Wakeman, Rick (April 2001)

Date of Performance: April 28, 2001
Venue: 8th Annual Alfa Centauri Electronic Music Festival, Bussum, NL

Rick Wakeman's Final Solo Concert: The Solid Solo Solution

Rick Wakeman at the 8th Annual Alfa Centuri FestivalI'm sure nobody knew about the fact that Rick Wakeman had recently decided to stop doing his solo shows and fully concentrate on his new band. Rick, who turned 52 on May 18th, said he no longer wanted to be taken as a 21st century Liberace, what with telling stories and jokes for half of the playing time. Over the years, especially in Britain, Rick has been hosting so many TV-shows that more and more people are getting to know him as a TV personality rather than the keyboard virtuoso he really is. "When someone comes up to me after the show telling me they didn't know I could play the piano so well, I guess it's time to re-think what you're doing," said Rick. And that's exactly what he did when he attended the 8th Annual Alfa Centauri Electronic Music Festival in Bussum, Holland on April 28th. Next to musicians such as Lightwave, Peter Mergener, Alquimia, Roedelius, Erik Norlander and Lana Lane, Rick was the icing on the cake, but for him it was a rather sad day as it marked the end of a big chapter in his life.8th Annual Alfa Centuri Festival program

Having been present since eleven in the morning, where he took part in a press conference, Rick had just flown in from Argentina, where he did a small tour with his band. This meant that all of his gear had to be flown over as well, because this was not meant to be Rick and piano but Rick and his many keyboards. Rick then went back to his hotel and agreed to meet me back at the venue at 4:30 PM. The interview we had back then will be published in issue #39 of Progression Magazine [published in late June]. Then the big moment arrived when Rick was announced as the next to take the stage - he was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd. Rick had asked the organisers what they wanted him to play, resulting in a mixture of a lot of the "old" stuff, in part re-arranged to make it sound more contemporary. What better way to kick off than to combine two songs from the Six Wives Of Henry VIII album. "Catherine Howard" and "Catherine Of Aragon" blended together like it had always meant to be that way. In between the songs came the inevitable stories, told in the typical tongue-in-cheek Wakeman way. Rick Wakeman talks to the Alfa Centuri crowd No subtitles were necessary, as it became obvious that the crowd fully understood what he was on about. The first surprise came when Rick announced a medley of two songs from the 1984 album. "The Hymn" and "Julia" were once again linked to make it one big spectacular travel back in time.

On he went to tell about the recording sessions of Yes in Montreux way back in 1977. With Jon Anderson gone skiing and Steve Howe needing seven hours to tune his guitars, Rick found time to write "Birdman Of Alactraz," one of my all-time favourites! Another medley, this time from the No Earthly Connection album. Rick told us the medley consisted of "The Spaceman," "The Visit" and "The Prisoner." Strangely enough, on my copy of No Earthly Connection I don't seem to find a song called "The Visit," though I do find it on Phantom Power. Then it was time for "Jane Seymour" and the story about how it frightened the hell out of the roadies when Rick told them he wanted to perform that song on stage. For years he got the thumbs down from the roadies, as none of them wanted to drag a real church organ on stage. Fortunately, Korg later decided to sample the sound of a church organ, so now Rick is able to finally perform "Jane Seymour" on stage, and what a song it still is!

Rick WakemanTime for the Winter Olympics and the story how "After The Ball" came together. Apparently the director of the film White Rock came into the studio to listen to Rick's work. All the songs were finished except the one for the ice skating routine. So the director thought Rick had kept it till last because it certainly had to be the best piece. The truth however was that Rick forgot about the track and hadn't written anything. So he climbed behind his piano and to this day still doesn't know what happened, as he kind of was playing in an automatic mode. When the studio engineer asked Rick to play it a second time Rick told him he had to wait until the next day because right now he had put so much emotion into the song all of his batteries had run out. Luckily in Holland the batteries were far from run out as this was another stunning piece of music!

Rick WakemanBecause Rick will always been seen as THE keyboard player in Yes, it became almost obvious that he would include some kind of tribute to the great Yes. Combining "And You And I" and "Wondrous Stories" the crowd really loved what they heard. "You have to imagine that there is a huge orchestra and choir behind these curtains," said Rick as he introduced "Dance Of A Thousand Lights" from the Return To The Centre Of The Earth album. "Sadly, because the budget wouldn't stretch that far, I have recorded the orchestra on a CD-R." With eyes closed however it was as if the entire orchestra and choir were present. The concert came to a close with Rick's interpretation of the Beatles classic "Eleanor Rigby" played in the style of Prokofiev, one of Rick's favourite classical composers.

Needless to say the crowd wanted more, so Rick explained how much he wanted to do "Merlin The Magician" yet it was impossible as he had to rush from one part of the stage to the other and from a musical point of view it wouldn't be nice to have a ten second silence in between the parts. But then he asked someone from the audience to hold down a couple of keys on the keyboard whilst he ran to the other side of the stage. Magician Wakeman and his assistant (from the audience)Needless to say he kept the poor woman on stage holding the keys for much longer than necessary, adding a couple of jokes along the way. Although it looked as if he had done it a thousand times before, there nevertheless was a small hint of sadness as it did indeed mark the very final chord of Wakeman as a solo performer.

As always, Rick came to say hello to the fans and sign some autographs, the big hearted man he is, before leaving for the next chapter in his life as Rick Wakeman and the New English Rock Ensemble! Good luck Rick!Rick Wakeman signs autographs for fans

Setlist: Catherine Howard & Catherine of Aragon, The Hymn & Julia, Birdman Of Alcatraz, The Spaceman, The Visit & The Prisoner, Jane Seymour, After The Ball, And You And I & Wondrous Stories, Dance Of A Thousand Lights, Eleanor Rigby, Merlin The Magician

Added: June 5th 2001
Reviewer: John "BoBo" Bollenberg

Artist website: www.rwcc.com
Hits: 1365
Language: english

[ Back to Live Reviews Index | Post Comment ]