Rick Wakeman-Welmont Theater-Montclair, NJ-3/20/2024

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Whether or not this is actually his “Final Solo Tour,” Rick Wakeman stunned me yet again down at the Welmont Theater in Montclair, this Wednesday night past.

Lumbering between his grand piano at one side of the stage and his two-tiered keyboard rig at the other, we fans of the caped keysader were treated to a few nuggets of Wakeman’s usual bawdy storytelling and his fleet fingers delivering a Bowie tribute of “Life On Mars and “Space Oddity,” after his opening pair from The Six Wives of Henry VIII to what was, for me, the first time Mr. W. has tickled across a specific “The Last Battle,” among the trio of songs he plucked for his melody of The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Although I have seen Wakeman plenty over the years-with Yes, solo like this and touring with various backing bands-he surely gave me a few I had never heard before.

Another one of these “new” moments was his long piano moment “Yessonata.” This ode was written for this tour, a sure near twenty-minute piano piece of bits and pieces of Yes music Mr. W. has hand a hand in over the years playing with that seminal prog band. As he mentioned, this sonata includes about forty little “touchstones” in the piece, which Wakeman said he more-than-slightly improvised around in a different way each night. One heard as much familiar Yes bits as Wakeman’s connected noodling in what was a stellar show-stopper of the night.

The last two songs of the regular hour-and -half were a pair I have heard Wakeman play before. Taking to his keyboard rig he took his stab at “Help!” and “Eleanor Rigby,” in the style of two different composers (not Lennon and McCartney).

Returning for the encore of “The Dance of a Thousand Lights,” from his Return to the Centre of the Earth backed by some strings pumping through the house PA, there was this last five or so minutes than Wakeman raised his cup (surely with no heavy drink in it these days) and bid us goodbye.

Forever? Who knows?


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