Opera House - Buxton 19 April 2003 by Clive Leighton

It occurred to me that as Progressive Rock has now become Classic Rock perhaps it’s not as cutting edge as I once thought it was. More a retrospective fixed almost stale genre rather than one that’s gaining momentum. Maybe that even reflects on me. So as a reviewer I always feel slightly uncomfortable summing up what I’ve just seen. Being concerned at how readers may interpret my interpretations can be a strange existence. So when a Rock God like Mr Wakeman comes along it removes the need for any opinion anxiety. Standing Ovations aren’t the norm for these types of productions, but for this capacity crowd it was completely natural. Compounded with the fact that this was only the third of 52 dates across the UK and the resident vocalist had to be replaced with 24 hours to count down – this was a truly remarkable show.

Promoting his “Out There” album Rick showed why along with fellow prog rock pioneers Emerson Lake & Palmer, the Nice, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Genesis - the Yes keyboards man still is exactly that. He even made and still does make organ twiddling an upfront thing. Not content with the background supporting act, Rick went out there on his own with his Six Wives of Henry the Eighth release (not too far behind himself now as he points out) and the incredible Journey to the Centre of the Earth – both unleashed in the ‘70s Prog Rock halcyon days. Rejoined on stage with Ashley Holt recreating his vocals from “Journey” Rick certainly enjoyed his 8th Buxton re-union show. I’ve been privileged to catch most of these gigs and as Rick concluded with an old Yes standard of “Starship Trooper” my proggie partner – Rob Gould (of Fula fame) and I concluded that Rick is just that. Make sure that you get a chance to catch Rick & the New English Rock Ensemble on this tour - which ends 31 May or you may feel as sick as my mate did in 1977. He wanted to see Donavon - the Yes support at Glasgow Apollo and we struck a deal that saw me receive the half used ticket stub at the interval. A long time after he still wonders how cruel the tricks are that nature plays on teenagers’ hormones whilst I can vividly recall amongst quite a few concerts lasers and Wakeman et al in glorious fusion.

If you like good music and I don’t mean the disposable type that is spat out and forgotten like this mornings’ bubble gum then it transpires that Rick’s music has proven it’s here to stay. A 1977 Rick may have thought that in 2003 he would be more “cutting hedges” than cutting edge and house music would be Radio 4 on a Sunday morning whilst you wallpaper. Well I’ve got something to give to the man whose band was responsible for my schoolbooks being butchered with Roger Dean’s logos; Perhaps his style is neither Progressive nor Classic and if Retro is fleetingly flashback then on Saturday we witnessed the birth of Repro Music – a grand master delving into his own archive for inspiration and giving it the necessary maturity and presentation for the moment.