|Wester Hailes Baptist Church - Edinburgh||13 June 1999||by Brian Neeson|
Rick Wakeman and Ramon Remedios performed a memorable sell-out show at Wester Hailes Baptist Church on Sunday 13th June. The small church was completely full, with 250 people crammed into the pews, and another 150 in an adjoining hall watching by video link. The set started with "Birdman of Alcatraz" from CRIMINAL RECORD. Rick has being playing different piano pieces as the opening number to warm-up on the tour, but seems to have settled on "Birdman" in the last few dates. Ramon Remedios was warmly introduced by Rick. Rick mentioned that they had spelled his name incorrectly on the Concert Poster. Ramon retorted that "Remedios is not easy to spell". "They got Remedios right" says Rick "but there are 100 women here expecting to see Rambo". It was a fairly mixed audience. I would guess that there were around 80% parishioners and only 20% hard-core fans, but even this early in the show, Rick had the whole audience in the palm of his hand.
Ramon sang "Await the Hour" from THE NEW GOSPELS beautifully. The next number was a tour staple "Nursery Rhyme Concerto". Tonight this comprised "Bah-Bah Black Sheep" in the style of Mozart, "Hickory-Dickory Dock" a la Debussy, "Pop Goes the Weasel" - Rachmaninov, and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in the style of Les Dawson. "I had to include an English Composer" joked Rick. There followed "Dance of A Thousand Lights" from RETURN TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH. I asked Rick in an interview a few weeks ago if he would play this number. His response then was - "There may well be some "hints" at ~RETURN~ on the Half Century tour but remember there's just me as regards an instrumentalist which makes things pretty limited in that area,".
As Rick was explaining why he could not perform the number, Ramon burst on to the stage "Rick, the Orchestra and Choir are in the Car Park.". Rick - "What, even the Brass Section?". Ramon - "No they're still in the Pub". So with the Orchestra and Choir mixed amazingly through from the car park, ;) Rick played the piano part to my favourite track on RETURN. Ramon then joined Rick again to perform two songs from THE GOSPELS - "The Wish" and "Welcome a Star".
"Merlin the Magician" from THE MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR followed. This is a long-term fans' favourite, and Rick clearly enjoys playing it on every tour. He has a stooge from the audience hold the sustain pedal, while he moves from Electronic to Acoustic keyboard, and slowly reads some important message just handed to him by a member of the crew, has a well-deserved cup of tea, and combs that centre-parting so that it is just right. The next number is a special request from Ramon, and as the Tenor visibly prepares to enchant us with an Operatic classic, Rick "intros" him to "Nelly the Elephant". A well-rehearsed comedy routine takes over, as Rick and Ramon debate over what the number should have been. They still manage to make it look ad-lib, and the first half closes with "Nessun Dorma".
At the beginning of the second half Rick strode from the back of the Church to the stage wearing a full KGB uniform. He then regaled us with a tale of his adventures in Russia, a few years back. Stories of bribery, corruption, and deception had the audience rolling in the aisles. I was surprised that Rick found difficulty with this. After all he has been in the "Music" business for 30 years. The opening numbers in this half were Bowie's "Space Oddity" and "Life on Mars". After that we had "Morning has Broken". As usual, Rick told the story of Cat Stevens failing to credit Rick for Piano arrangement on his album, and how he has always refused through the years to share the arrangement with others. How is it that he still manages to have the whole audience laughing at his misfortune, even at the third or fourth hearing? Ramon's vocals on "Morning has Broken" bring an extra dimension on this tour.
The next track was another tour staple "Jane Seymour" from THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII. Again, we get the old story about the leaking roof at St Giles, Cripplegate, and again we are reduced to tears of laughter. The great advances in Keyboard technology have made this a real highlight of Rick's shows, and this night was no exception. The Church organ sound - the echoes, the reverberations - Close your eyes, and you might just imagine that you really were in a church. OK, we were in a Church, but you know what I mean. ;)
Ramon had another special request next. However, Rick had cruelly changed his request from "Barber of Seville" to "Barber of Wigan" - "I am the Barber of Wigan, I used to have a small comb, but now I have a big 'un". This is a "new" Wakeman composition written specially for the tour. It is hilarious. Rick and Ramon have mixed virtuoso musical performance, with lyrical slapstick to produce a comedy musical classic. This will become a much sought after bootleg. All Wakey fans really must hear it. Of course, actually seeing it performed makes it really special.
To close the set Rick and Ramon performed "Help" and "Fool on the Hill", and then Rick played "Eleanor Rigby". "Fool" really works well with Ramon's voice. "Help" seemed slow, but Ramon tried to bring Character to the performance. They returned to encore with "The Hymn" from 1984, and "The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended".
At the end of the show, Rick came into the vestibule to sign autographs and to chat. After 25 years I finally got my Crystal Palace Bowl, and King Arthur on Ice programmes signed. Rick mentioned that these were very rare. He hadn't seen a King Arthur on Ice programme for years, and when he saw the Crystal Palace programme he said "What's this?" as if he had never seen it before. (A wag behind me offered to sell them to Rick). Everyone enjoyed a marvellous evening of entertainment. Doug Shering who planned everything on a local level did a great job, and he has promised he will try to bring Rick back on the next tour. Rick also seemed to enjoy himself - he said it was the best welcome they had received anywhere on the tour - but I guess he says that every night?