Thursday, April 22, 2021

Pink Floyd's Triumphant Return To Knebworth Like You've Never Heard It Before

By the summer of 1990, Pink Floyd was coming off a year's hiatus, and had spent most of the 1980's in courts battling with estranged bandmate Roger Waters over the rights to the Pink Floyd name. But the allure of performing at the famed Knebeworth Festival brought David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason together again, to be the crown jewel of the 26th edition. The day-long festival was by no means devoid of star power, with rock royalty performing throughout the course of the day. Eric Clapton, Elton John, Robert Plant (with special guest Jimmy Page), and Paul McCartney all took the stage; but Floyd without doubt ruled the day.

Unbeknownst to the 100,000+ attendees, Gilmour, Wright, Mason & Co. took the stage following a near fist fight between band manager Steve O'Rourke and McCartney's manager, Richard Ogden, over whose act would close the day. Floyd won out, and despite progressively worsening rain, delivered a 55-minute, 7-song set that is nothing short of flawless. The consummate professional, Gilmour shows no signs of being bothered by the arguments taking place in the wings. He opens the set by delivering the pristine and perfectly paced introduction to Shine On You Crazy Diamond, cutting through the raindrops, and reminding us once again that he is the master of touch, phrasing and tone.  After eleven brilliant minutes, Great Gig In The Sky follows, leaving singer Clare Torry with no warm-up time before being thrust into the soggy spotlight. Torry rises to the occasion, belting out a show-stopping take on the make-or-break vocal solo, matching (and perhaps raising) the bar set by Gilmour's guitar work before her. Gilmour reclaims center stage with a masterful take on the classic Wish You Were Here. Often an emotional experience, the guitarist's rain-soaked rendition presented here is no different, evoking audible cheers from the six-figure crowd at the opening strains of the song's trademark guitar part.

The instantly recognizable cash register and thundering bass lines of Dark Side of The Moon's Money signal the back half of the set. Bassist Guy Pratt and saxophonist Candy Dulfer take their turn in the limelight, with the latter earning a call-out by Gilmour before a masterful duet with the guitarist during the Floyd classic's breakdown section. Oddly enough, the classic rock staple is the one diversion from the typically by-the-book nature of a Pink Floyd set. Gilmour leads the ensemble through a handful of bars of a blues riff that is just out of place enough to throw off perhaps even the most experienced Floyd listener. Despite the fact that it isn't the closing song of the night, Comfortably Numb follows, further solidifying David Gilmour's standing as a six-string master. While the soaking wet conditions might have derailed even the most experienced guitarist, Gilmour is un-phased, delivering a combination of moving vocals and a razor sharp rendition of the iconic guitar solo.

Run Like Hell closes out the all-too-short set, though by that time, it is something of an afterthought. Regardless, Pink Floyd's re-emergence at Knebwroth House re-affirmed that even after 25 years since their outset, they were a force to be reckoned with. And with the glaring lack of proper, high-quality documentation of the majority of their touring life, it is fortunate that this triumphant return and magnificent performance was captured, and can finally, after 31 years, be heard as it was meant to be.