Birchmere - Alexandria, VA 18 June 2006 by Tom Felts

Sunday, June 18th, Rick appeared at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. This was straight on the heels of 2 shows the night before in Annapolis, Md. at the Rams Head. I attended all three shows, for reasons I still don't fully understand.

The set lists for all three shows were the same, and indeed were the same as the earlier shows in this tour. The one variation being the ad lib section leading in to "After the Ball"; this section being based upon 6 notes acquired from suggestions from the audience. (One wonders if an audience would ever proffer the 6 notes of the whole tone scale, and how the maestro would handle that eventuality...)

Mr. Wakeman has been quite reticent in the past about sharing his performance art and compositional secrets. On this tour, he does reveal how he learned to play with expression. He also reveals his role in "Yes", as being a sort of glue factory for all the other band members ideas.

Each piece is preceded with a contextual lead-in, giving tribute to the inspirations that contributed in the creation of that particular piece of music, and insight into the creative process.

This is honest work, and an honest performance. Eschewing bombast and flashy displays of technique, Rick renders each song with melodic joy. For ears jaded with electronic effects, this is a much needed reprieve into the very soul of musical expression.