Rick Wakeman 9.12.21 Birmingham Town Hall, Victoria Square B3 3DQ
As the Omicron Covid variant fever grows I’m on another live music led mini-tour. Friday night up to Birmingham – on to Liverpool on Saturday, armed with masks and lateral flow test kits. My gig buddy Dave got this trip sorted in the days when live gigs were a distant hope.
Tonight it’s a return to the lovely old Birmingham Town Hall, where we saw Scritti Politti several months ago now. (There’s more background on the venue in my blog of that one.)
Tonight is a bit off piste for me: Rick Wakeman. Something very different and my knowledge is minimal. The legendary keyboard wizard of prog rockers Yes, a fan of Brentford FC, and er… one of the Grumpy Old Men from that TV series who does albums of piano playing…which I’ve been listening to. That’s it. The limit of my Rick Wakeman awareness as I walk into the Town Hall. (No I didn’t even know he was in The Strawbs.)
I did see Rick Wakeman with Yes in June 2018, headlining a day of The Stone Free Festival at Greenwich O2 and plugging a gap in a once in a lifetime 8 gigs in 8 days and 3 cities tour.
Tonight we are in on the pre-gig chat with what turns out to be a small band of Wakeman experts asking smart questions. Rick Wakeman appears love this bit, happy to expand any answer into a chat as he perches on a chair on the edge of the stage with a mug of tea. He’s a good story teller, and gag teller, which feature in his show.
He plays a piano piece by way of a warm up and special bonus after taking questions and signing stuff. It’s something he wrote for Norman Wisdom to help in charity fund raising for the kids from Chernobyl.
Then an opportunity for a few pics and wander on to the stage in this wonderful old building.
And then a bit of a break and a few beers in the bar before the main performance. No support tonight. The tour is entitled ‘The Not Quite as Grumpy as Last Christmas Tour’.
The gig is an interesting mixture of the grand piano pieces, the synth keyboard pieces and some chat, stories and jokes (or maybe they were true funny stories) in between.
Hugely relaxing and atmospheric tunes. No vocal. No other sounds or instruments. Pure Wakeman and wonderful to see it – a one off for me.
The setlist is here for those students of Wakeman, and my reference one day but the stand out piece for me was, without any doubt, the Bowie songs Life on Mars and Space Oddity with some added bits. (My YouTube channel clip – Life on Mars)
He played keyboards for David Bowie on these at the time and these were a few of his many keyboard contributions on the albums of various artists.
He’s not grumpy at all. Seems like a someone it would be good to spend the days with. Age is a theme – he mentioned driving passed care homes with his wife and noticing that these days she was taking notes as they passed them – she’s a lot younger than him.. from Dorchester originally and her dad had a card shop in the high street I used to go in when I started working in the town town.
He finished with Eleanor Rigby and a seasonal Silent Night – these are elaborate arrangements – layered compositions. I’m no musician and easily stunned by such works.
Another evening of music over. A different and a more relaxed outing than usual. Town Hall clip from my YouTube channel.