Saturday 3rd May – Bournemouth International Centre
It was a privilege and a pleasure to witness the first time Rick Wakeman had performed ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ on tour since 1974. There were only 14 dates and I was lucky enough to get tickets for Saturday night in Bournemouth. We had been to the BIC on previous occasions to see The Monkees and Madness, but on this occasion we decided to make a weekend of it and booked to stay the night in The Heathlands, a hotel we have used on many previous occasions including formal occasions. But we were disappointed when we checked in this time: the place looked tired and in need of refurbishment, our TV didn’t work very well, the shower was weak and the radiators were belting out heat and couldn’t be turned off. So no recommendation from me for that one. The only advantage was guests could park there for £3 overnight, which was considerably cheaper than the parking meters nearby even though it was a 20 minute walk to the town centre, which was another advantage. Anyway we didn’t spend much time in the hotel, we went into town for a bit of shopping, then a meal at Waggmama a Japanese fast food chain. Then walked back, changed and walked back to the BIC.
Rick appeared at 8 o’clock, dead on time and regaled us with tales about getting ‘Journey’ recorded and sold. I won’t bore you with details here, go to Rick Wakeman’s website
Suffice it to say he had help from Cat Stevens, David Bowie, his father and Edvard Grieg. You had to be there. There was a break, which showed the average of the audience in the ‘shock-horror’, yes a queue for the gents; a phenomena normally unheard of. The ladies had no queue and you could sense each one smirking as they came out of their loo and spotted the gents queue. Anyway that little diversion over it was back to the main course. ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ was performed without a break, with a symphony orchestra and the English Chamber Choir, the female singer from Strictly Come Dancing and a male vocalist whose name I didn’t catch.
It was a tour de force with Wakeman playing (he says) 30 keyboards, the actor Philip Franks (Darling Buds of May, Heartbeat) doing the narration and all the musicians giving their considerable all. There was no flashy, annoying light show, but there were lights under Rick’s main Roland keyboards which changed colour attractively. The sound was fantastic except on occasions the ‘rock band’ element drowned out the strings and the choir. This didn’t detract from the overall effect though and it was a fantastic enjoyable journey.
We walked back to the hotel and found the bar closed at 11 o’clock! Never mind at least we brought our own drink with us to have a nightcap. The next day we went back into town to look around, and with lovely weather it was quite busy. We left to go home in the mid-afternoon and had an uneventful journey home. A lovely 24 hour mini break.