Keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman has two reasons to celebrate. First, his outstanding career in music has just been recognized by Queen Elizabeth II, who named him a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in her recent annual Birthday Honours. And secondly, after 18 months of lockdown in the U.K., he is finally able to announce the long-delayed follow-up to 2019's sell-out "The Grumpy Old Rock Star" tour with "The Even Grumpier Old Rock Star" tour.
Having made his name creating prog rock extravaganzas, in his solo shows Wakeman returns to his roots with a program packed with virtuosic piano performances and hilarious anecdotes, inspired by his 50-plus-year career. Repertoire will range from his solo works and his stints in the band YES through to his early days as a session musician playing keyboards on such classics as David Bowie's "Life On Mars", plus surprises like his unique interpretations of BEATLES' hits and many more memorable tunes, adapted for the grand piano. And all of this glorious music is punctuated by riotous reflections on his life and the people he's met along the way. As he himself often observes, life is rarely dull when Rick Wakeman is around.
The 24-city tour will kick-off on Thursday, October 14 in Derry, New Hampshire at the Tupelo Music Hall and continue through November. Tickets go on sale starting Friday, June 25 at 10 a.m. local time.
Professional musician, keyboard player, songwriter, broadcaster and raconteur, Wakeman's career started as a much-in-demand session player, who performed on recordings by David Bowie, Elton John, Lou Reed, Al Stewart and hundreds more artists. His big break came in 1971 when he joined YES, who went on to become the most successful prog rock band in the world, but Wakeman has also always gone his own way outside the framework of that group.
In the seventies, he achieved chart-topping success with solo albums such as "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth", "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" and "The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table", which cumulatively sold over 10 million copies in North America alone.
He has written several film scores, amongst them two for director Ken Russell ("Lisztomania" and "Crimes Of Passion") and two "Harry Palmer" movies starring Michael Caine ("Bullet To Beijing" and "Midnight In St. Petersburg"), and in the U.K., has built up an impressive reputation as a witty guest and host on shows like "Grumpy Old Men", "Countdown", "Watchdog" and the comedy cabaret show "Live At Jongleurs". His wickedly irreverent acceptance speech when YES was inducted in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2017 nearly brought the house down.
That same year, he made British chart history when his "Piano Portraits" record became the first solo piano instrumental album to enter the U.K.'s Top 10 on release — a feat he then repeated with last year's "Piano Odyssey". Both records feature tunes that have a special connection with Rick's personal musical journey and his subsequent tours, in which he performs a selection of tracks accompanied by hilarious memories and anecdotes have been instant sellouts in the U.K.
Now the achievements of his incredible career have been officially recognized with a CBE in recognition of his services to music, so come and celebrate with him on his forthcoming tour. And don't worry — Rick will still find plenty of reasons to be grumpy.
"The Even Grumpier Old Rock Star" 2021 North American tour dates:
Oct. 14 - Tupelo Music Hall, Derry NH
Oct. 15 - Academy of Music, Northampton MA
Oct. 16 - Garde Arts Center, New London CT
Oct. 19 - Narrows Center for the Arts, Full River MA
Oct. 22 - The Paramount, Huntingdon NY
Oct. 23 - Concert Hall at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, New York NY
Oct. 24 - The Birchmere, Alexandria VA
Oct. 26 - Asbury Hall, Buffalo NY
Oct. 27 - Wellmont Theatre, Montclair NJ
Oct. 28 - The Vogel @ Count Basie Center for the Arts, Red Bank NJ
Oct. 29 - Scottish Rite Auditorium, Collingswood NJ
Oct. 30 - Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield CT
Nov. 01 - The Kent Stage, Kent OH
Nov. 03 - The Sheldon, St Louis MO
Nov. 04 - Copernicus Center Theater, Chicago IL
Nov. 05 - Pantages Theatre, Minneapolis MN
Nov. 09 - Celebrity Theatre, Phoenix AZ
Nov. 11 - Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, San Francisco CA
Nov. 12 - The Theatre at Ace Hotel, Los Angeles CA
Nov. 13 - Magnolia, El Cajon CA
Nov. 15 - Neptune Theatre, Seattle WA
Nov. 17 - Variety Playhouse, Atlanta GA
Nov. 18 - Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Amaturo Theater, Fort Lauderdale FL
Nov. 19 - Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre, Clearwater FL