Tenerife At The Centre Of The Sonic Universe

Long long ago when concept albums ruled and gatefold record sleeves were pretty much obligatory, stadium rock giants like Yes and Queen roamed the earth. Last night at the Magma Artes & Congesos in Playa de Las Americas there was a Jurassic Park moment as the Starmus Festival rounded off a brilliant week with Rick Wakeman and Brian May together in the Sonic Universe concert.

The hall was packed with some of the finest minds in science, astronauts like Charlie Duke of the Apollo 16 mission, and special guest Prof Stephen Hawking, one of the star speakers during the week. Starmus brought together many diverse threads related to astronomy and science, earlier in the week they gave a premiere to sci fi movie 51 Degrees. I spotted one of the films stars, Dolly Ann Osterloh complete with her own special co star peaking out from her bag.

Rick Wakeman has always been a showman and took to the stage in one of his trademark capes as he took his place behind his banks of keyboards. With such a back catalogue to choose from, Rick started with a dip into his solo LPs The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And  His Knights Of The Round Table,  and another historical work The Six Wives Of Henry VIII. In between the soaring music he referred to his own busy marital life, he’s had four wives including page three stunner Nina Carter. The great man surrounded himself with talented musicians that he has worked with through the years, Ashley Holt led the way with the vocals and guitarist Dave Coleman put in some dazzling solo breaks.

Fitting nicely into the science theme was a selection from another solo project Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. The concrete bunker style of the Magma was the perfect setting for such grand designs and things moved up a couple of notches when Brian May joined Rick on stage for a few numbers. Shrouded in the swirling smoke and sweeping lights at the back of the group was Rick’s son Adam playing more keyboards. Now an accomplished rocker himself, Adam had broken off from touring with Black Sabbath complete with Ozzy Osbourne – I bet that’s a lively tour. The proud father made sure his son got his time in the spotlight before borrowing his shoulder slung keyboard for a trip out into the audience.

Security parted the barriers and Rick Wakeman swept out into the hall playing the mobile keyboard on his way. One very surprised young lady was plucked from the crowd and taken onto the stage to play a few notes – what a moment for her. There was plenty more musical magic to come, Rick has been touring again in recent years with Yes and he picked one of their space themed tunes, Starship Trooper for the climax of the show with Brian May returning for a prolonged blast. The PHD has re-ignited the former Queen stars passion for astrophysics but he is still one of the rock worlds greatest guitar players.

It was a tremendous two hour concert, great nostalgia for old gits like me and plenty of new converts will be raiding the downloads to discover the past triumphs of Rick Wakeman, a frequent visitor to Tenerife since 1985. As the cheers rang out as the musicians took their final bow, Starmus supremo Garik Israelian was purring louder than any royal. It’s going to be an even tougher act to follow but the next Starmus Festival can’t come soon enough.