The Broadway Theatre - Peterborough 26 February 2011 by Stephen Cartledge

...and Uncle played the piano.

The Broadway Theatre in Peterborough has had a hard time of it recently. Having suffered a fire in 2009 the Art Deco interior has had to be restored and yet it has kept its charm I think. Now to some extent that is speculation as I hadnít ever visited before, but you get the feeling loving care and attention from people who had love for the place had prevailed. This is much how we Rick Wakeman fans approach a concert. Iím not saying Rick is resembling a crumbling wreck that needs help (Though Iím sure even Rick will admit weíre all advancing on the candle count), Iím saying that things these days are more about affection and great memories rather than that youthful anticipation we had in our teens or early twenties. We treasure these get togethers now like family gatherings.

Tonightís set was a pared to the bone affair with just Rick and a grand piano. Some may like all the array of synths and Gizmoís that weíve seen in the past but some prefer a purer sound. I think at the heart good music is all about the feelings. When stripped away down to just the tune itself on one piano with great tone we get to the heart of the piece not its overall effect. As Rick himself said on stage heíd been told by David Bowie how he wrote all his pieces on a well-used yet loved guitar, the point being that if it worked on such a simple instrument it just plain worked. Later all the arranging, mixing and tinkering may add to it, but at its heart a good piece of music has to stand up on its merits NOT its production. For that reason I loved this nights set. Each piece has been heard many times before, but here with just a Grand to listen to weíre reminded of the true melody behind the works we all know, and in doing so we are also put more in touch with the root of them all; the feelings.

Now I will admit Iím a slightly late starter to seeing Rick in concert, but even then weíre talking the early Eighties which is still some considerable time ago, but in all those years Iíve always hoped that one night heíd play Morning has broken. As a naÔve school boy in the 70ís with little knowledge of music and even less desire to follow individual names I never knew at the time that it was Rick at the keys on the Cat Stevens classic. I did however know from the first time I heard it that there was much more in it than just a little extra piano added, this was a simple song given a whole new presence. As I got older I appreciated how new arrangements can add to an original work, and with all due respect to Eleanor Farjeon who set words to this old Gaelic piece, and Cat Stevens whoís idea it was to record this song itís the arrangement Rick brought to the table that made this one of the 70ís greatest songs, and one of my all-time favourites. Now Rick may not have been paid his £10 fee (at the time) or been given recognition on the sleeve notes (at first) but above all I knew that it was that piano that made the song for me, and at a later date when my brother brought home his copy of Six Wives and explained this was the same guy whoís played that piano I just knew Iíd found an artist I would follow and be interested in seeing wherever he played. As Rick played this was for me the fulfilment of a dream and I have no loss of pride in admitting a few tears rolled down my cheeks. Rick you may not have receive the credit or money from that recording, but you caught the ears of all who heard it and that made us all follow you and buy the records you issued after. You canít measure the effect that one seven inch single had on some of us; itís beyond a fee and a name on a label, things like this are priceless.

As the night rolled on we had quite a bit more chat than usual which I was glad about. With the end of the Saturday shows on Planet Rock I am beginning to miss all the funny banter and wry humour. Saturdays just arenít the same without an ĎAsk Rickí, or a ĎLyric theatreí. These days Rick is almost better known throughout the world for his chat over his playing. The ĎCountdowní appearances, and starring role on ĎGrumpy old mení have brought him to another audience who appreciate his anarchic whit even if they donít listen to the music, so if like me you like both Peterborough was perfect, An evening of good music and chat. Not so much a concert as a homely night in with a favourite (If a little naughty) uncle. Who knows when the next show will be or even what form it will take? The next appearance I see may be anything from another simple piano night to a grander affair with a cast of hundreds a-la Hampton court. Whatever it may be you can guarantee Iíll be there if at all possible. News of Earthquakes and Tsunamis bring home to us the fragility of our existence. Nothing lasts forever and one day all this will be memories; Iím stocking up as many as I can now while I have the chance. This night will be one of them.

Thanks Rick.