Royal Hippodrome - Eastbourne 29 March 2001 by Ian Ramage
I have been a Wako-watcher for more than 25 years, and have seen him in some unusual venues, but the Royal Hippodrome at Eastbourne was something else again! Wakeman of Yes taking on the blue-rinse wrinkly brigade of this retirement town, often known as Gods' Waiting Room? This I had to see!

The theatre is one of the least impressive from the outside that I have ever seen, but inside it is magical. It is a small very traditional old fashioned theatre, with very ornate decor and high domed ceiling, all in impeccable condition, and with one of the smallest foyers I have ever seen! It is more used to holding Old Time Variety Music Hall-type shows, but created a superb setting for the Wakeman sound, who unlike many other musicians, seems to transcend from vast Arenas to intimate halls with ease. Needless to say the local Council want to pull the theatre down to build a multi-story car park, so we had no hesitation in signing the petition offered! We also assumed that the huge gold Oscar-like statues either side of the stage belonged to the theatre and were not part of the Wakeman stage set, despite holding swords in what we took to be a possible "Arthur" reference, although they could have been solidified castings of Adam and the Greasy Wop!!!

The music seems pretty much the standard set as reported from earlier reviews of the tour, with the standard stories. However it was wonderful to hear the long-lost under-performed classics from No Earthly Connection and 1984. Even the pieces from previous tours seem to have been re-arranged to some extent, with some different sounds used. ...or maybe my memory is not what it was! As I was sitting with an inane grin on my face for most of the show, caused by the brilliance of the performance rather than artificial stimulants, Rick could have played just about anything! As far as I could see, it was a full house, made up of everyone from teenagers to the grey-haired Countdown brigade.

Ramon was an impressive contributor, although sound levels were a bit dodgy at first, and those who did not know the lyrics would have trouble following the first couple of numbers. He had a little bit of difficulty we felt with a couple of the high bits in The Meeting, but that may have been due to a cold mentioned in a previous review? Either that or his range is somewhat different to Jon Andersons'! It would have been nice to hear more from Rhapsodies and Criminal Record, but then I would quite happily sit in a theatre for a month to listen to him go through his entire back catalogue! It was superb to hear another different interpretation of familiar favourites.

All in all, a wonderful evening, proving that if he is retiring from live performances, it is when he is at the top of his game as they say. Thanks Rick for many years of great music, and I hope that whatever future direction your path takes you, it involves at least some actual keyboard playing, as to not do so would be a terrific loss. ....and is the "five weeks in panto" true? Where and when?!! (Wayne Truro)