Behind the Scenes of the Pink Floyd Reunion

'We were all just a little bit nervous,' drummer Nick Mason tells Rolling Stone

Photograph by Jennifer Bain
The surviving members of Pink Floyd reunite onstage at London's 02 Arena, May 12, 2011.
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When Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason got to London's O2 arena last week, he had no idea that he'd be walking into David Gilmour and Roger Waters performing "Comfortably Numb" in a soundcheck for Waters' show that night. "It hadn't ever been quite finalized – there'd been talk about maybe playing in Paris or something else," Mason tells Rolling Stone. "So it was very nice to get there and see that [David] was there."

Later, the three remaining members of Pink Floyd performed on stage together for only the second time in the last 30 years, and the first since 2005's Live 8 concert. "It was really nice to be sort of part of it and to show support for Roger, not that he really needs it," Mason says of Thursday night's show, at which the three played "Outside the Wall." "I suppose it's nice to have Roger wanting to register David and myself as part of it, in a way. It was sort of a mutual thing: it was nice to be recognized but also very nice to lend support to Roger and make it clear that we're not sort of punching it out in these auditoriums. We're not critical of him doing it."

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After soundcheck, the three took seats at a table in a backstage room and had a light dinner. "We were all just a little bit nervous, because it was a pre-show moment so it wasn't that sort of totally relaxed, 'Let's all chat about everything.' Since [David] hadn't played the track in so long, he was probably worried about the technology of lifting him up on the Wall. It's quite scary up there – I've been up there once and it's a long way up."

Next, Mason retreated to his seat on the floor of the arena, where fans greeted him enthusiastically, and watched The Wall for the first time as a spectator. "It was mind-blowingly good," he says. "It's a shame in a way . . . if you could turn the clock back and have access to that sort of technology, 40, 30 years ago, it would've been fantastic. I mean, it's interesting because I think The Wall has been brought up to date. When you look at the stage sets and the lighting that goes on now, it so eclipses what we used to do."

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Gilmour's performance of "Comfortably Numb" went off magnificently. Then at the end of the show, Waters invited Gilmour (this time with a mandolin) and Mason (with a tambourine) for "Outside the Wall," which he he'd been asked to do just half an hour before the show. Onstage, Waters put his arm around Mason and swayed with him. "He very nearly knocked me over," Mason says. "I thought he was going to throw me off the stage."

Were any more words exchanged backstage after the show? "You mean apart from 'Fuck off.  I hate you?' 'I never want to see you again?' No."

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The news spread like wildfire online, which baffles Mason. "Incredibly, it's just three old blokes getting together for a moment, really odd. But if that's what people like then, that's great." And naturally, it reignited hope for a reunion. As it stands, Gilmour is the only holdout for a reunion of the band's living members. Mason and Waters have said they were open to more band activity after reforming at Live 8 in 2005.

"I think particularly at the moment David has other issues to worry about," Mason says. "But also people change from when they are interested in doing something to when they're not. I think that we will just have to wait quietly to see if Dave ever does come around to it. I think there is an outside possibility even if it's, you know, another Live 8."

The drummer will be at tonight's show at the O2 to see the Wall again, but don't expect him onstage. "It was a very nice thing to do but it could become a bit cliché if we kept climbing to the top of the Wall and kept hugging each other onstage. I mean, I think enough is enough. I mean, we're English after all. We don't do that hugging thing a lot."