It's been a very eventful year so far with loads of television appearances and radio broadcasts, but as you are all aware, it has been the Evening With Rick Wakeman tour that has "grabbed the headlines" so to speak.
The tour was split into three parts. This was not deliberate, but simply due to bad planning and other events that were cancelled. Initially there was a period of rehearsal in Rotherham, followed by the first show for the Classic Rock Society, which played to a packed hall. Then it was off to Chatham, which was the first real test of the new show without a totally partisan audience!
Much to everyone's amazement the audience contained an incredible amount of "first time" concert goers to a Wakeman show and so "prayers of thanks" were hastily said for pro-empting this possibility and gearing the show for all-comas accordingly.
Then it was off to Birmingham and the Metropole Hotel where Rick performed, along with Adam, Fraser and Tony Hadley for a big corporate event for Warwickshire Cricket Club. After this event, everybody split up for a week with some of the equipment going off for repair, Doom (Stuart Sawney), setting off on his twelve week tour with Alan Parsons and Rick going out to Tenerife for a weeks worth of mentally tidying up the show for the next leg that was due to restart at Fareham on the 27th of February.
Fareham, and indeed the South Coast in general, has never been a stronghold for Ride and so it was a very pleasant surprise on arriving at Fareham to find all 700 seats sold with people being turned away. This set everybody up very well for the tour and the next week was completed with everybody in very high spirits except for Rick's credit card which took a massive battering as the truck continually broke down or had blow-outs. By the time they reached Weymouth at the end of the second leg, the truck had cost considerably more to repair than it was worth!
(Any truck dealers amongst our membership)?
After Weymouth, everybody once again went their separate ways with Rick leaving his car in Bedford for it's annual MOT. (thank heavens it passed)!
On the 27"' February, the team reconvened once again for the final, and very long, leg of the tour, which began in Leeds. Again they were all in for a pleasant surprise as they found the show sold out. Considering that the last time Rick played in Leeds you could almost count the audience on one hand, this really put everybody in a good mood.
Shows continued to go well in front of really good numbered and enthusiastic audiences and Rick felt the show improving almost daily. Then came the next digression from the norm with a trip to Rick's sacred sporting home .... Maine Road, the home of Manchester City, where he met up once again with Adam and Fraser and they performed a special private concert for sponsors and "friends" of the club with all the proceeds going to the development fimd that the club rims. Rick had a field day, (both on stage and in the merchandise shop), although City going down 2-0 at Barnsley did put somewhat of a damper on the evening for Rick!
Shows then returned to normal, that is until Warrington where Rick hosted a special evening to commemorate the opening of a new centre for children that had opened there. It was a difficult evening to put together and required a great deal of support from Rick's enlarged team of both crew and artists. Appearing with Rick was Tony Hadley with his band, (which included both Fraser and Adam), Atomic Kitten, Laura Waterworth and Joe Pasquale. The evening came and went relatively without incident although sadly the PA truck was broken into and quite a lot of personal stuff was stolen. So much for charity work!
Back to the "grindstone" again and the tour continued without anything unusual happening until the team arrived at Corby. Rick has played Corby many times before, and has never done better than a half fill hall, but on the strength. of everywhere else being way up as regards attendance, everybody had high hopes for another sold out performance.
Rick and Mike Holden, sensed all might not be well when walking around the shops during the afternoon, which are directly opposite the Festival Hall where the concert was to take place.
"What are you doing here" was the most asked question Rick received as they trotted in and out of shops.
"Doing a concert tonight" .. was the most popular reply .
"Where?" was usually the next response.
"At the Festival Hall" either Rick or Mike would reply .
"It's closed down" ....was always the retort that followed that statement.
On arrival at the Festival Hall we found that this was very much the case and that they were just finishing off the shows that had been previously booked in.
Radio announcements ....0.
Local radio ............0.
The team hit deep depression, but were soon cheered up when a stage set for some sort of horror play was found back stage. The keyboards were instantly surrounded by coffins and gravestones, and even a Singer sewing machine!
The team cheered up quite dramatically. As Rick walked on for the start of the show, he realise that this was not going to be the easiest performance to carry off. Much of the talking required audience response from an audience somewhat larger than 75, but fate was there to take a hand and completely change the evening.
There in the front row sat a lady holding a West Highland Terrier called Oscar.
The entire evening was played to Oscar with many of the stories becoming that of the "doggy" sort. After the show, the team retired to an extremely dodgy curry house and extremely dodgy curries were consumed by all.
Life on the road then went back to relative normality i.e., extremely long drives, a few dodgy hotels and good attendance in general wherever they found themselves ..... and then came Doncaster.
It would almost be sufficient to say that Rick has actually now cut Doncaster out of his road atlas with a razor blade.
The show had been mistakenly booked into the Dome there, which is too big and totally the wrong place for the" Evening With Rick Wakeman "concert. Rick had persistently tried to get the show moved and eventually it was .... to the bar next to the roller-blading disco rink.
What transpired from there will go down in history as the lowest point in Rick's career as regards live performance. It was sheer and utter hell. The disco was louder than the PA. There were picture windows overlooking the roller-bladers and there was no stage, no changing facilities and ........ no way of calling it off.
Rick has decided that he will not only never appear again in Doncaster, but will even drive around the place in order to avoid seeing it's name in print.
The team were now on the run in and the equipment now really started showing signs that it had had enough. Break-downs on stage became the norm rather than a rarity and the last few shows, although sold out, were performed some what nervously by Rick, who was constantly wondering if the gear would manage to complete the evening.
There had bean three shows put in at the very end, (all at the last minute), Scarborough, Bristol and Oxford, but these were postponed until October when the second part of the tour starts as there just wasn't time to promote them and sell decent numbers of tickets.
Rick would like to mention at this juncture, the greed of most of the venues. Not only do they charge for everything that is used in their buildings but also demand anywhere between 10% and 25% of the merchandise monies. This really annoys Rick as his average mark up is less than 15% overall and that means operating at a loss. Rick has decided to take a stand at all future shows by either not paying the percentage or either displaying a large sign stating clearly what the hall management are doing, or in extreme cases, making an announcement from stage.
There was one real high spot on the tour though and that was the filming of the Marlborough show.
It has bow brilliantly filmed with multi camera facility, including some attached to the keyboards themselves. Additional filming and recording was done at Jim Davidson's studio in Surrey. There will be no overdubs on any of the tracks and no "cheating". The music used will all be that from the show and exactly how it was recorded.
The final result will be issued in DVD and video, with many other versions on sale as an optional extra, eg music and dud, just music, music and interactive footage .....the sky appears to be the limit.
There is a good possibility that it could all be available by late June, which would be fantastic.
Following the reversion rights of Almost Live In Europe, it has now been repackaged and rereleased on Music Fusion. The cover is quite beautiful and has been quite a topic of conversation from people on the tour as they visited the merchandise table.
Prelude To A Century is up and running, (President Records) and has been well received. It's "sister" album, Chronicles of Man is due out quite soon although the proposed concert on the Isle of Man looks like being postponed until later in the year. The Emerson/Wakeman project is well in hand The music is all basically written but Rick is less than happy with the snail's pace movement of the management as regards securing the deal necessary to get them into the studio. Time is fast running out if it is to be completed and released this year ready for touring in 2001. We wish we had more to report, but this is as much as we know at the moment. Kevin Mayhew has commissioned an album from Rick of his favourite hymns all done in a similar style to that of "The Day Thou Gavest" which Rick plays on the church tours. This will be completed by mid-May with a release date later in the year.
Rick is booked to appear at the Hearts on Fire festival at Glastonbury with Cliff Richard on the 15th of August and there are also possibilities of other live performances in England, Wales, Holland and Italy, so we suggest you keep visiting the web-site if you have that facility, in order to keep up to date with events as they transpire.
Rick has already appeared on Through The keyhole and is off to Yorkshire Television again to appear as a panellist in May. A new batch of Countdowns is booked for July. He has a cameo appearance on A Question of Pop. He has appeared on the Calendar programme in Yorkshire where he was presented with his portrait by Alan Hydes. He has completed another six Classic Albums programmes for BBC Radio 2 and recorded another 15 Live At Jongleurs for UK Gold.
Considerably more television ices are in the pipeline but we can't say which until confirmation in the form of contractual agreements have been signed.
There have been a lot of interesting developments during the tour in other areas, not least of which are two proposals for Rick to front his own television programme. Meetings on this subject are due to take place in May and June and more news will appear in the next newsletter.
Also, Rick wrote a special piece specifically for the Warrington concert and there is talk of that being recorded especially by tire charity for a possible release later in the year.
Earlier this year, Rick performed on piano on two tracks on the new Dr. Feelgood album and this has just been released. We won't be carrying copies in the office so please don't ask us for it!
The book SAY YES, is not going to go into a third pressing and so very shortly the rights should return to Rick, who intends to add to the ending bringing it more up to date and also he intends to release it on tape as a talking book, ink throughout with music.
Whilst on the subject of books, Rick is still working away at the novel that Harper Collins have commissioned. (Harper Collins are also the most likely company to rerelease SAY YES.
Returning to the tour, it was lovely to have some celebs come to see the show, and amongst the surprises were Richard "Hud" Hudson from Strawbs, Fred Dibnah ....the wonderful steeplejack who came to Leeds, and Jack Douglas of Carry On fame, who came to the Isle of Wight.
There will be thirty additional shows in October / November of the Evening With Rick Wakeman tour. It will be exactly the same show and the dates have been added purely through did from theatres that could not fit the show in this time. Already a new one man show is planned for next year and Rick is very excited about the format it will take.
There are going to be some quite drastic changes to the RWCC before the year is out, with the whole centre being given a major facelift both as a magazine and as a web-site. In the next newsletter a full run down as to what will be happening will be well documented.
Rick has long felt that an overhaul was well overdue and now seems as good a time as any!
Well that's it for now. The next newsletter will be at the end of June and will update any future concerts or happenings that are confirmed in the interim.
In the meantime, thanks for your continued support, and we hope that all of you who managed to see the tour thoroughly enjoyed yourselves.
Rick is already calling it one of his "highlight" tours, which is a good sign for us all!
.... we might get some peace for the next couple of months!
Text scanned, OCRd and checked by Jon Hinchliffe