Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Rick Wakeman review – swept up by sheer, ludicrous ambition

Rick Wakeman performs Journey to the Centre of the Earth Manchester
Caped crusader … Rick Wakeman and singer perform Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Photograph: DFL/Splash/Corbis
"We used to have farting dinosaurs," begins Rick Wakeman, reeling off tales of prog-era silliness and inflatable stage props that released wind at inopportune moments. "So you'd be playing this beautifully gentle musical section and then … parp!"
  1. Rick Wakeman
  2. Journey to the Centre of the Earth
  3. Royal Albert Hall,
  4. London
  5. SW7 2AP
  1. Until 30 April
  2. Box office: 
    020-7589 8212
  3. Venue website
We've become accustomed to the former prog-rock caped crusader in this reinvented role as raconteur and TV's Grumpy Old Man. However, this tour returns him to his original habitat: hair flowing behind a mindboggling array of keyboards, and being cheered to the rafters when he walks on in a flowing, diamond-encrusted number that makes him look like a glam-rock archbishop.
For the first time in 40 years, Wakeman is touring Journey to the Centre of the Earth, the 15m-selling concept album variously viewed as a genre-busting landmark or the epitome of prog pretension. However, he explains that he'd wanted to set a story to music – in this case Jules Verne's famous novel – since being taken to see Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf when he was eight.
Otherwise it's prog excess all areas, as Wakeman's 100mph twiddling fingers share the stage with a narrator, two singers, a rock band, choir and orchestra. Hearing a 1974 prog opus live in 2014 is a curious experience. Musical bravery happily coexists with epic folly. There are sonorous narratives, beautifully ethereal passages, classical crescendos and hard-rock noodling, not to mention important-sounding brassy bits that sound like something from the court of Henry VIII.

CURRENTLY AVAILABLE AT GONZO
Live At The Empire Pool
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Live At The Hammersmith Odeon 1981
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Video Vaults
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The Burning 
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Cirque Surreal 
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Gole 
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1984
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Cost Of Living 
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