An Evening With Rick Wakeman: Brighton Dome Highlights

Having recently seen a solo Rick Wakeman one-man show, it was interesting to compare the solitary man in a live environment playing again with a full eight-piece band back around him. This is what we were delighted to experience at the Brighton Dome.

Rick Wakeman

Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024

Words: Adrian Stonley

Photography: Robert Sutton

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Before we get down to the intricacies of a Rick Wakeman electric show, we have to recognise the depth of quality of the musicians surrounding him on stage. With son, Adam Wakeman assisting on keys and acoustic guitar through to frontwoman Molly Marriott (Daughter of Small Faces and Humble Pie’s guitarist Steve Marriott) there was an incredible musicality and tightness around the whole event.

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

With regular Rock Ensemble members Dave Colquhoun on guitars (according To Rick, Brian May’s favourite guitarist) and Adam Falkner on drums more than ably assisted by the one and only Lee Pomeroy on bass (likewise the greatest Bass player since Chris Squire) and a choral section comprised of the fabulous vocal talents of Izzy Chase, Tess Burstone and Nick Shirm the quality on stage shone through.

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Then, of course, we have the main man. The keyboard wizard himself. Dressed in a flowing cape, it was clear that we were rolling back the years tonight and immersing ourselves in a piece of the wonderful musical history that only Rick Wakeman can supply.

The show was split into two very specific sets, the first showcasing material from his time in Yes and the second playing the entire Journey To The Centre Of The Earth album.

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

As Rick put it, “he now needs the break between sets as, at his age, his bladder won’t let him play through. Next year, the first set is likely to last eight minutes.” The humour remains.

There has been so much written over the years in relation to Ricks’s musical ability and showmanship, and yet that was what the audience was here to lap up tonight. Absolute silence and appreciation emanated from within the audience as the first notes of Roundabout rang about.

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Certainly, it was an interesting start to the show as this up-tempo piece has often, over the years, been the show closer for Yes. But if you’re going to make a musical statement, then quite simply, what better way than hitting the audience with an absolute crowd-pleaser from the start?

With Molly Marriott on vocals, Rick and the band were able to bring a different approach and feel to the material. Taking a classic Yes song written for Jon Anderson’s alto tenor vocal range, it was an easier fit for Molly’s higher-pitched vocal. There was a comfort about her vocal style and an ability to utilise the tougher rock edge with the softer soul tone that she has to stamp her own personality across the piece.

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The second piece was a medley that Rick introduced as the “Yes Suite, ” comprising three specific tunes. Opening with The Meeting from the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album, the audience knew that these interpretations would provide an interesting and varied approach to well-known pieces.

The acapella choral vocal that opened the piece provided a beautifully textured introduction before Rick stepped in with the familiar soft, relaxing keys that brought elegance to the piece. There was only one song that could segue into this, and that was Yes first single hit (at least in the UK) with Wondrous Stories from the Going For The One album, where Rick’s keyboard runs effortlessly rolled the two songs together. This also provided a further example of the vocal perfection between the four singers as they moulded their vocals in a substantial and expressive choral manner.

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Having squeezed a few seconds from the introduction of South Side Of The Sky into the gap between The Meeting and Wondrous Stories, there was only one way in which the suite could finish with, perhaps the darkest of Yes songs from the Fragile album, South Side Of The Sky.

The first set closed with And You And I from the Close To The Edge album and allowed not only Rick free reign on the keys but Lee Pomeroy on bass to show why Rick rates him as highly as Chris Squire. Some wonderful Bass flourishes matched the keyboard wizardry going on behind him, and the layered choral melodies gave an indication of the potential classical feel that Yes had tried to derive when writing the original piece.

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The second set comprised of the entire Journey To The Centre Of The Earth album, although not the original 1974 release but the reissued and expanded version released in 2012.

There was a conciseness about the original album, whereas in its expanded form, the pieces flow together better, and there is a comfort in the way that the material builds and flows across the storyline. When Rick introduced the piece in its full form, there was a smile induced on the audience’s faces when he stated that the second half would last about three and a half hours, and probably the audience would have been more than happy with that. I mean, this is prog, so why not?

As Rick indicated before the performance, this is a story where people know the title of the book but actually don’t know the storyline.

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The second half really was an exercise in letting the music do the talking, and to sit back and enjoy the quality of the musicianship on show. Opening with an Intro tape featuring the spoken narrative by Peter Egan from the 2012 release provided the outline of the story. Then, the music began to flow.

In many ways, watching Rick and the band perform ‘Journey is akin to watching a show, more than a concert, with the story being enhanced and explained through the taped narrative that was slipped in at critical times of the story. We, the audience, could imagine the Hansbach piece or The Battle and Forest pieces from where we were in the storyline and where the musical narrative, as opposed to the spoken, was taking us.

This album has been written about on numerous occasions, and yet there was something about it being played in its totality in the live environment, which made it all the more special.

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The tightness of the band gave Rick the comfort and ability to take free reign with all the pieces and to expand the tunes. Melodies and solos give different directions and textures to pieces, which we probably thought we were all comfortable with without losing the respect of the original song’s worthiness.

As Journey closed out with the familiar strains and flying keys of Grieg’s In The Hall O The Mountain King, you could imagine through the perfect musical interpretation the raft from the story crashing through the underground passages as it rushed back to the surface of the earth, before the familiar refrain came back in both musical and choral intensity to end the suite.

It was quite gripping and emotional, as well as majestic, bombastic and full of technical brilliance, yet that is the level of expectation for any Rick Wakeman show.

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Returning for the encore, we were entertained with more of Rick’s humour, commenting, “Well, there you have it, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. They went in, and they came out again. There’s not really a follow-up to that.”

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

But he was reminded that he actually had recorded a follow-up with Return To The Centre Of The Earth, although he pointed out, “We’re not doing that,” before Dave Colquhoun proceeded to lift his acoustic guitar and pick out the familiar guitar introduction of Yes’ Starship Trooper.

This is a piece which, though Rick did not write or play on the original album version, he has more than made his own over the years. Playing an extended, nearly twenty-minute version, this was an exercise in total musicianship where the reinterpretation with the band in full flow came to light with every member of the Ensemble stamping their own musical ability and integrity into the piece.

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Whether it was Choral enhancements adding multiple levels of exquisite harmonisation across the piece, or the flying fingers of Dave Colquhoun as he ripped up the guitar solo, Lee Pomeroy’s Bass histrionics or Adam and Rick’s keytar duel, it was a piece that kept giving as the band and Rick raised it level over level.

It was quite simply breathtaking. A fabulous and rousing end to a quite perfect show.

Rick Wakeman - Brighton Dome - 19 February 2024.
Rick Wakeman – Brighton Dome – 19 February 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

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