Rick Wakeman Sage Gateshead 16 December 2021

I first came across Rick Wakeman when he was a member of The Strawbs. My good friend, Tony, had arick6 21 copy of the album Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios, which was recorded live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1970. Rick features on the album and his distinctive neoclassical piano playing is evident throughout the record. We would sit and listen to the album again and again. I now have my own copy and played it the other night to remind myself of Rick’s early work. I next came across him when I first saw him live at Newcastle City Hall in 1972, when he had just joined Yes. I’ve been a fan and follower ever since and have seen him several times in different incarnations of Yes and on his epic solo tours including seeing him perform albums such as The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

rick2 21This tour was a Grumpy Old Man Christmas tour, incorporating Rick playing a selection of his own work, famous songs that he played keyboards on as a session musician, Christmas tunes, some Grumpy Old Man stories and anecdotes and a short question-and-answer interlude. The show was in two parts, each one hour duration, with a short interval in between.

I arrived just in time to catch the start of the performance, with my carer Jackie and we met up with my daughter Laura. Rick started on his grand piano with a couple of Christmas carols followed by a wonderful performance of “Morning Has Broken” on which he performed piano for Cat Stevens. This was followed by a selection of short segments from his albums, including the aforementioned Six Wives of Henry VIII, the latter performed on keyboards. He also performed a great instrumental version of the Yes classic “And You and I”.

rick prog 21The stage was set out very Christmassy with a lovely, lit Christmas tree towards the back, between the grand piano and keyboards. In between the music Rick told some quite funny stories (some quite inappropriate), largely about the problems of getting old and some lovely stories about how his entire village comes together for a Christmas party/musical evening. It sounds a great village to live in! He reminisced about his good friends, both sadly passed, and both also excellent keyboard players Jon Lord and Keith Emerson. He told a funny story about how he went to a small awards ceremony with Keith Emerson, and Keith got locked in the toilet. Then Rick climbed in over the top from the cubicle next door, and they both smashed the door outward in order to escape, much to the amusement of other celebrities who were in the gents at the time. There was then a short interval, during which I partook in a (tiny) miniature bottle of orange gin, which I had won in a charity raffle at Laura’s school. Unfortunately, I found the gin rather sickly (yak).

rick1 21The second half took a similar format, starting with “Jingle Bells” and “Away in a Manger” followed by some more of Rick’s own compositions. Then the question and answer section. On entry to the hall you could pick up a card on which to write a question for Rick. On this occasion, I chose not to do so. However plenty of people did ask questions and Rick selected a few to answer. Two I recall in particular. First someone asked a question about Yes and Rick threw the card to the floor, signifying (I assume) his feelings about the current version of the band, which does not include any original members and neither Rick nor Jon Anderson (arguably two of the most important musicians in the classic Yes lineup). Secondly someone asked when he first played Newcastle. He remembered that it was with The Strawbs in 1969 at Newcastle City Hall supporting Roy Harper. Now there’s a gig I wish I attended; but I was a little young at the time, sadly (my life is full of such regrets of shows I wish I attended). He then returned to the grand piano to play two wonderful songs he played on with David Bowie: “Space Oddity” and “Life on Mars”. Simply exquisite. He concluded the performance with a couple of songs which he did not play on, but which are particular favourites of his; the Beatles “Help!” and “Eleanor Rigby”, performed in the style of classical composers. Our taxi was due so we left at this point; however as we were leaving the hall we could hear Rick performing “Silent Night”. A fitting end to a wonderful Christmas performance by an excellent musician and all-round funny guy. This was my last gig of 2021 and a great end to my concert year.

rick3 21Setlist: Set 1: When a Child Is Born; O Holy Night; Morning Has Broken; Jane Seymour; Gone but Not Forgotten; Catherine of Aragon; Catherine Howard; And You and I; The Last Battle; Merlin the Magician

Set 2: Jingle Bells / Away in a Manger; The Dance of a Thousand Lights; Sea Horses; Space Oddity; Life on Mars?; Help!; Eleanor Rigby

Encore: Silent Night

8 responses to this post.

  1. Scary, Peter!
    As your review has just gone ‘live’ I am actually watching Rick perform his ‘Six Wives’ album live at Hampton Court in 2009 (aided?!! and abetted by BRIAN BLESSED!!!) as broadcast on Sky Arts.
    Anyway, I have twice seen Rick doing his ‘anecdotal’ grumpy tours, both great fun and filled with some brilliant music. He’s a great entertainer, and he’s also quite right in his condemnation of the Yes tours. As I have read elsewhere recently, he has said that the band name should have perished alongside Chris Squire, whose band it really has been throughout all of these years.

    Thanks for yet another interesting read, and I’m glad that you are still managing to get out and about in these torrid times!



    • Posted by vintagerock on December 19, 2021 at 5:27 pm

      Thank you for reading my post so quickly Roger! Yes Rick was on good form and quite funny. I agree that Chris Squire became the leader of Yes and that they should have probably stopped when he passed away. Having said that I will continue to go and see them and have tickets for their show at the City Hall next year. I wish Rick, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe could regroup as Yes. That would be much better. You never know what might happen one day. Happy days and have a great Christmas Peter


  2. Sounds like a fun night, Peter. 🙂 Happy Christmas to you and yours and all the best for a very good and peaceful New Year. Stay safe. Alistair


  3. Forgot to post a link to the two gig reviews on my website. 🤦‍♂️

    PS I hope that you don’t mind me ‘spamming’ your excellent site, Peter
    My site, although nowhere as near as good as yours, gets zero traffic.
    Just say if you object and I’ll stop. 👌


  4. Posted by David Dennis on December 20, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    Always enjoy your reviews. I have a solo bootleg recording of Rick at a small hall in Wales. I, too, was impressed with his stage presence and anecdotes, and his playing . I listen to it every now and then. Very similar to the show you saw. Also saw him with Yes in London Ontario in the mid 2000s with the original lineup …. awesome


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