Royal Court - Bacup 16 March 2001 by Ray Banister
Bacup? Where, you may ask? So did we! When we got there we wondered if we had accidentally stumbled on Royston Vasey of League of Gentleman fame rather than the Lancashire Leg of Rick’s final tour. Not the usual sort of place that you would expect to see a world famous rock star! As we walked through the door, we saw a familiar face - Malcolm purveying his wares in his ‘lounge’ so we knew we were in the right place. Claiming our seats in the second row, we saw the theatre wasn’t completely full but as usual at Rick’s concerts, there was a good cross-section of people, young and old, in the audience. This was definitely a night for the Rick Wakeman faithful. As the lights dimmed, the Return overture began and on strolled Rick to enthral us with his Dance of a Thousand Lights, clearly there were no after effects from his recent hand injury.

We were soon introduced to Ramon who instantly became the sounding board for Rick’s jibes but as usual he played his part and took it all in good fun. As expected, the music was excellent with Rick choosing to play some of his less well known pieces, no evidence of Arthur, The Six Wives or the two Journey offerings other than his opening piece. Ramon accompanied him where vocals were required, (singing not being Rick’s strong point). It was good to hear ‘Make Me a Woman’ again, but it lacked a bit as Ramon doesn’t have the gravely voice needed for a rock singer. Nevertheless he gave his all and when Rick finally let him have his choice of music, he sung the ‘football song’ as Rick called it – Nessun Dorma - to show us all how rock and opera can live together.

The second half began with Rick’s operetta – “The Barber of Wigan” – we’d seen this before on the Half a Century Tour, so we knew what was coming but it still had us in stitches. Again Ramon played his part magnificently, not only with his singing but with his mannerisms and humour … a good sport throughout. Rick continues to remind us of when he didn’t get paid for playing on Morning Has Broken and openly admits to getting a lot of mileage from this story. But this time there’s an update so the story has a twist in the tale because - no that would spoil it for those of you yet to see the concert! After the story, Ramon gave us a beautiful rendition of this traditional hymn complete with Rick’s “secret” arrangement. In readiness for his appearance in panto later this year, he had the audience participating in the standard ‘oh yes he can, oh no he can’t’ banter.

You’ll also learn a bit about technology at this concert, amazing what you can do with a chicken … don’t worry Mr Wakeman will explain all in due course! We were also treated to Sea Horses and the story behind it’s coming to being. However, like all good things, the concert unfortunately had to end, with Rick playing two Beatles tunes, and Ramon providing vocal support. As usual Rick ended with his version of Eleanor Rigby a la Prokovief, probably well known to all Rick’s concert goers. His encore gave us two more beautiful pieces of music and he concluded by thanking all for the support he has had over the many years that he has been doing his solo tours. It was clear that Rick has taken his decision to ‘retire’ with much regret, however we enjoyed the concert thoroughly and the only sad bit was thinking that we will probably not see him perform live again in the UK, (wish we could get to Quebec !). The recordings are good but not a substitute as there’s nothing like hearing the music live and listening to the stories and anecdotes that accompanies it. On a more personal note, we were delighted to see Rick chat to his fans and sign autographs after the show. Apparently this is his custom and is to be applauded in these days when lots of stars forget who put them where they are – it concluded our day, we had never dreamed that we would actually get to meet and talk with Rick and have our photograph taken with him – let’s hope there’s a film in the camera! Thanks Rick!

So, if you haven’t got your tickets yet, then get them now. You won’t be treated to fancy effects, lasers and pyrotechnics, but you will get over two hours of good varied music and fun from two talented musicians who were clearly having fun themselves and that makes all the difference. Enjoy it while you can, this really is YOUR LAST CHANCE!!