After an anxious wait for the tickets to arrive and the announcement of a tube strike over the day of the gig, I was beginning to fret that a disaster of an evening could be looming. However, the tickets arrived just before I needed to leave home for the week and my gig buddy for this adventure, Paul, booked a parking space and drove us from Milton Keynes into the big bad smoke and back again. Anxiety suitably subdued all that was left was to enjoy the gig.
I genuinely don't seem able to find the words to convey how much I enjoyed the show. Starting quietly with hat tips to those key players at the beginning of his opus, Rick treated the audience to an excellent choral version of Morning Has Broken, a version of Life On Mars? with vocals by Hayley Sanderson and a splendid rendition of Summertime by Ashley Holt. Rounding off this short introductory section was a breathtaking Eleanor Rigby in the style of Prokofiev. I have heard this before but that night it just seemed that much better than before, leaving us eager for more after the interval.
After a quick dash to the merch table and an ice cream for Paul, we were settled in for the second half. As the orchestra finished their preparations Paul pointed out that he could see Rick in the wings complete with cape. I confess than I may have appeared to be far too excited by this, but in my defense this was the first time I had experienced a cape at a Rick gig. It was a spendid, shiny cape of silver and gold.
Phillip Franks took on the role of narrator, sat on a throne by the huge organ in the hall, and the Journey began. I was pretty much lost in the show from then onwards. The sound in the hall was brilliant. It looked like everyone on the stage was having a ball, especially Rick who had a huge grin on his face most of the time. I'm going to admit to fnding the Dance of a Thousand Lights (transplanted into Journey from Return) especially beautiful and moving. Two screens had a images of caves and water for as and when appropriate in the story and the audience, thankfully, treated it as a classical piece and saved their applause for the very end of the story, and were on their feet immediately for a well deserved ovation.
The encore consisted of a bit of Return To The Centre of the Earth and a repeat of the whole end of Journey, this time with solos from members of the English Rock Ensemble, leading to Rick having a quick wander around the orchestra and choir with his keytar.
The final bow saw another ovation and then with a wave from the protagonists it was all over and time to gather ourselves together and head back to the car.
Recently, friends have been discussing their top concert experiences, this one is right up in the top five of mine, without hestitation.