|North Fork Theatre - Westbury, NY||14 June 2006||by Matt Parish|
Just like one of Merlin’s potions, last night’s remarkable show at The Westbury Music Fair was a carefully measured mixture of just the right ingredients. Combining great humor with astonishing music Rick Wakeman proceeded to cast his spell over his captivated audience bringing them to their feet clapping and cheering after each song.
With true humility he thanked the audience’s appreciation for his tales of love, life and his musical pedigree. Rick Wakeman is more widely known for his keyboard work with YES and for his remarkable and ground breaking solo albums such as “Six Wives of Henry the 8Th” and “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” but his other contributions to some of rock music’s greatest songs sometimes fly’s under the radar. His magnificent piano work on both Cat Steven’s ”Morning Has Broken” and David Bowie’s “Life On Mars” literally made those songs as popular as they were and helped to propel both artist’s budding careers. I could go on for pages and pages listing the stellar contributions to other artists such as Elton John, The Kinks, Lou Reed, and even Black Sabbath. But my focus here is this wonderful evening. Trading in his legendary mirrored cape for a plush comfort robe and opening with a joke about his aging bladder driving the length of his first set he sat down at his Steinway piano and proceeded to play the beautiful, “A Glimpse of a Dream”. The laughter quickly faded into astonished awe as the audience quickly realized by Rick’s concentration and proficiency that they were in for a truly special evening. Watching Rick play can only be described as a once in a lifetime experience, akin to the thoughts that people were thinking long ago while they were watching Beethoven or Mozart. Flowing seamlessly through song and banter, Rick played, “ Morning Has Broken”, “Catherine Howard” and the fabulous newly discovered demo arrangement of “And You And I” all the while filling the house with uproarious laughter from his stories about a variety of subjects such as song title inspiration from his well endowed piano teacher, Jon Anderson’s questionable painting abilities, His precious Mum and weighing in on that age old debate about what makes a woman more beautiful, more makeup or more beer. Rick’s show continued on in this manner with some of the funniest tales combined with the most magical performances for almost two hours closing with a “you had to be there to believe it” rendering of “Merlin” from his “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table” album. After the show Rick greeted his loyal subjects signing mementos brought or DVD’s bought and taking pictures for what had to have been just as long as the length of his show or perhaps even longer. After I had been privileged to shake the hand and take a picture with one of my biggest musical influences I turned around to see a line containing the multitude of Rick’s fans stretching completely around the theatre.
But that’s what happens when you cast a spell...