The Anvil - Basingstoke 24 April 2003 by Neil Barton

An all-round great show by Rick and the NERE. Phenomenal playing by all and Rick was in fine form (although the few duff notes in Dance of Thousand Lights are forgivable when playing at that speed). Great, great music both old and new - simply a brilliant night out for ‘Wakey’ fans and newcomers!

The playing is tighter and more slicker than ever;- Lee is thumpingly good on bass (what a find he was!). Ant is fingertastic in the solos and gives the band a great metal-edge throughout the set which is both enhancing and refreshing to hear in contrast to Rick’s earlier ERE material. The drumming from Tony is it’s usual high standard and consistency. Great synth drum sounds and 10/10 for the superb drum solo!

The two numbers off the new album were good and I particularly loved the arrangement of Catherine Parr (with lots of other “Wakey bits” thrown in). “Merlin” was great too. Starship Trooper was rocking (when and why did Rick start playing the “Sailors Hornpipe” in the middle his solo?)

Rick’s playing is quite simply fantastic - and there was good use of the “right-hand solo cam” – it’s about time the audience saw more of Rick than just his “grimacing-poo-face”. Would like to see one over Tony’s shoulder though, he’s the only performer whose instrument has it’s back to the audience and completely obscuring him, MORE OF THE GREASY WOP PLEASE.

The sound is well engineered with a good volume throughout, but not ear splittingly loud for the OAP's behind me or the 4 year old girl in the front row who managed to stay awake for the whole concert!

As good as it was, I have to be picky and have a few moans…

I didn’t like the inclusion of “Dance of A Thousand Lights”. It’s a great number, but after watching Rick and the lads knock out some cracking LIVE numbers, for Rick to then do a Karaoke Style piece as his main solo item ‘cheapens’ the gig. Besides this, the number is not in keeping with the style of the gig. Save it for the one-man shows or performances of “Return”, and keep your stuff LIVE Rick, please!

I must also grumble about the light show. It was…well…err…a show of lights and that’s all. Rick goes to great lengths to write music to pictures, in his mind. He crafts each note and phrase with care and precision as always and he selects the very best musicians to perform with. So when it comes to live shows, why does Rick allow someone to just chuck a load of lighting all over the stage which has no structure or reference to the music whose purpose seem only to make the stage look funky? Talk about putting the wrong frame on a great picture!!!
Quite frankly the lighting was amateurish, sloppy/ and on the whole, disappointing. I’ve seen better use of Gobo’s in a local church pantomime (WHY obscure the video projections with them???? – Get out of the seventies!

Solo lighting cues for Ant & Lee were consistently late and the lighting during Tony’s solo was out of synch with the rhythm patterns (if there was ever a time when things should be perfectly timed, it would be a drum solo!) I couldn’t find a separate ‘credit’ for the lighting design in the programme which explains a lot.

Back onto the good stuff finally…Ashley! Great to see him back, although more people were exchanging rumors as to why Damian wasn’t there rather than praising the effort from Ashley as the front man. Soaring vocals, great presence and lungs of steel!!! (And well done for getting through the YES number with mole grips attached to your vital areas!) Just one thought – can you persuade Rick to give you a few lyrics to end Starship Trooper so you can all finish the set together – you looked a little lost banging your tambourine while the others are tearing up the stage with their solos and then to leave you out of the big ending just seems cruel!!!

Apart from the minor moans, it really is a great night out (if a bit short) and on the whole good value for money.