Rick Wakeman of Yes talks music and comedy ahead of piano concert – San Bernardino Sun

Rick Wakeman is a serious musician.

He’s a renowned keyboardist, composer, songwriter and prog rock royalty who in 2017 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his band Yes, which he has been a member of on and off since 1971.

He’s worked as a session musician playing keyboards for legends such as Cat Stevens, Elton John and David Bowie. He’s also a prolific musician who has released dozens and dozens of solo albums in his more than 50-year career.

Wakeman is also one funny dude who does stand-up comedy in the U.K.

Yes, he’s been doing stand-up for years and the 73-year-old is combining his musical and comedic talents in his “Even Grumpier Old Rock Star” tour, which takes him across the U.S. with a local stop at 1,600-seat The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles this month.

Wakeman spoke to us in a phone interview about his solo piano tour, his funny bone and his new royal award. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and space.

Q: What can you tell me about Even Grumpier Old Rock Star tour?

A: It’s basically me telling anecdotal stories about my life, some of which actually are true, intermingled with pieces of music that I’ve been involved with over the years including my own stuff, David Bowie, Cat Stevens, some Beatles stuff. It’s just good fun. I like to think of it as squeezing everybody into my front room and we just had a meal and I’m just sitting at the piano telling stories, that’s really what it is.

Q: Do you sing on this tour, too, or just play the piano?

A: I don’t sing because I like the audience to stay.

Q: Queen Elizabeth recently named you a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, one of the highest awards given out by the Queen. So as commander, what are some commands for your fans at the upcoming show?

A: I command everyone to enjoy themselves. I like to think people will walk away having laughed, having enjoyed the music, maybe even shed a tear. It’s an emotional trip from start to finish.

Q: This is called “The Even Grumpier Old Rock Star Tour,” but you don’t strike me as grumpy at all. Why are you calling it that?

A: Grumpy in a strange way is funny. If you have a moan about something and you know it’s true then it’s funny, that’s grumpy.

Q: You do a lot of stand-up comedy so obviously you’re a hilarious guy. So are you a funny musician or a very musically gifted comedian?

A: (Laughs) That’s a great question. I love to laugh; I have a lot of comedy friends. I love to laugh. I think music and laughter go brilliantly together. If you are laughing you can’t be angry and that’s the lovely thing about laughter, and music is my life. I can’t imagine life without music so to have a mixture of the two, music predominantly, but then having the laughter side as well, I mean it can’t get better than that can it?

Q: So settle this for Yes fans, what is the best Yes album?

A: “Close to the Edge.” It’s almost 50 years old and I don’t know technically how the hell we made that album. We did things that really we shouldn’t be able to do technically. I think it was the last album made in my view where the musicians, where technology was way behind what musicians wanted to do, certainly with us. So to me it’s a very very special album. And I think it was during the period of time when the band was at one of its peaks, everyone was playing really well.

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