Rick Wakeman at the Ashcroft Theatre in London
Rick’s back with another Christmas tour, and I was there to witness the very first show of it at the Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon – a side stage to the legendary local Fairfield Halls. He’s done a few of these solo tours in the past, previously accompanied by CD releases such as ‘Piano Portraits’, and ‘Piano Odyssey’, but for this tour he’s chosen to revisit the classics, whilst also throwing in a handful of traditional Christmas tunes.
The music tonight, as always with his solo tours, was interjected with short commentaries, jokes, stories, and reflections of life. I always appreciate these sorts of segments in these solo intimate style live shows where you may as well be sat in Rick’s living room whilst he noodles away playing his favourite pieces, recounting fables of times gone by.
Split into two halves, Rick started with a rendition of ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ to get us into the christmassy spirit before sliding through a melody of ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘A Carol’, and ‘Morning Has Broken’.
In one of his stories, Rick spoke about his upcoming album ‘A Gallery of the Imagination’ – dedicating it to one of his former piano teachers dubbing that ‘music was painting pictures’. He spoke of plans to perform the album in galleries and have people create art around him whilst the music dictates how that art should be created. Certainly an interesting idea, and one that I hope unfolds for us to see in 2023 for what I believe to be an artistic first for Rick.
We were lucky enough to hear the live ad public debut of one of the tracks ‘Just a Memory’ on this evening. And, he was also selling the album early from his merch desk – so naturally I picked up a copy (and it is very tasty…)
Set 2 came around with some deep cuts including ‘Sea Horses’ and ‘Gone but Not Forgotten’ from ‘Rhapsodies’ and ‘Cost of Living’ respectively. They aren’t works that I’m personally familiar with, but I did appreciate Rick going into the archives and picking out some lesser played numbers rather than just doing ‘Six Wives’ and ‘King Arthur’ to death – even though we all love those albums, and he did indeed play acoustic piano arrangements from both releases on this evening.
Following this, we had another debut from his next album, a song entitled ‘The Creek’ which was quite frankly beautiful. And I shalln’t say anything more as you’ll have to hear the album when it eventual ly comes out next year.
Rick closed the evening with some Beatles and David Bowie, naturally, in tribute to his late friend whom he clearly misses dearly. It does bring a tear to my eye hearing him talking about his old friend so fondly, and I’m sure without a doubt that it brings a tear to his too.
On that cold winter evening, Rick brought a sense of serenity and peace to Croydon with his timeless playing – and I wouldn’t have wanted to have been anywhere else. Catch him while you can – either on the remainder of this tour, or on his upcoming live dates in 2023 where he’s taking to the big stage once again in London to perform all of ‘King Arthur’ and ‘Six Wives’ live with a full backing page if that takes your fancy. I know I’ll be doing my damndest to try and get there.