant & Jimmy Page. This show proved that, even without Roger Waters, they could put on a show as good as anyone else on the planet.
At the time of the show, Pink Floyd hadn’t played live in a year and wouldn’t usually play between cycles but missing out on a show of such magnitude wasn’t in the band’s lexicon. The show, which was billed as being the ‘biggest concert of all time’, while Jimmy Page made an appearance with his old sparring partner Robert Plant, there was no reunion in camp Pink Floyd. It had been nine years at this point since Roger Waters, last performed and Live 8 would be the final time, 15 years later, when he would join them for one final hurrah.
Floyd’s set was only seven songs long. Still, they gave every ounce of fibre in their collective beings to deliver a set that showed that the Gilmour-era of Pink Floyd could compete with anyone, and they were still a defiant force that nobody would want to play after.
They started the rousing performance with a tribute to their former leader Syd Barrett as they seared through, ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’. Before erupting into the emphatic, ‘Great Gig In The Sky’ and were joined on-stage by vocalist Claire Torry, who enjoyed her moment in the sun on the track.
Torry was an unknown quantity when she featured on the track back in 1973, and her inclusion all happened at the last minute while the band were making The Dark Side Of The Moon. The band first tried various sound effects over the material—including a sample of NASA astronauts communicating on space missions—but none quite were up to scratch. Then, a couple of weeks before the album was due to be handed into Harvest Records; the band came up with the ingenious idea of having a female singer scream over the music.
As Pink Floyd began casting around for a singer, album engineer Alan Parsons suggested Torry, an unknown 25-year-old session vocalist. He had previously worked with her and managed to schedule a session with the singer to see if her voice could potentially work on the track.
The band members prompted her to think about death and horror and then go into the studio to improvise something over the music. She performed two complete takes. The second one was more emotional than her first attempt. David Gilmour then asked Torry for a third take, but halfway through, she stopped, feeling she was getting repetitive and had already done the best she could.
The final album track was a blending from all three takes put together; Floyd were taken aback by her performance but played it cool, which meant Torry was under the opposite impression. Remarkably, Torry only became aware that her vocals had made it on to the record when she spotted The Dark Side Of The Moon at her local record store and caught her name in the credits and purchased the album.
This performance at Knebworth marked only Torry’s second and final time singing the track live with Pink Floyd, having joined them at London’s Rainbow Theatre in 1973. She is revelling in every moment on stage at Knebworth. As a jobbing session musician, to have 100,000 fans adoring fans hanging on to your every note is something that she has been longing for throughout her whole career operating in the shadows.