Archive for the ‘Rick Wakeman’ Category

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

Quintessential Yes: the 50th anniversary tour Newcastle City Hall 12th June 2018

So this was my second Yes experience within a few months. My conundrum continues…….When is Yes not Yes? Now this version of Yes was the intriguing yes tix 3combination of Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin. Jon Anderson is, of course, a founder member of the band and Rick Wakeman a member of the “classic” Yes line-up. I never saw the line-up of Yes with Trevor Rabin in the band and, I must admit, it was not one of my favourite incarnations of Yes. To me, and I guess many other fans, Jon Anderson epitomises Yes. I have an image in my mind of Jon singing “Close to the Edge” on a warm balmy evening at the Reading Festival, rising out of a smog of dry ice and smoke, wearing a smock top; his vocals soaring above the field and up into the sky. That was probably one of the best times I saw Yes, along with some wonderful shows in the early days when they were still playing covers like “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story and “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles. So Jon Anderson holds a special place in the Yes hierarchy for me. So was this be the true Yes that I was about to see? Why, even the ticket called the band “Yes”!

I have seen Yes many, many times and they will always hold a special place in my heart, as the first band I ever saw and still one of my favourite bands of all time. So I can’t help but get excited each time I see them. This time the set list was a mixture of classic Yes and several (some of which I didn’t really know) songs from the Rabin era Yes. So it was the old favourites than I focused on, I really enjoyed and that I hoped would help me in my search for the true soul, spirit and ethos of “Yes”. The concert was in the form of two sets, just as the Steve Howe led Yes concert was I had seen a few months earlier. Similarly, the set comprised favourites and less familiar songs.yes prog 2

This time the first classic song was “I’ve Seen All Good People”, but it was “And You and I” which epitomised Jon Anderson and Yes, and was sung in the way in only Jon can sing it. In the second half “Heart of the Sunrise” again convinced me that there are certain songs that are so entwined with 1970s Jon Anderson that no one else can do them justice. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” saw Trevor Rabin come into his own, with some tremendous guitar solo work. The encore was a rocky version of “Roundabout”. And that was the root of the difference; that is the “rocking” nature of this band. This version of Yes were a little too classic rock, as a result of Rabin’s influence, for my liking. Somewhere along the line they had lost the prog rock, jazzy feel that epitomises the band for me. So which version of Yes is Yes? For me the Steve Howe incarnation of the band continues the lineage of the true spirit and ethos of Yes. But this version does justice to certain songs in a way that only Jon Anderson can. The truth is both bands are excellent in their own way and there is room for both; and of course it gives us two chances to celebrate the wonderful thing which is Yes music. Now I would love to see the two bands merge in a way that brings together Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe and Alan White. But perhaps I can only dream. But then you never know, time heals many wounds and stranger things have happened.

Setlist. Set 1: Cinema; Hold On; South Side of the Sky; I’ve Seen All Good People; And You and I; Changes; Rhythm of Love. Set 2: I Am Waiting; Heart of the Sunrise; Awaken; Owner of a Lonely Heart. Encore: Roundabout

A Rick Wakeman concert I couldn’t attend: and a mystery solved!

On searching through my ticket stubs, my elder daughter Ashleigh came across this signed ticket, for a concert by Rick Wakeman at South Shields Customs House. Looking at the date; the concert came a few days after my accident. In fact so close to my accident that it was impossible that I had attended the show. Now I can recall going to see Rick Wakeman with my younger daughter, Laura, at a fantastic concert at Newcastle City Hall which we both greatly enjoyed. But I have no recollection of ever having tickets for this concert in South Shields. Reading the ticket stub, it seemed that someone had gone along to the concert, met Rick Wakeman and asked him to sign the ticket with a kind “Get Better!!!” message dedicated to me. rik

To my shame I have no recollection of any of this, and I could not remember who on earth had got the ticket signed for me. In my defence, I was in intensive care at the time, high on morphine, and didn’t really know what was going on! I racked my brains which of my friends could have done such a kind thing for me. But I could not identify the friendly culprit.

I happened to mention my predicament to Laura, who managed to solve the problem immediately. “It was Ian” she said. Now Ian is a friend of both Laura and me, a fellow rock fan and concertgoer and also a very accomplished musician who leads a band in which Laura sometimes accompanies him on vocals. So the problem is solved and a big Thank You to Ian for being so kind to me at a very difficult time, and to Rick Wakeman for signing the ticket for me. Ian apparently told Rick the full sorry tale of my accident and the extent of my predicament at the time. I hope I get the chance to see Rick Wakeman again one day and thank him myself personally.

Rick Wakeman Newcastle City Hall 18th Sep 1980

Rick Wakeman Newcastle City Hall 18th Sep 1980
ricktix80Rick Wakeman rejoined Yes in 1977, but left a few years later and in 1980 he was again on tour as a solo act, accompanied by his band.
I recall going to see the film “White Rock” in 1977. It was a documentary film about the 1976 Winter Olympics held in Innsbruck, Austria, and the soundtrack was by Rick Wakeman. It wasn’t the most enjoyable film…all I can remember is lots of footage of bobsleds speeding through ice and snow…..
Rick was back at the City Hall again in 1980. This time the tour programme featured a spoof newspaper which proclaims: “Yes The Rick Wakeman Show is on the road. Months of government pressure both in England and abroad, high level summit meetings with the President in the White House and even a telephone call from Her Majesty the Queen, failed to stop Rick Wakeman taking his bunch of suicidal perverts around the world to seriously upset music lovers”. 🙂
rickprog80Headlines in the programme included “Police Called to riot in Rick Wakeman show” and “Road Manager in Sex Scandal”. The band was Tony Fernanez (previous job ice cream salesman, drums), Ashley Holt (nickname Fatty, vocals), Tim Stone (previous job tester in a nose stretching factory, guitar) and Steve Barnacle (nickname Bog head, bass). As you might have gathered, as well as being a progrock giant, Rick also had a sense of humour and his concerts reflected this being celebrations of prog pomposity alongside some very silly stories and jokes from the band leader himself. A Rick Wakeman concert was thus a mix of fun and great music, which was also sometimes just a little too long and thus often frustrating.
Setlist (something like): Arthur; Katherine Howard; No Earthly Connection; Anne Boleyn; Sea Horses; Geraldine O’Brien; Catherine Parr; The Spider; Merlin the Magician; Journey to the Centre of the Earth; Swan Lager
Encore: White Rock

Rick Wakeman Newcastle City Hall 4th May 1976

Rick Wakeman Newcastle City Hall 4th May 1976
ricktix76Rick Wakeman left Yes in 1974 to follow a solo career. He had already produced his first three solo albums “Piano Vibrations” (1971), “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” (1973) and “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” (1974) while he was still a member of Yes. On leaving Yes he continued to record epic prog / orchestral pieces, releasing “The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table” in 1975. Rick was also building a reputation for spectacular concerts. In fact “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” was recorded at the Royal Festival Hall, London with full orchestra and choir and topped the UK album charts, becoming a multi-million dollar seller within weeks. In 1975 Wakeman then went on to perform “The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table” on ice at Wembley Empire Pool. He the recorded the soundtrack for the Ken Russell film “Lisztomania” which starred Roger Daltrey as Franz Liszt, and also featured Paul Nicholas, Ringo Starr and, briefly, Wakeman himself as the god Thor. rickprog76I remember going to see the movie at my local cinema at the time. It was crazy, mad piece telling the story of Liszt as the first, flamboyant, pop star, and was very much of its time.
In 1976 Rick Wakeman released the album “No Earthly Connection” and went out of a full UK tour to promote it. The album and the tour featured “Rick Wakeman and the English Rock Ensemble”. The album packaging included “a piece of silver foil which you were supposed to roll up and stand over the centre of the front or back cover. If you then looked into it you would see the distorted pictures of Rick brought back into proportion. I think there might have been a tiny graphic indicating this on the corner of the inner sleeve.” (from Recollection site). According to my programme from the concert the English Rock ensemble were vocalist Ashley Holt (aka Poldo), Roger Newell (bass and vocals; aka Budgie), John Dunsterville (guitars and vocals; aka Dusty), Tony Fernandez (drums and percussion; aka Woppo), Martin Shields (brass and vocals; aka Fartin’ Martin 🙂 ….typical Rick Wakeman humour ), and Reg Brooks (brass and vocals; aka Steptoe).rickpic76
Thanks to Mitch for the photo which he took at this concert, and which shows Rick Wakeman resplendent in his cape (this was the ’70s). The tour programme was a spoof football programme, with a tankard on the cover, illustrating Wakeman’s extra-mural interests of the time. It tells me that “tonight’s programme will be taken form some of the following pieces: Catherine Parr, The Spaceman, The Battle, Lancelot & The Black Night, The Journey, The Recollection, Catherine Howard, Arthur, Listz’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13, The Forest, Merlin the Magician, Anne Boleyn, The Warning, The Prisoner, The Realisation. Aaah, the joys of the ’70s, and progrock excess 🙂

Rick Wakeman ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ Newcastle City Hall 24th April 2014

Rick Wakeman ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ Newcastle City Hall 24th April 2014
rickprogThis was the 40th Anniversary Tour for Rick Wakeman’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’. Rick is taking his famous story telling piece on the road again. A very brave move, as it involves putting together, and touring with a band, full orchestra and choir. The show featured the Irion Symphony Orchestra accompanied by The English Chamber Choir and a rock band giving a live presentation of this classical-rock work. Last night at Newcastle City Hall was the first night of the UK tour, and Laura and I went along. The concert was in two parts, the first with Rick alone on stage telling some stories about his career; and the people who influenced him. He talked about Cat Stevens, and played a piano instrumental of “Morning Has Broken”, which he played on a session musician. He then treated us to a rendition of “Life on Mars” with Hayley Sanderson on vocals (Hayley was one of the two vocalists in the second half of the show), and talked about the time he spent with David Bowie working on “Hunky Dory”, and how David’s advice of being true to yourself has stuck with him throughout his career, and was one of the reasons he persisted with the “Journey” concept when many were against it. ricktixHe then introduced his old friend Ashley Holt, the second vocalist in the concert. Rick explained that he played with Ashley in the ’60s at Watford Top Rank and they performed one of the songs that they used to sing “Summertime”. Rick closed the first half paying tribute to his father, who took him to see “Peter and the Wolf” when he was 8 years old. It was that performance, and seeing a story in music, which planted the seed of the idea of doing a musical version of Rick’s childhood favourite book “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”. He finished by playing “Eleanor Rigby” in the style of Prokofiev, explaining that the composer was a big influence on his music, coming from his classical training at the Royal College of Music. There was then a short interval.
rickflyerThe second half of the concert relived the original album and tour, with the Orion orchestra (who I saw three weeks ago at the Albert Hall performing in the Jon Lord memorial concert), the English Chamber Choir and a rock band featuring Dave Colquhoun on guitar, Matt Pegg (Dave’s son) on bass, and Tony Ferdandez on drums. Philip Franks narrated the performance from the back of the stage, and Guy Protheroe conducted. Guy has been instrumental in putting together the show, helping recreate the score from an old and damaged copy of the original that was found some time ago. Vocal duties were shared between Hayley Sanderson and Ashley Holt, who were both excellent. I must admit that I am not familiar with the album, and didn’t realise how powerful a piece it is. Both Laura and I really enjoyed the concert, and came away both converts to Rick and his music. The audience loved it and gave the performers several standing ovations. An encore of a small piece from the album’s 1999 follow-up “Return to the Centre of the Earth” closed the evening; the audience were on their feet again, and Rick seemed genuinely moved by the reception that his work received.
‘This is the start of a new journey’, says Rick Wakeman about the show, ‘the original score for the album had been lost for so many years, making any new performances impossible. But after it turned up without warning, we managed to restore it and add previously missing music that was not included in the original performances. It has taken another half decade to develop, but I can’t wait to take Jules Verne’s magnificent story on tour again’.
A great concert and much better than I had anticipated.

Anderson and Wakeman Sage Gateshead 8 November 2010

Anderson and Wakeman Sage Gateshead 8 November 2010
Will and I went to see Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman on Monday at the Sage Gateshead. The two former members of Yes have toured before together, however this is the first time that they have come to the North East and hence the first time that Will and I had seen them in this formation. The show was billed as The Project 360 Tour and featured a selection of new songs form their new album The LivingTree (they called this part of the show the “recital”) and many old Yes favourites (the “recycle”!). The show was in two halves with a short internal between. Will and I had wondered on the way through whether the two guys would be accompanied by a band; in fact there was no band. The show was centred around Rick on two keyboards and Jon on acoustic guitar and vocals. We were treated to lots of banter between the two of them, which highlighted their very different personalities; Jon still very much an old hippy, Rick a bloke who would be more at home in the local pub.
The new songs sounded OK, and were very Yes like, but it was the Yes classics that the pretty full house had come to see. These included Yours is No Disgrace, Sweet Dreams, Time and a Word, Roundabout, Starship Trooper, And you and I, Owner of the Lonely Heart; I amsure I will have missed some.
The first thing that I must say is that Jon’s voice is amazing; still as strong as it always was, and that he had no problems at all in reaching any of the notes. The arrangements of the Yes songs took some getting used to for me. I missed hearing a band; but having said that it was still great to hear those wonderful songs sung by Jon again.