Rick Wakeman takes festive tour to Bexhill and Southampton

Rick Wakeman is finally able to take his Christmas show on tour again this year.

Rick Wakeman - credit Rob O'Connor
Rick Wakeman - credit Rob O'Connor

Among the dates for his Not Quite As Grumpy As Last Year tour will be Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on Friday, December 3 and Southampton’s Central Hall on Saturday, December 11.

“I have missed it so much. I hated the uncertainty. I am somebody that is not good at not knowing what the future holds. I always like to know what I am aiming for. If I’m doing an album, I like to know the release date. I think it’s about having a reason to do what you are doing. I like deadlines. I’m good with deadlines. But it’s also I just love being on stage and meeting people. I am very much a people’s person and I think I always have been. But it was great to get out to America to do a dozen shows. I went out in October through to the beginning of November. It was difficult in some ways. The practical difficulty is that America is a bit of a mess. People think we’ve got it bad over here but it’s nothing compared to over there. Half the country thinks Covid is a hoax and the other half are absolutely paranoid and are convinced they’re going to die. The rules are very strict over there for concerts and I think that’s right. Quite a few bands have gone over there and someone has got Covid and everything has been cancelled so it’s good that the rules are strict. All the audiences have to be double jabbed and tested before they come. They have to wear a mask throughout. And we stayed in just four hotels and used them as hubs.

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“But it was great fun. It was so good. I just wanted to smile all the time and it felt like a lot of people were also smiling in the audiences. I couldn’t see their faces because they had masks on. It was like playing to a Lone Ranger convention. But you could sense them smiling. And obviously we had social distancing but during the meet and greets with people a long way away it was great just how pleased they were to come back. People have really missed it. They don’t really know what’s going on and you see all the politicians arguing. I just think it’s a real mess. In fact everything seems a real mess and that’s why this little haven is down to entertainers and musicians and artists and pantos to bring people out into a fantasy world which gives everyone a bit of respite from the real world for some time!

“I last did this Christmas tour in 2019 so that’s two years which is an incredibly long time. I’ve always loved performing but I wouldn’t say I have loved it above everything else. I love working in a studio. As long as I’m doing something to do with music or the arts then I’m happy. But certainly when I came back to it, I think I realised that it is the people that feed you, that give you the fuel to make you want to make music. That’s so important and that hit me really hard. I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever taken it for granted but it really brought that thought to the forefront – that it is all about the people.

“It is just great back to back and I have had so many emails from people and messages from people saying how pleased they are to be able to just get out, having been starved of entertainment for such a long time.”

The show is a solo show which obviously makes things considerably easier and safer in this pandemic era: “I do music from over the years including some of my own and some of the stuff with people that I’ve been involved with like Bowie and Yes and Cat Stevens. The music is performed on a grand piano but this time around I’ve also got a small keyboard rig as well which gives a different colour to the music. And there are also some arrangements of Christmas pieces. It has got to be Christmassy and there are also some ridiculous anecdotes in which a small percentage of the story has some relationship to the truth! I just want people to have fun and enjoy themselves. It’s a show of two halves, two hours or maybe a bit more than that, and I just work on the basis that if I am enjoying myself then everybody else will!”