In a short set, before the interval and I think deviating from the original plan intended, we had the pleasure to be entertained by Wakeman’s second son, Adam.
Adam Wakeman is a songwriter and accomplished pianist and keyboard player; currently on the books of the reformed Black Sabbath. His performance introduced us to the flavour of the night, with relaxed and engaging verbal presentations ahead of lengthier instrumentals on the piano, and, in his case alone, some singing and guitar playing too. A grabbing kind of opportunity for this fine musician, who might otherwise be making music behind the scenes or be studio based, to showcase his own songs and to tell his own story in an acoustic setting.
When Wakeman senior takes to the De Monfort Hall stage we immediately get his funny turn of phrase. Like Mozart, he was a boy who started learning the piano from a particularly young age. Unlike Mozart he did not demonstrate any prodigious ability until later on, nor did he start to use the piano to compose that early. Wakeman’s first public performance was at 5 years, when he played the tune ‘Monkey on a Stick’ to a group of parents. After receiving rapturous applause for this short rendition, he repeated it fervently and he was hooked.
As he tells of chronologically arranged life events it prompts a repeated return to deftly sweeping those fingers over the piano keys and he is truly a marvel. There are reminders of that once attention drawing performer, now in his mid-sixties and a smidgen overweight, yet whose back is nicely upright and his long hair curtain falls to past the nape of his neck while seated at the piano, and you watch him as he ‘zones out’ it is something quite hypnotic to witness.
One of the orchestrated self penned pieces he plays in the show, entitled ‘Catherine Howard’, (taken from his larger composition of 1973 The Six Wives of Henry VIII), demonstrates Wakeman’s ability to resource and extract information and make his own observations, and then to reverberate back the narrative through the music. Tudor Court melody is not the only thing evident, but also the spirited, flirtatious personality and the drama of a young life.
Painters like to paint in the style of other great masters. It was interesting to learn that Wakeman likes to play in the style of great composers, including Prokofiev, Ravel and Mozart too, and when he does it is so very clever.
For the sake of the comedy and to keep it rolling, Wakeman is slightly derogatory about the women of his life and some of his public, but no offense is meant. The autobiographical story telling from the ole Prog rock star is respectful actually and we see genuine sentiment expressed. The multiple-times married, Wakeman, is a cheeky chappie, who has led a colourfully interesting and progressive life artistically. We are allowed an insight into some stellar names and not just from the music industry but across the creative arts, and we learn more too of Wakeman’s own wondrous people, his family, friends and acquaintances, the people who have touched the heart of the man. Wakeman has been performing these ‘Evening with’… shows for a while, in which he conveys a little bit of social history through the spoken word and through virtuoso performance.
Photography by Lee Wilkinson
Reviewer, Debra Hall attended the show at De Monfort Hall, Leicester on Saturday 24 January in an official capacity on behalf of Remotegoat. Review also published here