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Strangely enough this is the second time I have seen Rick Wakeman live. I think I once served him a coffee at my Starbucks too, though it only occurred to me later that it may have been him. Anyway me and my dad went to see him perform Journey To the Centre of the Earth at the NIA the other night so I might as well tell you all what it was like.
The first half was just Rick in a blue suit talking and playing piano. He was introducing the people he'd be performing with and telling jokes and stories about how he first managed to get this project off the ground. David Bowie was a major influence, one of those people who kept on telling him to trust his own instincts and not let anybody else try to influence his view. Many of the anecdotes he told are published in his two brilliant grumpy old man memoirs and I'd heard a few during the last time I saw him. But It was still great to hear these funny stories again.
This section of the gig was only about 40 minutes long but it proved that Rick doesn't really need to the orchestras or stage props to out on a good show. It was easy to lose yourself in the beauty of his playing, as a pianist the man is second to none.
The second half of course saw him trade his blue suit for his trademark cape. And one keyboard for about 5. Apart from the Narrator, and the lyrics in the songs there was not much else to tell Jules Verne's story. there was no back projection, stage props or anything like that. In fact compared to what I've heard about the original 1970's performances this was pretty low-key. Having said that he was playing with an orchestra and a pretty huge light show.
While the story itself is a classic, the music wasn't quite my thing. Classical music is timeless yet Ricks Keyboard noises could only be from the 70's. Ricks Journey to the centre of the Earth really was a testament to the excess of the 70's and it makes an odd memento of that era in rock n roll. In fact it was only rock n roll in an incredibly vague sense, with a handful of musicians playing guitar, bass and drums. For me at least the whole thing was much easier to enjoy as a live spectacle than an album. It was nice to sit back and enjoy the amazing musicianship, the story being told and the visual spectacle. It was pretty good value for money at roughly two hours long and I did really enjoy the show. Once the story was over they played us an encore which included a keytar/guitar stand off and Rick walking around the arena in full cape playing Keytar solos (which sadly I couldn't get a good pic of). The crowd clearly loved every minute, the applause was immense and Rick was clearly touched by the reaction this show gets. What a great guy.
I almost bought a T shirt, which i thought I could wear ironically. This made quite a change from the more Punk rock gigs i've been going to lately. Cool? no. Not in the slightest, but still pretty darn good