Updated: 7 May 2009
RICK WAKEMAN/ACOUSTIC STRAWBS, HAMPTON COURT, FRI 1 MAY 2009
I was there on the Friday, and would agree with Neil's review below, although the setlist was different - they opened with "Benedictus", then "Oh How She Changed", 'Ghosts' and concluded with 'Lay Down'. I may have forgotten one, I wasn't taking notes, but it all seemed to go down very well with the audience - I wonder why they changed it for the second night? Chas was having a bit of trouble with his equipment at one point, a pedal of some sort, but it didn't make any audible difference that I could tell.
It was still light when they played, and the boys looked great against the background of Hampton Court. I managed to take a few pictures, only with my phone I'm afraid but they're not bad: see this link
My wife (who grudgingly admitted that they were pretty good - praise indeed coming from her, who I have not been able to persuade to watch them since Cardiff Castle in 1976) left the Wakeman show before the encore to get the car out before the queues (and to warm up as it was pretty chilly by then) and happened to spot DC looking 'a bit shifty' in the car park while a lady (presume Mrs. C) was leafleting the cars about the 40th anniversary weekend in September. Better get tickets early when they go on sale!
Photo by Chris Parkins - more pictures from Chris
Shine On Silver Sun
A Glimpse Of Heaven
Catherine of Aragon
Defender of the Faith
Anne of Cleves
RICK WAKEMAN/ACOUSTIC STRAWBS, HAMPTON COURT, SAT 2 MAY 2009
Got there in good time for once - not early enough for the carpark picnic, but early enough to find other Witchwooders (and Tee's cousin Tim - a nice surprise) wandering around in the idyllic surroundings of Hampton Court. As if the buildings themselves weren't impressive enough, there was an absolutely huge stage, with vast numbers of lights, promising a lightshow to end all lightshows. As one of the Strawbs commented later: "Rick has never been one to do things by halves".
Bit disappointed to be told no photographs on the way in - the reason soon becoming clear: the "after show" CD offer for £20 included 2CDs worth of music from the night's performance plus a CD of official photographs. Programmes for £10, but very nicely done. Sadly they ran out before I got one, but I'm told you can get them off the website. Think I will.
First off the English Chamber Choir - very nicely done, some mediaeval stuff in keeping wth the setting, and a great rendition of the 50s/60s pub classic "I'm Henery the Eight I Am".
Acoustic Strawbs followed shortly afterwards - as they were introduced, there was a good deal of cheering from the audience - obvioulsly a lot of crossover between fan-bases. This was surely by far the biggest stage I've ever seen them perform upon, sat on their three stools slightly to right of the stage, in front of Rick's mock-turret keyboard station. Undaunted, they started out with a fine rendition of "Lay Down", which immediately drew yet more cheers from the audience. "New World" was particularly powerful, as was "Ghosts", which probably appealed more to the prog rock end of the audience, and was well-received. The sound was absolutely fantastic (thank you Paul) and the whole thing was over far too soon.
After the interval, back to our seats for the Wakeman part of the evening. Rick came on as a cardinal, it would appear, drawing geat cheers. Opening with a new piece, which I think was "Tudor Overture", we were then introduced to the narrative spectacular which was Brian Blessed. Brian gave us the bac k ground to each of the wives, embellished with his own unique personality (often saying "I didn't know that" in some surprise); he was hilarious, he was irreverent and a huge asset to the proceedings.
"Catherine of Aragon" was up first (as in real life and on the original album - toniught's performance was delivered neither in album order nor in the order of wives) and the English Rock Ensemble with choir and orchestra set about their business with gusto. Whilst inevitably the main focus was Rick himself, Adam Wakeman up in the back row of he Ensemble was clearly adding much in the way of keyboard backing as well. Tony Fernandez' drumming was excellent, aided and abetted by the superstar of percussion, the inimitable Ray Cooper: Ray knows how to make bashing a tambourine look and sound like a Royal Command Performance and I can (and have in the past) watched him for most of a gig at the expense of the main performer.
Without a programme to hand, I don't have the names of the guitarists and bass player, but certainly in respect of the acoustic guitarist it was very difficult to hear him in the overall mix. The only time he really came into his own was on the second track played "Catherine Howard" (album track 3, wife 5) when he played on acoustic the banjo piece, originally played by Dave Cousins on the album, and the strumming finale which was played by Lambert. No disrespect to the Ensemble, but in my heart of hearts I'd loved to have heard that original trio re-united for that track, especially as they were all there! Even DC's banjo!
I think the choir and orchestra could have been further up the mix sometimes - the Ensmble are pretty loud and swamped them for much of the time. From where I was you could tell when they were singing because they stood up shortly beforehand. But there were some really great showpiece plays - a tower was rolled in from the right hand side at the back of the staage, and at the start of the next track, the shrouds were pulled away to reveal a mighty organ (whether real or a mock-up, I'm not quite certain). Rick, now clad in his 1973 style glitter cloak over the top of his cardinal's robe, ascended to play this mighty keyboard. It was very loud and very church organ and sounded great.
The lighting was absolutely superb throughout - the brick walls of Hampton Court were lit up in various colours, with the stone window surrounds and various other stone elements picked out in white.
A truly enthralling evening, an uplifting performance of one of my favourite instrumental albums ever, with a few additional compositions, in atmospheric surroundings. Rick was obviously truly delighted with the two shows - as he made clear after the last wife "Jane Boleyn" (album 5, wife 2), when he took the mic for various thank-yous. An encore "Tudor Rock" and then off to the car park and home.
A short half hour set from the ASs in front of the splendour of the West Front of Hampton Court Palace and in front of a 4-5,000 crowd gathered for the Rick Wakemann Six Wives spectacular. Given the instrumental nature of the rest of the evening it was good to hear a strong vocalist booming out with a top-class sound system. They played well and DC's voice was in particularly fine fettle which bodes well for Rochester tonight. They opened with "Lay Down" and concluded with "A Glimpse Of Heaven" which DC appropriately linked with the keyboard virtuosity of Rick Wakeman and the magnificent setting. I thought the incorporation of "Ghosts" into a small set was a dubious choice of material and was surprised not to hear "Oh How She Changed" given its Hampton Court reference.
Rick Wakeman showed no sign of arthritis in his fingers yet and gave a typically flamboyant and virtuoso performance - he remains a national treasure and talent. I'm not sure how succesful his incorporation of choir and orchestral section were to proceedings - they often seemd somewhat peripheral and over dominated by RW and his rock ensemble. However the idea of having Brian Blessed as a 'narrator' between songs was an inspired idea and he often threatened to steal the show somewhat! A truly unique concert, with some spectacular lighting and displays on the palace walls just about justified the equally spectacular ticket prizes.
However I suspect ( and hope !) I will enjoy tonight more !
Some excellent reviews already in from Rick Wakeman's pair of spectacles at Hampton Court, but I shall add my two groats and say I was (and still am) pretty awe-stricken. On the Saturday it was lovely to meet up on a glorious afternoon for a picnic on the grass, in full view of rehearsals in progress on the stage, with a great crowd of Witchwood buddies. Really nice to meet Simone and Cliff too - I didn't twig at first that they were responsible for the Mother of all Strawbs' quizzes which appeared on Strawbsweb last year, and still feel deeply ashamed that I gave up after about three questions, partly because of lack of time and partly because I didn't know the answers! I shall wear a pointy "D" hat and stand in the corner until the next quiz, when I promise to revise properly. Sue Holton, the worthy winner of the quiz, was presented with a beautiful "strawberry" glass bowl for her efforts. Three cheers for Sue!
After being turfed off the grass and ordered to queue at the gates we waited in anticipation for what we were about to receive. When our boys were announced and took to take their places on that massive stage I must admit I found it all quite an emotional experience - they looked so tiny with Hampton Court Palace as the backdrop! I felt like a nervous mum watching her little darlings take part in a school play! The occasion seemed (and was) utterly awesome, in the truest sense. No need for my trepidation however, as everything ran beautifully, the sound was absolute perfection and no-one forgot their lines/burst into tears. Each song rang out and filled the large auditorium with a magical atmosphere - a liberal sprinkling of fairy dust was obviously hanging in the air. I personally would have loved to have heard "Hangman" in that setting, but everyone had their own ideas of what would have been the optimum set with it being so time-limited and I have no complaints whatsoever, in fact I still haven't quite come back down to earth. I also thought Dave Cousins included just the right amount of banter to win the large audience over, given the time constraints. Definitely an experience that will live with me forever. (Incidentally this was not the first time Strawbs had been seen at Hampton Court - I distinctly remember wearing a Strawbs t-shirt there on a school trip in 1974 and still have the photo to prove it!)
Lots of positive comments by Strawbs fans-in-the-making overheard during interval wandering, and then it was back to take our seats for the big occasion. I had intended to play my vinyl copy of "Six Wives" prior to the concert to refresh my memory, but hadn't got round to it. The album has always been my favourite of Rick's solo efforts, and I used to play it a lot in the 70s but it hasnt been out of its sleeve for a very long time. I wondered whether I'd remember the tracks/queens. Of course, they/their documented characters came flooding back as soon as the first notes were played, and even though I am far from an aficionado of lengthy keyboard instrumentals (in fact any lengthy instrumentals - I need vocals to keep my interest for any length of time) the concert will live forever in my memory as an absolute stunner.
It was terrific to see ex-Strawb Tony Fernandez high on the stage (as in "high up") - he played superbly throughout, and the percussionist next to him was also spell-binding. I was sitting next to Alison Brown (the "AB" often responsible for Strawbsweb updates and a lot more) - unbeknown to many Ali has been taking drumming classes for a while now (and may soon be appearing on a TV screen near you!) - we both gasped in awe several times at the combination of drumming and percussion on offer. The rest of the band were terrific too of course, all illuminated by some highly creative lighting, and I loved the duet Rick and son Adam played using portable keyboards. (Incidentally, during the intermission between Strawbs' and Rick's sets a lovely sunny evening had turned to darkness as if it must have been controlled by lighting technicians, and the Palace was then bathed in stunningly atmospheric lighting for Rick's set.)
Others have already mentioned the Orchestra and the Choir - they did seem a little superfluous aurally a lot of the time, as they were "drowned out" rather by the power of The English Rock Ensemble, but I thought visually they added a lot to the grandeur. Brian Blessed was a great choice of narrator, very lively and amusing. (He quipped towards the end that he'd better get a move on as Rick wanted him to watch "Match of the Day" - the grin that suddenly lit up Rick's face was a picture!)
Rick of course revelled in his "larger-than-life" role, going through several majestic cloak changes and processions up and down the steps of the stage sets with great solemnity. All terrific fun and highly fascinating to watch. He was clearly moved by the occasion - he explained at the end how his greatest dream had been to stage the album at Hampton Court back in the early 70s when it was released, which had been refused. He received an unexpected phone call last year saying he could now stage it if he liked, and it was obviously something of a dream come true for him. What could be more apt than performing the album at Hampton Court, 500 years after Henry came to the throne!
I was present at Rick's epic "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" spectacular in 1974, and still have vivid memories of the day for its utter uniqueness, with massive inflatable monsters bobbing about on a pond while David Hemmings narrated with great authority and a cast of seemingly thousands played. No inflatables this time, and a different approach with the narration, but the staging of "The Six Wives" will definitely stay with me - partly because of acoustic Strawbs' magnificent contribution to the event, of course, and partly for the absolute feast for the senses the whole event provided.
Given that many peasants in Ye Olde England have seen the value of their financial portfolios drop somewhat of late I had baulked at ticket prices when these shows were first announced, and admit (I do hope this isn't an act of treason!) that I would not have been there but for the addition of acoustic Strawbs on the bill. However, in my humble opinion the performances were priceless, and tickets worth every penny.
Having already seen and read some of the majestic reviews and being some what humble, I adopt the disguise and admit a state of mass excitement and no control, submitting mine before returning to the slightly less exciting bits of tending my onions.
Well, got to say, all that belongs to the Queen and country who do permit their souls to entry the majestic Palace of Hampton and witness such a scene are alright by me ..what a weekend !
Setting off nice and early in the promise of a few nibbles, courtesy of Jane, alongside the rest of Witchwood attendees who were were going was an incentive indeed. A less than swift road diversion led to a change of plan and this soon saw me with the rest of them sat in the sunshine on the lawn by the West front and nibbling away. Won't name every one , that has already been published, but we had just settled down, Sue presented with her prize, before the area was cleared and we decamped to another place in the sun to finish the wine and pay homage to the stars that were walking about amongst the people.
The excitement mounted as gates were opened and we all shuffled around to our respective places. The huge stage and back drop of the magnificent West front of the palace - a short video of the pre show setting showing can be seen here. http://www.myspace.com/nigelthebadge
Yes this oozed big production , but you could still not have imagined at that time how the West wing would be highlighted and bathed in glorious light as the evening darkened. Atmospheric indeed.
At the appointed hour 7.30 p.m an introduction of the English Chamber Choir, that threw me slightly as I must admit was rather expecting an entry by the Acoustics, but then again I didn't have a programme. They entertained everyone, including latecomers, with a number of fine ditties and songs many of which I hadn't heard before, but did know the one about 'Enery..shows my age I suppose.
Fortunately, by the time the Acoustics surfaced to a warmth of applause, most people had taken their places, but the three sat to my right continued to constantly gabble just like they had throughout the choirs contribution. Why people pay to get in and then do this I just don't know and given the stories that I heard of gigs one had attended in the last week I certainly hope this display of behaviour isn't as infectious as that odd sort of flu is reported to be.(if you want to identify yourselves you were in row T). Fortunately I was able to move away to a spare seat and leave them to their chatter.
It was great to see the guys getting such a warm reception and a quick look at other reviews across the net include quotes such as these " There was a gentle introduction by the English Chamber Choir and the excellent progressive Acoustic Strawbs " (Grabbing that, makes my review much easier to write) (Oh and Mr Greener's review has been filched together with Neil Lamb's and placed on Yes's forum - hope you both got paid well!).
It was always anticipated that the set would be quite short given the length of the 6 Wives epic we had been promised, but it still gave the guys a real chance to show off their well known talents I suspect, to more than a few new members of the listening public. I observed one member of the audience close their eyes in thoughtful imagination, nodding to the music, during "Midnight Sun", dreaming no doubt of that far off land and the atmosphere the introduction and song created - either that or they had a headache from the constant chatter in the places to my right.
"Lay Down" was an opening as grand as the setting and perhaps, after all, many in the audience would have had a previous flavour of that judging by the appreciative applause. The rest of the set whizzed by and although the walls of the West wing were soon to be bathed in the deep ruddy light, appearing like the sheer cliffs of the shoreline in Devon that carries the roots of "A Glinpse Of Heaven". But we had to wait until the Strawbs had delivered their own coupe de grace of that song before leaving the stage to a long and sustained bout of warmth applause from an appreciative and expectant crowd. The lights then came on bathing the West front in glorious colour - fit for any stone.
Already thrown into confusion with the running order at the start of the show, it was not surprising to learn that the running order of the "Queens" on the night was to be different from that of the album. Which itself did not follow the historical timeline of accsession for reasons of vinyl space, I am led to believe. Confusing for students of the period maybe , but for those scholars maybe the acronym ABSCHP "All boys should come home promptly" (As if ?) should help in the examinations. Oh, OK then make up your own.
Tonight as I said we never followed either path, so you can forget about acronyms aleady, but each was linked in it's own way by the narration of Brian Blessed, to whom the audience initially paid great reverence, but as the off script stuff began to flow, so did the audience banter and at times he himself chuckled his way through parts of the Queens introductions, endearing himself to the audience with quips about Henry's invasion of the continent and encouraging cheering from the seats.
Yes the vinyl sits in my collection, so I knew the pieces only tonight they were embellished for the occasion and two pieces added that never saw sight, one for the King himself , the ending was a sort of Rock "ensemble", so to speak
Which brings me nicely to the band, sat high up over the stage , like courtiers playing home to their King holding court and seated below. The band played joyously along with the 40 piece or so Europa Orchestra and the company of 30 man (and woman) English Chamber choir, who rose repeatedly to add their aaaaaaa'h's in all the right places.
The rich wall of sound and stunning lighting effects made this an exceptional evening and one you would have to go a long way to better. By all accounts the weather was a little warmer on Saturday than Friday and even the late night finish was not a problem.
Without doubt, to pull this off was an achievement, yes there were a few little gremlins but on a night like this that didn't seem to matter - Rick and the rest provided a show that will be remembered and remembered for many a fine reason, better say that quickly, or "Henry" will have me for treason.
I've been away from the bosom of my family this holiday weekend and have thus been making it up them by spending some "quality time" hence the delay in any sort of review in length but as ever I've been beaten to it. Everyone else has already used up all the superlatives I could think of regarding Rick's Six Wives at Hampton Court
I can only add that in trying to relive what for me was such an excellent night I'm listening to the the official CD recording of the night, recorded printed and handed out to pre-paying punters straight after the show. The CD is brilliant, the mix is even better than the original, choir & orchestra come across much better, it's just missing the lights.
Of course it doesn't do justice to the spectacle and I for one am so glad I got tickets whatever the cost. I feel sorry for Rick's world wide fans that they won't get to see what we were privileged to observe.
Rick's Myths And Legends show at The Empire Pool Wembley; which included all of "Journey" as an encore, was pretty much top of my big venue concerts he just came damn close to topping that.
It was a complete day out. A short tour of the Palace itself, a missed chat with Rick himself as he turned up for rehearsals, made up with a chat with Chas. A light "tea" on the lawn a meeting of like minded friends and a prompt 7.45 start.
The English Chamber Choir got us off to a fine start - setting the right tone with suitable Tudor chorals with a sense of humour when including "Enery The Eighth"
The Acoustics were every bit as good as everyone says but with a different set from the night before now that Chas's pedals had been plugged back in!! Even so I would have much preferred "Oh How She Changed" to "Ghosts" especially with the Hampton Court reference!
After a suitable interval came the main event now with a stunningly lit backdrop of the palace itself. Much has already been said about the event which I could not better suffice to say that two things for me stood out and which explains part of the high cost.
The stage itself was laid out with orchestra angled stage right and choir stacked immediately behind. Rick, in his mini castle, was angled stage left with the ERE stacked behind. This left a triangular space centre stage for Brian's intros and, as we were to see, the entrance and exit of a raised platform, plus stairs, for the playing of the church organ during Jane Seymour and of a grand piano for the "The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended" section of Anne Boleyn.
It all ended far to soon for me and I was left wishing Rick had made a second album "The Mistresses of Henry the VIII" and he could have encored with that!!
It ended with picking up the recorded CD of the nights performance, a queue in the car park and a chat with Mike and Sue in the bar at our "luxury" Travelodge.