|Rex Theatre - Pittsburgh, PA||22 June 2006||by Fred Burroughs|
How good could it be with just a piano?
The question did run through my mind, but having been amazed by this musician for the past thirty-four years, I made no hesitation in acquiring tickets and making the 550 mile trek to Pittsburgh, PA. Once a movie house, The Rex Theater has stood for over ninety years on the south side of the city, and is now a bar and performance theater, seating about 500 people. We got there early and found seats in the second row from the stage, upon which sat a somewhat worn looking Steinway grand piano. Taped Vangelis music shrilled from PA speakers stacked high on both sides of the stage. Eight P.M. show time came and went, and no Rick. Then at about twenty after, our patience was rewarded, as Rick was introduced and came out onto the stage. His dress was casual, complete with sneakers, just like on the cover of The Six Wives of Henry the Eighth.
Rick doesn’t just talk to his audience, he connects with it. When he talks, you can’t help but get a lift. This is because not only are his stories funny, but what comes across is a guy so positive and full of life. He seemed genuinely touched by the audience’s praise, responding several times with a grin and words of appreciation.
But the most impressive thing, by far, was Rick’s playing performance. The songs were played with such eloquence, fullness and emotion that they practically took your breath away. I soon realized that any accompaniment with moog, bass, or drums would have only detracted from the sound of Rick’s music in its purest, most impressive form.
The well chosen set list included: Monkey on a Stick (Rick’s first piece in front of an audience at the age of 5), A Glimpse of Heaven (from the Straub years), Catherine of Aragon / Catherine Howard, And You and I (including original chords that were never used), Morning Has Broken, Gone but not Forgotten (dedicated to his Mom), After the Ball, Wondrous Stories / The Meeting, two Beatle songs: Help (in the style of Camille Saint-Saëns), and Eleanor Rigby (in the style of Sergei Prokofiev), and for a purely dazzling encore, Merlin the Magician. Also included was a song that Rick composed on the spot, based a series of six notes taken at random from the audience.
Everyone seemed to thoroughly appreciate and enjoy the show. It certainly went above and beyond my already high expectations.