Rick Wakeman Going For the One Final ARW Tour

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Trevor Rabin, Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman (Photo: Deborah Anderson; used with permission)

The fans want it. Rick Wakeman wants it to happen. And he thinks “Jon and Trev do as well.” The topic is another tour of the group who, in recent years, billed themselves as Yes Featuring Anderson Rabin Wakeman. The trio of Yes alums did several tours together from 2016-2018 and released a live collection though they never got around to releasing an album of new material. Or as Wakeman described it during a live interview on SiriusXM on September 18, “one final, farewell tour to say ‘thank you’.”

Wakeman is promoting his Grumpy Old Rock Star tour which arrived in the U.S. on September 21 (and continues through October 27). He appeared via phone with legendary disc jockey Dennis Elsas, co-host of the weekly “Fab Fourum” program on SiriusXM’s Beatles Channel to discuss a variety of topics. [A new interview on Oct. 11 – below – also delves into a reunion tour with Anderson and Rabin.]

Wakeman, who turned 70 on May 18, started his career as a much-in-demand session player, and performed on recordings by David Bowie, Elton John, Lou Reed, and Al Stewart, among many others. His big break came in 1971 when he joined Yes, who went on to become the most successful progressive rock band in the world.

In the ’70s, he achieved chart-topping success with the solo albums Journey to the Centre of the Earth and The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Elsas asked Wakeman if his collaboration with Anderson and Rabin will return after a year apart. “I’m hoping it will return. We have been talking about doing one final farewell tour, to say thank you, and that would be next year and going into 2021. It’s still in discussion stage. Certainly, I would love to do it. And I think Jon and Trev do as well. I’m going to be seeing Trev in Los Angeles in a few weeks and hopefully Jon as well.

“It’s something that I’d really like to do because I love playing the music and there’s something about Jon’s vocal and there’s something interesting about the way that Trev works with Yes music which I find fascinating.

“One of the things we did when we got together… because Trev and Steve [Howe] have completely different ways that they play… is that we would play the music slightly differently and how we got around that was that on the tracks that I never played on, like 90125 and Big Generator… I would imagine that I was in the band when the music was written and being recorded and I would play what I would have played had I been in the band. If there are important lines to play that people recognize… obviously you do that. But then you play what you would have played if you’d been in the band.

“And then Trev did exactly the same with the pieces like Fragile, Close to the Edge or Going For the One that he hadn’t been on. And it was fascinating [for me] because I had no idea some of the things that Trev would do. When we came to do “Awaken,” which is a bit of a Yes anthem, Trev came back with some ideas on what to do and what to play and adding big orchestral bits. I didn’t think you could take “Awaken” to another level, but he did. Even though it features a big church organ thing at the end, it was the way that Trevor played that made me play differently.

“I think one of the great things is we talked about other Yes pieces that he’d been part of that I hadn’t and vice versa that we could do things to and make them quite special without taking away the flavor and essence of what the original tracks were. And so if we do the final tour—which I really, really hope happens—we can get some more pieces and we can play around with and do a similar kind of thing. A lot of the Yes music is adaptable.”

Related: Our 2016 review of Yes Featuring Anderson Rabin Wakeman

In another interview, published Oct. 11 in Rolling Stone, Wakeman was asked why ARW would be doing the tour.

“Ummm… OK… a mixture of honesty and then you can read into it what you will. None of us are getting any younger health-wise and things. It’s not the playing, though that does get a bit difficult at times. There’s the traveling and everything that goes with it. Jon is 74 now and he hasn’t had the greatest of health, though he’s been brilliant at looking after himself to keep himself going. But there’s a limit to what you can do.

“I have been diagnosed with arthritis in both my hands. It’s controllable at the moment. I don’t take anything for it, pills or drugs, but I do exercises. I have creams and special gloves and things that keep me going. I know I have to practice really hard to keep my fingers supple. I always said that I never want to walk onstage and not play to the standard I want to. I don’t want anyone to applaud anything I do because of what I used to do, so there comes a time to stop.”

He was asked what music they’d play from among Yes’ vast repertoire.

“I liked the way we took some of the old ones and changed them — like Awaken, we changed beyond belief. Trev did some brilliant things to do that which changed it quite a lot. I’d like to see pieces from Going For the One or ‘Arriving UFO’ [from Tormato]. Maybe we could do ‘Siberian Khatru’ or even ‘Close to the Edge’.

I didn’t think we could improve on ‘Awaken,’ but we really did. There’s a lot of things we can do, but we haven’t discussed it yet. I’ve got to be brutally honest with you. We have not discussed it.”

Wakeman recently released two piano solo albums with covers of such classic rock favorites as “Eleanor Rigby,” “Space Oddity” and “The Boxer.”

Back to Elsas’ interview on SiriusXM: And why are your upcoming North American dates called the Grumpy Old Rock Star tour?

“I’m known in England just as much for doing comedy as for doing music, believe it or not,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of television; I’ve had my own comedy shows and my own music shows. There was a massive show some years ago called Grumpy Old Men and it was huge in Britain… the #1-rated program for six [seasons] and I was on all six. And I got known outside of the music audience as the Grumpy Old Man. And then the two started crossing over and I started doing loads of chat shows and quiz shows. But I was always introduced as the Grumpy Old Man.

“A big publisher asked me to do a couple of books with some of the ridiculous stories that had happened in my life. I couldn’t [call them Grumpy Old Man] because the production company had already registered [that] title so it became Grumpy Old Rock Star. And I do a show which I’ve been doing for years and I sit at the piano and do adaptations [of classic rock songs] and in between the pieces I tell ridiculous stories about things that have happened in my life or things that have happened to people I’m involved with. They’re quite hilarious. It’s become very popular in the U.K. My agent said I have to bring this to America.”

Wakeman’s irreverent acceptance speech when Yes was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 had the audience in stitches.

Rick Wakeman – The Grumpy Old Rock Star 2019 Tour (Tickets are available at Ticketmaster)

Oct 11 – Collingswood, NJ – Scottish Rite Auditorium
Oct 13 – Ridgefield, CT – Ridgefield Playhouse
Oct 16 – Seattle, WA – The Triple Door
Oct 17 – Portland, OR – Revolution Hall
Oct 19 – San Francisco, CA – Castro Theatre
Oct 20 – San Juan Capistrano, CA – Coach House
Oct 22 – Los Angeles, CA – Theatre at Ace Hotel
Oct 25 – Atlanta, GA – City Winery
Oct 26 – Clearwater, FL – Capitol Theatre
Oct 27 – Orlando, FL – The Plaza Live

The Grumpy Old Christmas Show U.K. Dates

Dec 05 – Stoke-on-Trent – Victoria Hall
Dec 06 – London – Cadogan Hall
Dec 07 – Watford – Watford Colosseum
Dec 09 – Birmingham – Town Hall Birmingham
Dec 10 – Harrogate – The Royal Hall
Dec 13 – Buxton – Opera House Buxton
Dec 14 – Brighton – Theatre Royal
Dec 15 – Poole – Lighthouse
Dec 18 – Liverpool – Grand Central
Dec 19 – Manchester – RNCM Concert Hall
Dec 20 – Cheltenham – Cheltenham Town Hall
Dec 21 – Coventry – Warwick Arts Centre

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