Other Players

Wakeman plays the boogie

1

In a much stripped down, but nonetheless enjoyable, Hootenanny on NYE Rick Wakeman joined Jools Holland for a boogie piano duet.

RW’s virtuosity is widely known, but it was a joy to see him playing that stuff - kind of like finding out EVH could play like Chet.

If you can get the BBC iPlayer where you are it’s well worth a look.

2

On one of Rick's recent-ish one-man theatre tours, I got called in to set up the stage monitoring, sort the initial mix and generally troubleshoot the first night.

It was like a show from 1910. Grand piano. Stage dressed with parlour palms. Rick in tux and tie. Then he started to play. Began with classical, moved through the Yes catalogue, played lots of the hit records he'd done as a session man. A bewildering array of styles, executed with absolute authority.

He also had the firmest right hand I've ever witnessed. No matter the speed of a passage, every note had the same cut crystal quality. His left hand had a more mezzo dynamic, so the piano was self-attenuating at all times. It was really quite remarkable.

In between songs, he'd stand up, walk about telling stories and doing his very funny Grumpy Old Man schtick.

It was a great show, and he was the perfect gentleman from start to finish.

3

On one of Rick's recent-ish one-man theatre tours, I got called in to set up the stage monitoring, sort the initial mix and generally troubleshoot the first night.

It was like a show from 1910. Grand piano. Stage dressed with parlour palms. Rick in tux and tie. Then he started to play. Began with classical, moved through the Yes catalogue, played lots of the hit records he'd done as a session man. A bewildering array of styles, executed with absolute authority.

He also had the firmest right hand I've ever witnessed. No matter the speed of a passage, every note had the same cut crystal quality. His left hand had a more mezzo dynamic, so the piano was self-attenuating at all times. It was really quite remarkable.

In between songs, he'd stand up, walk about telling stories and doing his very funny Grumpy Old Man schtick.

It was a great show, and he was the perfect gentleman from start to finish.

– ade

So since you did the monitoring did you witness this from the side of the stage? I would have loved to see/hear this up close and personal.

4

Cool story, Ade. He has always struck me as a genuinely nice guy so I’m not surprised to hear of his gentlemanly qualities. Bet he’d make an interesting dinner guest.

5

I ghosted for the monitor guy in the wings when he was at the desk after I'd set up the primary mix, again just for cover. Rick was going to walk about, he had a backing track for one of the pieces, he was talking into a mic, so I had to discuss all his stage movements and make sure everything was how he wanted it. It wasn't a mega-complex setup, but it had a few variables to contend with. There was also a support act, so the transition needed attention. Plus they had a mix.

Once this initial work was done, the monitor guy would set it up the same every night and everyone was happy for the rest of the tour.

Rick's great to work with.

6

I love the guy. He's been through a lot himself, and remains warm, open, and generous. Of all the Yesmen, he's the one who has been a true friend to Jon Anderson in his post-Yes trials and triumphs.

His interview series is on youtube, and always well worth watching. He brings the best from all his guests. It always seems a palpable lovefest.

Well beyond his prodigious talent and the skill which demonstrates it, the man himself is an institution and a British natural treasure - and gift to the world.

7

Rick Wakeman is one of those famous people whose personality and character surprised me, in a very pleasant way.

Remembering that throughout the 1970s, 80s, 90s, the image of their rock heroes most fans could piece together was based on brief interviews in Creem, Crawdaddy, or Rolling Stone. Consequently many of these people had a mystique about them, especially bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, who rarely spoke to any music press. You rarely saw them on Mtv.

Members of Rush later admitted to not really knowing what they were going for with their whole kimono phase. They were serious about their music, and about proving themselves, which they ultimately did in spades.
Decades into their career we find out they are 3 of the biggest goofballs in music. Really silly guys who adore comedy and love joking around.

Some prog bands definitely had an air of aloofness to them, whether deliberate or imagined. Cloaked in layered lyrics and satin attire. Sullen and moody, monk-like in their dedication. Rick Wakeman was dead center among them, always appearing like a caped phantom with an expression of seriousness. I never once got the impression it was tongue-in-cheek. It was in finally seeing his show interviews and subsequent speaking appearances that his wit and charm could really shine. Aside from being an accomplished composer and pianist, he's genuinely hilarious.


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