Rick Wakeman and the English Rock Ensemble at Drury Lane Theatre in London

At the start of last year Rick Wakeman did two headline shows in London playing Journey as well as Six Wives in full. And that was clearly a hit as now he’s back by popular demand, deciding to once again tour Journey to the Centre of the Earth with the English Rock Ensemble.

Rick also recently announced that he wouldn’t be touring forever (shocker), and that he’s planning his final shows to happen over the next year. The opportunities to see this prog legend perform live are rapidly dwindling, so it was an absolute pleasure to see him tinkle his ivories for us all once more in what is quite possibly the most beautiful venue in London. He did however mention during the show that he hoped to be back at Drury Lane next year, presumably for his big finalé, whatever that may entail.

Donned in his sequein cape, surrounded by an astronomical number of synths, the crowd began to cheer as Rick walked onto the stage.

The evening began with a set of Yes hits, and personal favourites curated by Rick. Opening with Roundabout was a bold choice, but it certainly set a fun tone of the evening allowing the live band to show off their chops. No, they aren’t the members of Yes – but they sure as hell can play like them.

Various long-time alumni members were on stage tonight. Lee Pomeroy on bass, known for his work with Take That, and more recently joining Caravan as a permanent member – Lee has been on many tours with Rick over the years, including the 2017 ARW (Anderson Rabin Wakeman) tour performing excellent renditions of Chris Squire‘s bass parts. No small feet! Also joining the lineup was son Adam Wakeman on additional keys and guitars. And keytars, of course. Adam is known for his work with Ozzy OsbourneBlack SabbathHeadspace, as well as several other bands. Throw in Adam Falkner on drums (Headspace), Dave Colquhoun who has been playing guitar for Rick for over 20 years, Mollie Marriot on vocals, a trifecta of backing vocalists, and you have an incredible band on stage.

Continuing on with a rarity, The Meeting from the ABWH record, Rick finally played something I’d not heard before! But it sounded angelic coming from the backing vocalists. This then moved into a suite, continuing directly on into Wonderous Stories – an absolute staple of a Rick set, then into South Side of the Sky – possibly an underdog choice from that record where you’d maybe more expect to hear Heart of the Sunrise.

Finishing off the first half with And You And I, it really felt conclusive. I know that this isn’t the end of Rick playing live, but I did well up a little bit at the thought that this might be one of the last times I get to see him perform.

As this was an evening to celebrate Journey to the Centre of the Earth, it goes without saying that that’s what took up the second half of the show. Choosing to perform the re-recorded 2012 edition of the record, the band got on with business and meandered through the now legendary record.

I’m most familiar with the original edition, so I did have a bit of fun getting lost on bits I didn’t quite recognise, but still being able to find myself heavily immersed in the bits that I did. It was an absolutely epic performance, with astute concentration required from every band member in the lineup.

There are too many highlights to really delve into, and I think that’s probably pointless to do in an article such as this. But I would really implore any reader that is only familiar with the original record to go on and listen to the 2012 edition. It is Rick’s “true” version as he described on the night – having finished off his original vision after being originally limited by the length of a vinyl side.

To finish off any good Rick Wakeman solo show, we were treated to Starship Trooper with every band member taking a solo at some point, before the entire performance devolved into trading keytar solos between Adam and Rick. Like father, like son. You could see the dynamic between the improvisational nature of the show too, with Rick mouthing into Adam’s ear “2 bars each” – or at least it looked like that from afar.

More Rick Wakeman shows are on the horizon. His acoustic Christmas shows around the UK are coming back this November, and he is going on a small solo tour around the states too. But he has confirmed that things are going to start to wind up. The next time Rick announces full band live performances could be his last lot. So I implore you, read. As a fan of Yes, or Rick’s solo work – go and get a ticket. He is whimsical, comedic, and virtuosic. And I’m not sure they’ll be another keyboard player quite like him for a very very long time.

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