Central Theatre - Chatham 04 February 2000 by Craig & Stephanie Smith

I must say, going away for a week to London, for the first time, and seeing Rick Wakeman in Chatham was definitely the highlight. Now, don't get me wrong, everything on our (my wife Stephanie and I) vacation was fantastic but Rick was still the highlight.

We spent the day at Cantebury and I managed to pick up his new Preludes CD there (great CD by the way, I love his piano work and this one will get lots of rotation by me). Then the train to Chatham. We get to the theater early and the woman at the theater tells us that Rick is in fact there (I guess I was still in denial) and that his car was around the corner. We took a photo of it (even though it needed a bit of a washing :^) ) anyway, we then stopped by for a pint in a nearby pub. Boy that town goes silent at 5:00!

So, we buy a program, get to our seats and there we are, front row center with Rick's keyboards just a few feet from our faces. The theater was beautiful, the seats were spacious (well, lots of legroom :^) and much bigger seats than venues I'm used to) I was in my glory and my wife, well, she always liked Rick's stuff but it was me that always put it on. So, Pachebels' Canon starts over the loudspeakers and then Rick walks out, I thought he looked great. I have only ever seen him with Yes and didn't quite know what to expect but he looked good (and Tall!). He sits down at the keyboards and starts playing along with Canon. Wow, I thought I was going to pop. My wife looked at me with a big smile knowing how much I was loving this. Anyway, he then played Birdman, a bunch of wives (including Jane Seymour!!!), some of Arthur...he just kept amazing me. I looked at my wife who was now glowing with excitement. At intermission (or should I call it interval? :^) my wife stated how blown away she was and how she is now a real fan for life! The second set starts with the KGB story followed by Children of Chernobyl and we are off again. Rick was so funny and seeing his stories in person was such a great treat! I loved hearing his little medley of journey and dance of 1000 lights saying he thought it appropriate to play the two pieces that are at the same place in the two stories. Oh yes, lest we forget a good Vindaloo Curry story! :^)

Eventually the show had to end right? it was after all 2 70 minute (or so) sets and he ended with Claire de Lune. I was so taken by Rick's performance. I really was.

At the end we waited for Rick and sure enough he came out to greet us. We were waiting in the back of the crowd because we didn't want to make everyone wait for us and we hoped the flight across the Atlantic would mean Rick would spend a little more time with us. Rick cuts through the whole crowd and brings a bottle of Champagne to his sound man, apparently it was his birthday, and then we are suddenly right in the front. We tell Rick we are here from Boston and he tells us we "are mad". He was such a gentleman. I couldn't believe how nice Rick is. I know everyone keeps saying that but he is so much more than I expected. I would love to describe every detail of our little chat and how Rick put his arms around us, patted us on the back (he asked if we were here to see Yes too and I said "nah, I can see them at home, I wouldn't cross the Atlantic for them but since I don't know when you might come to the US I decided we had to come to you"), he kissed my wife on the cheek, posed for a photo, signed the few things I brought (and even dug through my stuff to find more things to sign saying "don't worry about the other people they will wait their turn"). I even brought him a postcard of King Henry VIII that I bought at the Tower of London (we were tourists from Boston after all) to sign and he signed it saying that we "were mad to come see him but he was deeply honored" You know, I believe him. Everyone says what Rick should do to become more popular and sell more records...at that moment it occurred to me that Rick is quite happy doing things the way his does them. It isn't about money, it's about doing what he loves and hoping others find enjoyment too and I think he was almost as excited that we came all the way too see him as we were to be there. He did want to make sure we really enjoyed the show because he thought how bad it would be if the show wasn't very good. We just laughed.

Anyway, we finally left the theater in complete bliss. My wife is now discovering Rick's music in a whole new light and listening to it all the time (ahh, remember back when we got to first experience things like White Rock...) Anyway, we were two very happy people on the train back to London.

As I said at the start, on our flight home my wife asked what my favorite part of the trip was and I said "seeing and meeting Rick" and she agreed. Being shunned by other musicians has made my wife bitter about meeting them but Rick has restored her faith. Rick, you have made yourself another fan for life...really!