Pink Floyd’s set at Knebworth was part of a spectacular night in rock history, one when the now-iconic group played one of the biggest concerts of all time in June 1990, joining the likes of Elton John, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and even a special show from Robert Plant with very special guest Jimmy Page.
At the time of the show, Pink Floyd hadn’t played live in a year and wouldn’t normally play between cycles but they didn’t want to miss out on an event of this magnitude—a show which was billed as being the ‘biggest concert of all time’. Roger Waters, unfortunately, didn’t play with the band as he hadn’t performed with Floyd in nine years at this point, leaving fans another 15 years before he joined them for one final time at Live 8.
They treated the huge audience to a seven-song set which concluded on ‘Run Like Hell’. The most poignant moment of the set, however, came when the band performed a bone-chilling rendition of ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ with everyone in the audience in complete awe of their greatness.
The track is an ode to their fallen former bandmate Syd Barrett and, legend has it, that Barrett arrived into the studio at the very same time that the band were working on ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ in 1974. Barrett had left the music industry for good by this point, choosing instead to live out of a London hotel. Having cut out contact with his former bandmates, his arrival at the recording studio left them rippled with shock.
The day that Barrett arrived at Floyd’s studio on that June evening he was a completely different entity to the one they had last seen a few years previously. The musician had become bloated and, even though he was physically there in the studio, mentally he was not.
Pink Floyd was initially bewildered by his arrival, assuming he must be a member of the crew and it took a while before Gilmour eventually identified him as their former bandmate. Waters, it is said, immediately broke down in tears after seeing what Barrett had become. That June day also happened to be Gilmour’s wedding day, so Barrett wandered into the guitarist’s reception at EMI but then left without telling anyone, disappearing in a similarly strange fashion as he’d arrived.
Their performance of the track at Knebworth is an absolute joy from start to finish. The footage also proves that even without Roger Waters, Floyd could still play to over 100,000 people and have every last crowd member in the palm of their hands.
See it, below.