Rick Wakeman and the New English Rock Ensemble, plus Guests,
Saturday 29th September 2001
Oakwood Centre, Rotherham, England
By Charlie Farrell
Classic Rock Society 10th anniversary gig
This date was lined up to celebrate 10 years of the existence of the Classic Rock Society, based in Rotherham, England. As honorary president of the Society since its earliest days, Rick Wakeman had offered to do a special gig to celebrate the event and one or two other supporters offered to take part.
First up was Dave Cousins of the Strawbs and Rick Wakeman who proceeded to play together for only about the 2nd time in over 25 years or so. Wakeman was briefly a member of the Strawbs before joining Yes for their 'classic' period and I guess that the three tunes that they played dated from this time. As Dave broke a string on his guitar during the first number, he took the opportunity to recall some of Rick's antics during a recording session while a replacement was arranged. There were huge cheers as they announced The Hangman and The Papist and the set was concluded with A Glimpse of Heaven, with Tony Fernandez of Rick's band joining in on drums.
After a short break Troy Donockley and Nick Holland performed a couple of numbers with Troy demonstrating his command of the Uilleann pipes. Then after a further break John Wetton was joined on stage by John Mitchell of Arena to play three tunes in acoustic mode. After an excellent first number Battlelines, Wetton dedicated the second number Emma, which he described as a "lullaby", to the children who were crowed around the stage-front. The final song was Heat of The moment played at a frustratingly slow pace.
Then after various Wakeman CDs and DVDs had been raffled, on to the main act - Rick Wakeman and the 'new' English Rock Ensemble featuring his son Adam on additional keys, Lee Pomeroy on bass, Tony Fernandez on drums, Ant Glynne on guitar and Damian Wilson on vocals.
Rick came onstage wearing his old 'glitzy cape' which he doesn't wear all that often these days. As the band members gradually took up their positions, the Return Overture started up. Familiar and yet modern sounding, particularly in the guitar department, the music flowed smoothly into a medley of the best-known excerpts of Return to the Centre of the Earth including Tales from the Lindenbrook Sea and Ride of Your Life. I was eager to hear Damian Wilson in the live environment and I'm very pleased to be able to say that his voice fitted the material perfectly, although he sometimes seemed at a loss on the crowded stage during the lengthy instrumental breaks.
This was followed by Never is a Long Long Time also from 'Return …' before Rick picked up the mic to recount the story of Tony Fernandez's audition for the drum position, which involved Rick cannily changing the choice of material from the usual Catherine Parr to Anne Boleyn, rendering Tony's many hours of practice at the former tune redundant. However, as the story goes, Tony got the job anyway and he proceeded to demonstrate just why, with an excellent drum solo.
The band then treated us to an excellent medley of material from the King Arthur album which sounded remarkably fresh. Then a track chosen by the youngest of Rick's children – The Visit, somewhat more lighthearted in comparison with much of the material in the set tonight. After another lengthy chat from Rick, during which he introduced his son Adam, he then announced "This is a something that we have a little fun with". Fun indeed, as the band launched into Merlin the Magician, the highlight of which was a keytar solo duel between father and son following which Rick wandered into the crowd rushing back to complete the final section. Most entertaining.
With all of the band members back in their places on stage, Rick announced a medley of tunes from No Earthly Connection, the most requested tunes from a poll on his website with Damian Wilson again outstanding on vocals. The brilliant Catherine Parr, complete with lots of runs on a genuine battered old Mini-Moog and a climatic Starship Trooper brought the lengthy set to a close.
The capacity audience, amongst whom were many children, screamed for more and were rewarded with two encores Buried Alive from 'Return …' and Rick's original interpretation of Eleanor Rigby, bringing to a close an excellent set and a fine evenings entertainment from an impressive list of rock greats.
The Shepherds Song
The Hangman and The Papist
A Glimpse of Heaven
Nick Holland tune
Heat of the Moment
Wakeman & The New English Rock Ensemble:
Journey to the Centre of the Earth (Medley):
The Return Overture/ Tales From The Lindenbrook Sea/The Kill/Ride Of Your Life plus a few other excerpts
Never is a Long, Long Time
Arthur/Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight/The Last Battle
The Visit from the Phantom
Merlin the Magician
No Earthly Connection Medley
All photos © Charlie Farrell for DPRP 2001