September 23, 2023
David Gilmour and David Bowie, 2006

Perhaps surprisingly, given the iconic status enjoyed by both the artist and the storied venue, David Bowie appeared only once at London’s grand Royal Albert Hall in his career, and then only as a special guest, for a special two-song encore.

The date was May 29, 2006, the opening night of a three-night stand at the South Kensington venue booked to close out the UK leg of David Gilmour’s On An Island tour. The mood of the tour was celebratory, as On An Island, Gilmour’s first solo album in 22 years, had given him his first UK number one album outside Pink Floyd, and across the three evenings in the capital, Gilmour had lined up a number of special guests to join him onstage, among them David Crosby and Graham Nash, Robert Wyatt, his Pink Floyd colleague Nick Mason and long-time Floyd fan David Bowie.

Bowie, by his own admission, was a huge fan of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, and acknowledged Barrett as a “major influence” on his own career. “His impact on my thinking was enormous,” said Bowie. “A major regret is that I never got to know him. A diamond indeed.”

Ahead of his cameo onstage with Gilmour, Bowie rehearsed two Floyd songs with Gilmour’s band, their 1967 debut single Arnold Layne and Comfortably Numb from 1979’s The Wall. If the singer had any anxieties about returning to the stage two years on from the enforced cancellation of his 2004 Reality tour, he hid them well, talking happily backstage with a camera crew documenting the shows for a future DVD release.

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