The ambiance at Birmingham's Town Hall is one perfectly suited to experience an evening in the company of Rick Wakeman. Dating back to 1834 and acclaimed during the Victorian era as the finest music hall in all of the United Kingdom, the venue underwent a lavish restoration during the last decade that has resulted in modern facilities contained within an imposing structure that remains faithful to its heritage. Alternating between his seat at the piano and standing stage front and centre Wakeman offers two hours of engaging banter, anecdotes and musical highlights taken from throughout his long career.
With his many and varied experiences over the years Rick has numerous stories to tell and the subjects range from playing in a Parisian circus with the Strawbs to sessions with David Bowie and Cat Stevens; the latter leading to an inspired rendition of "Morning Has Broken" . Resolutely in "Grumpy Old Man" form with any mention of Yes he does, however, recall an amusing visit by Jon Anderson to the Isle of Man and the singer insisting on a room with a view in order to carry out his painting. This serves as the introduction to a wonderful piano version of "And You And I" that segues into ABWH's "The Meeting".
Whist this is to all intents a purposes a one man show for "Dance of a 1000 Lights" Rick is accompanied by pre-recorded orchestra and choir to fully recapture the spirit of the original. An emotional "Gone But Not Forgotten" is prefaced by memories of Rick's Mum as he requests the crowd to think about their own loved ones whilst he plays the piece. For the most part the anecdotes are light-hearted with memories of Bill Oddie's bird watching before "Birdman of Alcatraz" (that includes audience participation by way of providing the Birdsong) and a lecherous Brian Blessed prior to "Catherine Howard". It might be a long way from touring with Yes but at the age of 62 Rick is doing what he loves best; performing in a warm environment where he is both comfortable and relaxed. And if the response was anything to go by this proved to be a memorable evening for all concerned.
Review by Dean Pedley
Thanks to Rich Ward of www.classicrockphotography.co.uk for kindly providing the images