I must admit, I have never been to a classical piano recital, but there were moments during Rick Wakeman’s virtuoso playing of his grand piano on Saturday evening that I felt as though I was being treated to one and in a good way too.
Most of us in the audience at the De La Warr Pavilion were probably aware that Rick Wakeman is a very accomplished keyboard player, but even I didn’t realise he was quite the talent that he is. His piano playing however was only one part of a very entertaining evening.
Billed as a “Night of Music and Anecdotal Wit”, it was most certainly that, as Rick Wakeman took us on a journey to the centre of his musical life. Apart from showcasing his prowess at the piano, the evening also highlighted what a natural storyteller he is and one with a good grasp of comic timing too.
Anecdotes were in abundance, all of which had the audience laughing along and names were dropped with abandon. But when those names meant that we got to hear a riotous story about Brian Blessed and his unique style of narration, as well as his appreciation of the female form, nobody was complaining.
The stories came thick and fast, including a memorable tale concerning Rick’s mother, a bunch folk from an old people’s home, his ‘1984’ show and Status Quo. All of these anecdotes were punctuated with music from his career, including a full version of Cat Stevens’ ‘Morning Has Broken’, complete with an explanation of how the song came about and the vital part that Rick played in the song becoming such a huge hit single.
A high point for the majority of the audience was probably ‘And You and I’ and ‘Wonderous Stories’ both by Yes. This was preceded by a very funny story concerning Yes frontman Jon Anderson, his love of painting and his own unique style of artwork. Other notable songs played included ‘Merlin the Magician’ and ‘Catherine Howard’ from Rick’s first solo album, ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’
A personal highlight for me was a wonderful rendition of David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’, from his ‘Hunky Dory’ album, which Rick Wakeman played on. But it wasn’t all serious piano playing, there was also time for a compilation of nursery rhymes done in the style of various composers, including none other than Les Dawson, which certainly raised a smile. And a version of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ played as if written by Prokoviev, not something Paul McCartney has ever heard before I suspect.
I’ve no doubt there are many more tales to tell and songs to be played from the life and times of Rick Wakeman and I’m sure that this audience, including myself, would happily come back again to hear them.
Special mention should also be made of the opening act for the evening, The Cadbury Sisters. Playing to a nearly full house, which is unusual for a support band, an indication of the more advanced age of the audience maybe, they entertained us with some great vocal harmonies and nice folk inspired songs. They even found time to indulge the audience in a discussion about their favourite brand of chocolate.
I think the final score was Lindt one, Cadburys nil, but Bexhill was the overall winner on the night.