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Home arrow Reviews arrow Concerts arrow Pink Floyd - Silver Clef Award Winners Show, Knebworth Park, June 30th 1990
Pink Floyd - Silver Clef Award Winners Show, Knebworth Park, June 30th 1990 Print E-mail
Written by Ian McKenzie   
Tuesday, 16 February 2010

knebworth 1990 ticketIn the latest review of a concert from years passed, courtesy of Brain Damage regular Ian McKenzie, we take a look back a (quite astonishing) 20 years to the 1990 Knebworth concert in aid of the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Charity. This featured a star-studded line-up and very mixed weather - from bright sunshine and warmth, through to persistant rain and wind, which materially affected Pink Floyd's appearance at the top of the bill, ahead of people like Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Cliff Richard and more...

Way back in 1976 a classmate of mine introduced me to the music of Pink Floyd. He lent me the cassette of 'Wish You Were Here', and by the time I'd finished listening to the second track, 'Welcome to the Machine', I was completely hooked. He also told me about a huge open-air concert that Pink Floyd had played the previous year at a place called 'Nebworth'.

As I'd never heard of it, I looked for it in my dad's UK road atlas, but I just couldn't find such a place. I then started to hear about several 'Nebworth' concerts on various rock programmes on the radio, but the place just didn't seem to exist in reality... until, of course, I discovered the 'K' was missing from the spelling that I'd had in my head for at least a year or so... D'oh!!!

The first opportunity I got to see a concert at Knebworth (with a 'K') was when Led Zeppelin played there in 1979. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough money to buy a ticket, as I was just finishing regular school and was about to start 6th Form (which I never did in the end). So, I missed out on both of the infamous Led Zep Knebworth concerts of the summer of '79 and I never thought I'd get another chance to visit the fabled place.

Fast-forward eleven years, and I was at a major milestone in my life. I was going through a divorce and I was about to pack in my job as well as trying to sell my house so that I could go to university. My favourite group had split 5 years earlier and both 'factions' of the band had just announced separate major one-off charity concerts for 1990; Roger Waters performing The Wall in Berlin and Pink Floyd performing at Knebworth 90. I wanted to go to both of these concerts but, again, my finances just would stretch that far. Throughout the 1980s, I'd been fortunate enough to have seen various Pink Floyd concerts, but I kind of always got that feeling that any performance by the band could well be their last. Anyway, the cost of flying to Berlin versus travelling by road from the North East to the South East of England meant the Knebworth 90 concert won hands-down.

So, it’s 5 o'clock in the morning on June 30th 1990 and I'm strolling past a jeweller's shop in Darlington with my good mate, Andrew, when a police car pulls up alongside us. “Where are you two going then?” asks one of the police officers. “We're going to a concert,” Andrew replies. “Oh yeah, so where's this concert at then?” asks the other police officer. “Knebworth,” we tell him. “Never heard of it,” he says. “It's in Hertfordshire and, if you really need to look it up, it's spelt with a silent K!” I reply. We then explain that we're on our way to get a coach that will be taking us down to Hertfordshire. “So who's playing at this concert in whatever the place is called?”, one of them asks. “Err, Pink Floyd, Phil Collins, Mark Knopfler, Robert Plant, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and a few others.” “Sounds good, hope you enjoy it.” So, the police car drives away and we start walking a bit faster to make sure that we're not too late for the coach. Unfortunately, we only manage to get about 100 metres along the road and the same police car pulls up along side of us again. “So what's in your bag then?”, asks one of the police officers pointing at Andrew's carrier bag. Luckily, Andrew tells him that it contains his sandwiches just before I'm about to sarcastically say, “It's full of jewellery that we've just stolen from the jeweller's shop down the road.” Anyway, after checking the bag did indeed contain sandwiches, the police finally allow us to go on our way. I must admit, I was half expecting them to pull up beside us for a third time to ask whether we'd stolen the bloody sandwiches.

Unlike on some previous coach trips to Floyd concerts, this one was fairly uneventful and we got to Hertfordshire in pretty good time. The coach driver parked on an industrial estate 'somewhere' on the edge of Stevenage and we had to walk the rest of the way to the concert. This wasn't really an issue, as there was plenty of time, the sun was shining and the concert site was only about twenty minutes walk away. I don't remember the coach driver giving us any sort of ultimatum as to when we needed to be back at the coach for the trip back home but, if he did, we (conveniently?) didn't hear him.

Knebworth 1990 shirt front
Knebworth 1990 shirt back

It was either just before or during the first performance of the day (Tears for Fears) that the weather took a turn for the worst and there was a fairly heavy downpour. Just as the reality of having to possibly spend 10 hours in the rain before Pink Floyd hit the stage was beginning to set in, the rain stopped and the sun came out again. For the majority of the rest of the day, the weather was good and most of the performances were great too. I particularly enjoyed Eric Clapton and Dire Straits and there was the added bonus of Jimmy Page joining Robert Plant on stage and also Phil Collins being joined by the other members of Genesis for some of his set. I seem to remember the rain returned some time during the Phil Collins or Genesis set but it was not as bad as it had been for Tears for Fears earlier. We'd never been particularly fond of the music of Cliff Richard & the Shadows or Status Quo, so their performances were our prompt to hunt for hot dogs, tee-shirts and beer (not necessarily in that order). Amazingly (or sadly), we still have the tee shirts to this day [click thumbnails, left].

A few of the songs that I heard throughout the day seemed to have a greater significance to me due to the recent changes in my personal circumstances. I realised that many so-called 'love songs' were actually songs about relationships breaking up and it was just that the lyrics had never really registered with me before. I also heard some songs that day that I'd never expected to hear being played live by their 'original' artists. 'Hey Jude' by Paul McCartney was superb, especially as it provided the first real opportunity for the 120,000 strong crowd to sing along in unison. To relieve the boredom during the most of the intervals between the various performers, a fairly large proportion of the crowd decided it would be fun to have a mass litter fight. I guess this is the sort of thing that happens whenever Cliff & the Shadows get back together!

Something that became more and more apparent throughout the day, was that the proceedings were likely to seriously overrun. Just for good measure, the wind was picking up and the rain seemed to be starting up again. When Paul McCartney came back onto the stage to perform 'Yesterday', I was starting to get concerned that we might not actually see the Floyd perform. Quite a few people were beginning to leave – did they know something that we didn't? Maybe some of these people simply had to get back home and, just maybe, some of them had coaches to catch by a specified time. Andrew and I were fairly sure that hadn't heard our driver telling us to be back at the coach by an agreed time and, as we'd not seen Pink Floyd for, well, at least a year, we were staying put. Due to a fair number of people leaving the venue, we were able to make our way forward to be closer to the stage though, with the amount of litter on the ground, it was a bit like wading through a landfill site. We ended up stood close to some scaffolding which several crazy people had decided to climb up to get a better view of the proceedings. The promoter came out onto the stage to tell the crowd that, unless these folks got down from the scaffolding, the concert would be cancelled. The guys on the scaffolding seemed to be unconcerned by this threat, but they certainly took more notice of the much more serious threats made to them by the crowd standing below them!

The Floyd's circular screen was lowered from its horizontal location above the stage into its usual vertical position at the back of the stage, behind the band. I then remember seeing some of the crew being hoisted up to the circular screen to cut away the fabric of the screen from its circular frame. It was fairly obvious that this was a safety precaution, as the wind was really beginning to pick up, rather than an indication that Pink Floyd wouldn't actually be coming on stage! Then we were treated to an excellent 20 minute film about Pink Floyd on the large video screens. The next person on stage was the late Tommy Vance, Radio One's rock DJ of the time and a big supporter of Pink Floyd. He made a short speech to the crowd which ended with him saying “...the ultimate band, Pink Floyd!!” and, right on cue, the start of 'Shine on You Crazy Diamond' emerged from the sound system. Unfortunately, the laser that would normally back project onto the circular screen for the beginning section of this particular song hadn't been turned off so, as the screen itself had been removed, it just shone directly into the eyes of the audience.

As Andrew and I had seen Pink Floyd in both 1988 and 1989, we were kind of hoping they might just play something out of the ordinary. However, as all of the artists that day were playing fairly short sets and they were also playing to an audience that wasn't just made up of their own fans, it was more likely that most of them would play it 'safe'. Looking back, I think 'Echoes' or 'Dogs' would have gone down a storm with the Floyd fans in the audience! Also, maybe a performance of the whole of 'The Dark Side of the Moon', possibly with an encore of 'Wish You Were Here' and 'Comfortably Numb', would have been the most appropriate choice of material for the occasion.

The band played a pretty good version of 'Shine On' which included Candy Dulfer on the saxophone. As well as her great sax playing, I have to say that, for me at least, Candy Dulfer was a lot 'easier on the eye' than Scott Page and his 'super mullet' haircut!

The rain hadn't quite returned at this point, but we knew it was only a matter of time. The next song was 'Great Gig in the Sky'. I'm not sure whether it was the position of this song in the setlist or if it was the decision to have the 'vocals' sung by the original vocalist of this track from the DSOTM album, Clare Tory, but I just didn't think it worked that well. In all honesty, if they really did have to perform this song at the concert, I would have preferred to have heard Sam Brown singing it (Sam was also one of the backing singers on that night and she did a great duet with David Gilmour during the verses of Comfortably Numb).

Just before the third song of the set, 'Wish You Were Here', David Gilmour said a few words to the crowd. The song then started without the usual 'radio' sound effects. I seem to remember that it was during this song that the rain returned with a vengeance. Just for good measure the direction of the wind was such that the rain was directed straight at the performers on the stage. However, one of the immediate advantages of the rain for the audience, and maybe even for the performers too, was that it made the lasers look even more spectacular. However, it can't have been that much fun for those on stage because they really were getting completely drenched, though David Gilmour was certainly putting on a brave face and was smiling for much of the time. Playing a guitar in the pouring rain can't be easy neither (I have enough problems playing mine in the dry and comfort of my own home!).

Myself and Andrew sang along to 'Wish You Were Here' and we heard somebody next to us saying, “These guys are quite good aren't they?” I guess they were referring to Pink Floyd, rather than our perfectly harmonised, but seriously out of tune, duet. The fourth song of the Floyd's set was 'Sorrow'. At the start of the song it looked like one of the crew had inadvertently set up the main laser effect in the wrong place, as it was pointing at a spot just behind David Gilmour rather than actually on him. Despite the atrocious weather conditions, the band performed a very good version of the song. I'm sure a fair number of people in the audience were thinking the same as myself that they might just have to cut the concert short if the rain didn't let up.

The next song was 'Money', which started with the familiar cash register sound effects. This was okay, but the middle section of the song really did drag on for longer than it needed to. This was followed by a pretty good version of Comfortably Numb, even if there was a mismatch between what David Gilmour and Nick Mason were playing at one point during the song. As the second guitar solo of Comfortably Numb started it began to rain even harder. At the end of the song David Gilmour commented to the audience that it was “A bit damp up here, I expect you're a bit damp down there.” Still, he certainly took it in his stride, as he then commented that, “The first lot and the last lot get the rain. Still, them's the breaks.” We were then treated to a great version of 'Run Like Hell', which was accompanied by the usual great light and laser show. As this was the last song of the concert, there were a few fireworks at the end, but, with the exception of the 'exploding' circular screen, these were not quite as spectacular as they would likely have been if the weather wasn't so awful.

So that was it, another great Pink Floyd concert had ended and we had no idea whether we'd ever see them live again. Luckily, the answer to this was yes we would, but we would have to wait another four years to do so. We headed back to our coach in the dark. The rain just seemed to be getting heavier and heavier. We stopped briefly at a 'dodgy' burger van for a quick bite to eat. We were convinced that we still had plenty of time to get the coach, especially as we'd managed to get away from the venue fairly quickly. Unfortunately, we then realised that, due to the torrential rain, we'd taken a wrong turning and we were actually completely lost. It must have taken us at least another 20 minutes to find the coach, but we were still convinced that we'd be back there before most of the other passengers. As we boarded the coach, it was immediately obvious that this was not the case. We were the last two people to get on the bus and, judging by the looks on the faces of the other passengers, they'd all been waiting quite some time for us! Maybe none of them had actually stayed to watch Pink Floyd, as nobody seemed to be anywhere near as wet as we were. So, we spent the next 5 or more hours on the coach, soaked through to the skin, keeping quiet. I remember thinking that it was unlikely that we'd have to put up with the indignity of being stopped by the police again when we arrived back in Darlington because, before we even got there, we would either die of pneumonia or be lynched by a coach full of tired and angry Cliff Richard fans.

All in all, despite the atrocious weather and Pink Floyd only being on stage for just less than an hour, it was a great day out and one of those rare opportunities to see a lot of talented big name performers at the same concert. I just can't believe it was 20 years ago and now, unfortunately, I'm older than most of the people who were performing on the stage that day!

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