Rick Wakeman and the English Rock Ensemb

MARK NICHOLLS The Waterfront, Norwich

MARK NICHOLLS

The Waterfront, Norwich

They trooped through the drizzle down to the Waterfront in their droves, those who once regarded themselves as the “prog rock” generation's finest.

They had been hailed by the messiah of the 1970s 'concept' album, Rick Wakeman, for what was billed as his only UK gig of the year.

And for those who look back with affection to those days of the mid-1970s and endless album tracks - as I admit to doing myself - this was a privileged occasion with Wakeman and the English Rock Ensemble at their unparalleled best.

For those who went in search of nostalgia, there was no disappointment with the first 30 minutes taken up by virtually the entire Journey to the Centre of the Earth album and then a couple of tracks from No Earthly Connection and the Six Wives of Henry VIII albums.

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It was a delight to see Ashley Holt on vocals and another original member of the English Rock Ensemble, Tony Fernandez, on drums.

Wakeman was on top form, dashing from one bank of keyboards to another and, as always, was the comedian as much as the musician with light-hearted jokes and a rapport with the audience that eventually led to him going walkabout with his keyboard through a crowded Waterfront.

High points were the medley of material from the Myths and Legends album and a finale of Merlin the Magician.

To some, the tracks may seem obscure, but to those at the Waterfront last night - this was what the heyday of the progressive rock era was all about.

And what a delight to see Wakeman - or as one observer put it “that bloke who now lives near Diss” - performing these pieces in Norwich.

The encore was less predictable but equally well received - the Yes song Starship Trooper.

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