David Gilmour made a rare public appearance earlier this week when he played two Leonard Cohen songs at the digital book-launch event for A Theatre for Dreamers, a new novel written by Polly Samson, his wife and longtime co-lyricist. The book takes place on the Greek island of Hydra in the early Sixties, and Cohen, who lived there at the time, is a character.
It was a relatively unique chance to see Gilmour play music written by another artist. His solo shows going all the way back to his first tour in 1984 have always concentrated exclusively on his own work and Pink Floyd classics. He only really breaks from this for special occasions like a TV appearance with Kate Bush, the chance to play guitar in Pete Townshend’s 1985 supergroup Deep End, or the time in 2010 he duetted with Roger Waters on a tongue-in-cheek rendition of the Teddy Bears’ 1959 tune “To Know Him, Is to Love Him” to poke fun at their combative relationship.
Another exception took place on June 21st, 2002, at the Cowdray House in West Sussex, England, when he appeared at a special Beatles tribute show to raise money for the Tibet House Trust and other charities. He was part of an incredible lineup that included Ringo Starr, Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford, Queen drummer Roger Taylor, Bob Geldof, Donovan, Lulu, Paul Carrack, Faces drummer Kenny Jones, and many others.
This was an under-the-radar show that never aired on TV, but a fan did manage to capture video of Gilmour singing “Across the Universe” and “Revolution,” complete with a ripping guitar solo. The clip ends with snippets of Paul Carrack tackling “It Won’t Be Long,” “All My Loving,” and “Let It Be.” You can check it out here.
Hopefully there’s professional footage of this entire event in a vault somewhere. It would make for an incredible release. In the meantime, Gilmour is planning to appear at a second streaming event this week to promote A Theatre for Dreamers. We can only guess at what surprise covers he plans to break out this time.