Rick Wakeman – Piano Portraits

The Forum Theatre, Billingham
Wednesday, 15th November 2017

One man, a grand piano and some Wonderous Stories!

Rick Wakeman concludes 2017 with a lengthy series of intimate, one man shows under the title of Piano Portraits and in support of the album of the same name released a little earlier this year.

A rare event in two ways for me, firstly my wife was to attend the concert, and secondly it was to be held in my home town of Billingham. The Forum Theatre, which coincidentally celebrates its official 50th anniversary this year, is an excellent venue and built in the tradition of live theatre. We booked early and opted for a box seat. Unfortunately we chose the wrong side of the theatre for the box, so sadly Rick had his back to us during his piano performances.

Now I had a reasonable idea of what to expect, however the evening turned out to be rather more special than my expectations. The obvious attraction was the opportunity to see Rick playing the piano, however what was unexpected was what an accomplished raconteur Rick is and how quickly he absorbed the audience into the evenings performance. His wry sense of humour quickly imparted on a couple who were slightly late arriving to their seats at the front of the auditorium.

As mentioned the tour is in support of his “chart topping” solo album Piano Portraits and he played ten pieces from the album. Spanning classical, jazz, pop, rock and blues, I wonder how many musicians could have pulled off such a diverse cross section of music and made an evening that flowed so effortlessly. A programme that included Yes, the aforementioned Wonderous Stories, children’s nursery rhymes, George Gershwin’s Summertime, David Bowie, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and The Beatles.

If the musical programme sounds a little implausible, Rick’s anecdotes were equally disparate, with tales of life on the road with Yes and The English Rock Ensemble, to his prostate examination, along with an insight into his early recordings with David Bowie and Cat Stevens.

So how do the nursery rhymes fit in? Well sadly as no photography was allowed during the performance – here’s a video clip of Rick performing the Nursery Rhyme Concerto from 2010.

The Les Dawson section was greeted with thunderous laughter…

I should mention the rather special rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Life On Mars which was truly sublime. And although I have several recordings of Rick playing Eleanor Rigby, his versions of The Beatles’ Help! and Eleanor Rigby in the style of Saint-Saëns and Prokofiev respectively closed the evening magnificently.

A wonderful evening and one thoroughly enjoyed by a packed house.

After The Ball
Amazing Grace
Morning Has Broken
The Dance Of The Thousand Lights
Wonderous Stories
Nursery Rhyme Concerto
– Baba Black Sheep (Mozart)
– Hickory Dickory Dock (Ravel)
– Three Blind Mice (Debussey)
– Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Dawson, Les)
– Pop Goes The Weasle (Rachmaninoff)
~ Interval ~
Swan Lake (excerpts)
Sweet Georgia Brown
Space Oddity/Life On Mars
Help!/Eleanor Rigby (Saint-Saëns/Prokofiev)
~ Encore:
Clare de Lune

Rick Wakeman – Grand Piano

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