Rick Wakeman took the stage on October 13th 2021 at the Natick Center for the Arts (Natick, Mass) to a sold out (and full) house after a nearly 3 year gap in live performing. He worked solo for over two hours sharing the stage with a pair of stacked Korg Nautilus keyboards, the house baby grand piano and a center stage microphone for warm chats with the audience.
Rick opened the evening at the electric keyboards with Sea Horse; a song he wrote in 1979 based on an 8mm diving footage shot by a friend. The song was ethereal with wonderful oceanic sounds.
Next up was Morning Has Broken the iconic Cat Stevens song. Wakeman developed the music for the song with Stevens sitting by the piano in 1970. Wakeman’s performance at the house baby grand piano of the original music (Stevens has evolved the song over the decades) highlighted the beauty of the composition.
In between each piano solo were wonderful and rich stories of music development, personal history or long form old jokes.
Aragon & Howard were played at the piano and are from his album the Six Wives of Henry the 8th. Wakeman admits to not being in a place to judge Henry, though he is only on his 4th marriage. He said he took his inspiration from Salvador Dali’s style for these songs.
Gone But Not Forgotten was dedicated to Keith Anderson and written in 1982
Next up was a Yes medley: Meeting, You & I, and Wondrous followed by Wakeman’s Dance of a 1000 Lights. After these musical selections Wakeman answered questions submitted by the audience earlier in the evening.
Jane Seymour was a selection also taken from the album the Six Wives of Henry the 8th. Wakeman said the song was originally written for the organ with a full orchestra and choral back-up. Lacking the space and budget in a smaller venue, he recorded the missing accompaniment and played the piano part live, using the electric keyboard tuned to an organ sound. This was a cool opportunity to give a full sound in an intimate setting.
Space Oddity & Mars were both dedicated to the sorely missed and great inspiration of David Bowie. Next up were Beatles songs Help & Eleanor Rigby which finished out the set inspired by the 1968 Shades of Deep Purple. Ever the one to play with songs, Wakeman played Help as a sad song (closer to the storied originally intent) and Eleanor Rigby inspired by the work of Russian composer Prokofiev.
Encores: Battle & Merlin the Magician
Overall a great show by an historic performer, all the while connecting with his audience and bringing greater detail and sharpness to the material that we all love and have loved for decades.
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