Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour embarks on first tour in a decade
The craftsman of such Floyd classics as Wish You Were Here has a new solo album to tour, and his live show will include hits from the band’s catalogue – just don’t expect him to sound exactly like the records
The guitar solo from Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb is one of the most famous in rock ’n’ roll. Just thinking about it might make it play in your head.
But the author of that lick feels no pressure to perform it note for note during his rare live shows.
“I think I’ve earned the right not to care about that,” says David Gilmour, who crafted some of Pink Floyd’s most memorable melodies, including Wish You Were Here.
Gilmour is on a rare tour right now, his first in a decade, stopping in New York next week before a European leg that continues through the summer. With wife (and lyricist) Polly Samson in tow, Gilmour is appearing at storied sites around the globe to promote his latest solo album, Rattle that Lock.
Among them are the Hollywood Bowl – where he performed last month for the first time since playing there with Pink Floyd in 1972 – and upcoming shows at Radio City Music Hall and Italy’s ancient Pompeii amphitheatre.
“That’s something we’ve been trying to get for a while,” Gilmour says of the July shows at the Pompeii arena, where Pink Floyd performed without an audience for their 1972 concert film, Live at Pompeii.
“[It] has never been used for a concert since then,” he says. “And this will be the first ever concert in that arena with an audience since they were killing gladiators 2,000 years ago. It’s amazing.”
Gilmour becomes animated as he discusses the performance in Pompeii, but otherwise he’s a soft-spoken man of relatively few words – perhaps the result of decades spent alone in the studio turning bits of inspiration into songs we all know.
The No 14 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists quietly confesses that sometimes he composes on piano, and that he took saxophone lessons to be supportive when his young son was learning the instrument.
Gilmour keeps no regular writing schedule but says a “tiny little moment of magic” might pop into his head at any time. He records notes on his iPhone and revisits them later in his studio. “I do spend a lot of time working away on my own,” he says.
As far as listening to music, Gilmour prefers albums to streaming, and old artists to new. “I’m constantly waiting for the new Neil Young album or Bob Dylan album,” he says.
Gilmour happily forgets about touring when he’s not on the road, enjoying his family’s “quiet life” in Brighton, England. “God knows when I’ll get back out on the road again,” says the musician, who celebrated his 70th birthday in March.
On this tour, he hopes to “create an event where people come and the moment will be cemented in their memory, partly because of the place it’s in”, he says.
Just try not to be disappointed if the guitar solos on your favourite Pink Floyd classics don’t sound exactly like they do on the albums. “Depending on how brave I’m feeling, I get further away from what was the original,” he says. “If people don’t like the way we do it, they can write in and complain.”