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Rick Wakeman’s ‘Even Grumpier Old Rock Star Tour’ to hit New England in October

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It’s almost impossible to predict the next move by progressive rock legend Rick Wakeman. The keyboardist, songwriter, radio and TV host, producer, author and actor has become almost as well known in his native U.K. for his comedic exploits, and that trademark wit was at full throttle during an interview with The Maine Edge. 

Wakeman’s virtuosic keyboard skills graced classic albums by the band YES, along with iconic songs by David Bowie, Elton John, Cat Stevens, T. Rex, and Al Stewart, among others. His solo output is astonishing in breadth and volume, comprising dozens of entries. Wakeman’s gold-selling concept albums include “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” and “The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.”

His sold-out 2019 “The Grumpy Old Rock Star Tour,” a mix of solo piano performance and humorous stories, provided a spellbinding evening for anyone lucky enough to score a ticket. Wakeman says he’s keen to return to America next month to take that concept to the next level with the “Even Grumpier Old Rock Star Tour,” telling The Maine Edge, “I’m calling it that because it was postponed four times. By the time you see me next month, it will be called “The Unbelievably Grumpier Old Rock Star Tour.”

That tour is scheduled to begin October 13 in Natick, MA, followed by dates in Derry, NH, Northampton, MA, New London, CT, and Fall River, MA. You can find the complete schedule at www.RWCC.com.

The ever-prolific Wakeman says his next album is about half completed, and he is passionate about it. “A Gallery of the Imagination,” due next year, will contain so much variety, it will be like a musical art gallery, Wakeman says. It’s the planned follow-up to his 2020 return to prog-rock, “The Red Planet.”

Wakeman says he was truly stunned a few months back when he was formally recognized by Queen Elizabeth II as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) during her annual birthday honors.

During a Zoom interview with The Maine Edge (where I essentially play straight-man), Wakeman recalls his first trip to America as a member of YES back in 1971. He shares details about his forthcoming U.S. tour, and he explains how his dogs have contributed to the fact that he’s still with us.

The Maine Edge: You always have something different planned. What have you cooked up for the “Even Grumpier Old Rock Star” tour?

Rick Wakeman: I plan to take a couple of different keyboards out with me, and I’ll have some new stories and anecdotes to share. This pandemic has been so difficult for so many people, including many in this industry. I truly am looking forward to being in a room of people again. I like to treat each performance like I’m having the audience over to my place for a drink or some coffee.

The Maine Edge: I know you like to meet fans at the shows. Will you be allowed to do that this time?

Rick Wakeman: We’ve been working on a way to do it as safely as possible. I really love meeting people, it’s where I learn a lot about music, really. My father used to tell me that every person walking toward you has a story to tell. Then he would say “Chances are they’re more interesting than yours.” Some of the stories I’ve heard from people over the years have just been gobsmacking. Some are terribly sad, some are uproariously funny. I’m as interested to hear what they have to say as they are in hearing some of the stupidity that comes out of me.

The Maine Edge: How would you describe the music you’ve recorded so far for your next album “A Gallery of the Imagination?”

Rick Wakeman: All these different kinds of music started coming over the last few months. The only music teacher I ever had was a lady called Mrs. Symes. She told me that once I learned a piece, she wanted me to close my eyes and paint pictures to the music. That idea of a musical art gallery has never left me. I intend to have people send in photos of the paintings they came up while listening to it and then launch a gallery with all of those images.

Sometime in 1971, I was standing with Jon Anderson (lead vocalist for YES) outside of a hotel during my first trip to America. A guy walked up to Jon and said “I’ve worked out what the song ‘Your Move’ means.” He went on how he was convinced it was about traveling between different astral planes and then asked Jon “Am I right?” Jon said, “Spot on, mate” and off the guy went. I said, “Jon, is that really what it’s about?” He said, “No, it’s about a chess game, but if that’s what he sees, if that’s what he wants it to be, that’s absolutely fine.” That really sums up “A Gallery of the Imagination.”

The Maine Edge: What was your first impression of America on that trip?

Rick Wakeman: I remember thinking on the plane back home to England that America was at least 10 years ahead of Europe in ideas, in everything. I was also struck by how musical America was – everybody wanted to talk music and I thought that was fantastic. My two great loves at that time were music and cars. I’m still a massive American car fan. I bought a 1957 Cadillac limo and had it shipped home. When I come to the U.S., I have to sit on my hands to keep from buying cars.

The Maine Edge: Do you still have that Cadillac?

Rick Wakeman: I lost it in the first divorce. I lost my beautiful 1973 Cadillac convertible in the second divorce. I can usually work out which cars I’ve had and lost by the divorces.

The Maine Edge: I love that you and your wife are very much into rescuing homeless animals. How did you come to open your home to them?

Rick Wakeman: It started with my wife (Rachel Kaufman) when she opened the door to me. We’ve always been involved in saving suffering strays. I walk about 15 miles per week with the dogs which I combine with seeing a fitness coach once per week. It’s helped me become more fit than I’ve been in a long time. Before the dogs, my exercise regimen involved walking to the gate to get the newspaper. When I said that to my doctor, he prescribed a lifetime of dogs.

Last modified on Wednesday, 22 September 2021 07:29

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