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RICK WAKEMAN – LIVE AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM, 2023 (2024) (Esoteric Recordings)

As with all great progressive rock, Rick Wakeman’s classic concept albums still stand up, unlike other popular music forms that can sound so dated and of their time. For me, listening to this concert, was like “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” anew (it’s scary to think of it being 50 years old), and I also realised that Wakeman’s music, far for being intensely classical in approach has more jazz/ blues elements in it than I had remembered – witness ‘Anne Boleyn’ with its funky break – and its ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ synth solo! The sound is excellent and his seasoned band, the English Rock Ensemble, is top-notch, comprising:   Dave Colquhoun (guitars and backing vocals), Adam Falkner (drums), Lee Pomeroy (bass and backing vocals), Hayley Sanderson (vocals) and Adam Wakeman (keyboard, guitars and backing vocals), not forgetting the English Chamber Choir, conducted by Guy Protheroe, and the recorded narration by famous actors Peter Egan and Ian Lavender (yes- of “Dad’s Army”!).


Ah, but I hear the Yes and Wakeman fans say, “I already have this music.” I would discourage this thinking as these are new arrangements and adaptations: for example, “The YES Suite”, integrates familiar Yes tunes; OK, there is nothing radically different, and we’ve been here before with piano and strings versions of ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Wonderous Stories’ on Wakeman’s piano odysseys and ‘Starship Trooper’ on 1996’s “Fields of Green.” (And on previous live albums like “Out of the Blue”).


Comparing this with the last time I saw Wakeman play live without Yes (Dundee and Falkirk in the late 80s – yes, you heard that right) it was delightful to hear Rick duetting with son Adam, increasing the bandwidth of the keyboards (And, of course, Dave Colquhoun isn’t entirely out of the picture with his guitar solos, following in the footsteps of Mike Egan, Dave Lambert and Jerry Crampton); the way the band plays around with ‘Anne of Cleves’ is simply delightful. King Arthur and his Knights also gets another makeover, ending deliriously with the hoedown ‘Merlin the Magician’. Much of the music may be cerebral to some as Wakeman demonstrates his formidable technical ability, especially on his dazzling synth runs, but it is also accessible and humorous – well, Wakeman is a bit of a stand-up comedian in his spare time, isn’t he? And, of course, the archetypal grand concept album “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” is there on CD 4 in all its live glory.


I look forward to seeing them in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall at the start of their UK tour on 15th February, a tour what also takes in Liverpool, Manchester, Brighton, Birmingham, York, Gateshead, London and Bristol, playing “The YES Suite” and “Journey to the Centre of the Earth.” 

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