The Coliseum Theatre - Aberdare 04 May 2003 by Gareth Richards

A damp grey Sunday evening in Aberdare, South Wales was brightened by the prospect of Rick Wakeman returning to the little theatre where he played his one-man show in 2001. That show was dazzling enough, but this was something else!

The first set started with a Journey to the Centre of the Earth suite, featuring the opening from the “Return” journey. After this Rick quipped, “that’s the ballad over with”! The band is powerful and Ashley’s vocals are excellent
Next up are 2 tracks from “No Earthly Connection”, Realisation and Spaceman and it’s raw energy from all – great stuff.

Then follows Catherine Parr, which gives a chance to hear some Rick solos and see them, thanks to an above-Moog mounted video camera projected onto the back screen.

To end the first set we are treated to the title track from “Out There” which sounded really good live and was accompanied by back projections of scenes from the Out There DVD. Was that a little Rick in the spaceship window floating around in space?

After a short break to catch our breath (or as Rick said, at his age he needs a break!) it’s back to White Rock (with film) and a Tony Fernandez drum solo.

Then it’s into another of the old favourites, a “King Arthur” suite. Rick has said he’s very proud of the Arthur theme and tonight it comes across as exuberant. This is a feature of the band throughout – lots of smiles are exchanged and they all seem to be really enjoying getting down to playing live.

Then it’s Rick on piano (with re-recorded backing orchestra and choir), which he introduces as “a karaoke version of Dance on a Thousand Lights” complete with back projection (of at least a thousand lights!) and Liberace style candelabra atop the piano.

Next up is the closing track from the new album, “Cathedral of the Sky” with more DVD film clips. This again works really well and Ashley does a fine job with the demanding vocals.

To finish there is Merlin the Magician – this brings a further sense of fun to the evening as it includes Rick donning Roland keyboard and coming to sit next to a guy in the 5th row of the audience, chatting away while playing and then kidnapping a girl from the audience to go up on stage and hold up the Roland for Rick to finish the piece. Raucous applause ensued!

As the encore there is the Ensemble’s version of Starship Trooper with a barnstorming “Wurm” finale. Not to be out-done, Ant Glynne comes off stage for a solo during this. Ashley almost steals his thunder playing an inflatable green guitar!

Judging by the crowd’s reaction it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of powerful rock versions of Rick’s songs. The feeling was one of energy and exuberance and everyone seemed to be having a great time performing.

If you haven’t seen this show yet or maybe are thinking about catching the rest of the tour, do not delay – go and see rock’s finest keyboardist doing what he does best – entertaining the fans.