May 10, 2007: Pink Floyd Salutes Syd Barrett

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Syd Barrett (Photo from the Barrett Facebook page)

In the years after they went their separate ways, the former members of Pink Floyd rarely found themselves in the same room at the same time. They had agreed to perform together, on July 2, 2005, at an event called Live 8—their first time together since 1981. That concert—which also featured Elton John, Paul McCartney, the Who, U2, Coldplay and others—had been organized by Bob Geldof as part of a large-scale, multinational effort to eradicate poverty. Pink Floyd performed “Speak to Me,” “Breathe/Breathe (Reprise),” “Money,” “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb,” the musicians making the case that the cause for which they were playing far outweighed their own squabbles.

But the estrangement between Floyd members Roger Waters and David Gilmour remained insurmountable. Following Live 8 they went back to not speaking to each other, and it didn’t appear that there would ever be another occasion for Pink Floyd to share a stage.

It nearly happened on May 10, 2007, but not quite. All four found themselves in the same building, but not performing as together. This event—held at London’s Barbican Centre—was called “The Madcap’s Last Laugh,” and they were all there to honor one of their own, Syd Barrett, the Pink Floyd co-founder who had passed away the previous July.

Early Pink Floyd (l. to r.): Roger Waters, Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Richard Wright

Roger “Syd” Barrett’s story has been oft-told: Mental illness had quickly robbed the original lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter of Pink Floyd of the ability to remain active in the band. He was dismissed in 1968 after recording only one complete album and a handful of singles with Floyd. Barrett went on to cut a couple of solo albums but later attempts to revive his career failed and Barrett spent the rest of his life largely as a recluse in his mother’s Cambridge house, even as his legend continued to grow among fans. It was diabetes that ultimately took him at age 60.

The Barbican concert, part of the venue’s Only Connect series, featured a parade of artists, both well-known and more obscure, honoring Barrett. Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, Captain Sensible of the Damned, Damon Albarn of Blur, Kevin Ayers, Kate McGarrigle, Robyn Hitchcock, Martha Wainwright, Vashti Bunyan and others took turns onstage, but the undeniable highlight was the presence of all four peak-era Floyd members—Waters, Gilmour (Barrett’s replacement in the band), Richard Wright and Nick Mason—there to show their respects.

If their fans were expecting a full-blown Pink Floyd reunion though, they were not to be rewarded. Although Gilmour, Mason and Wright performed together, Waters kept his distance. He first emerged at the end of the show’s first set, performing his own song “Flickering Flame” with the help of keyboardist Jon Carin. That would be it for Roger Waters. When the other three Floyd members took their turn toward the end of set two, performing the Barrett-penned early Floyd classic “Arnold Layne,” Waters was nowhere in sight. By the time the entire cast returned for a show-ending jam session on the Barrett tune “Bike,” he had already left the building.

Watch three-fourths of Pink Floyd revive “Arnold Layne” for Syd Barrett

And here’s Roger Waters performing his “Flickering Flame”

Related: Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett, the early years

Best Classic Bands Staff

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  1. Mick
    #1 Mick 11 May, 2022, 08:46

    Friends for life. Kind of takes the glamour out of being in a band.

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