PrologueAfter seeing Rick Wakeman in England last year, there was no doubt that when he came to Trois-Rivières, Quebec to perform the world premiere of Return to the Centre of the Earth, we had to be there.
I mentioned this to my parents, and my father said that he believed his ancestors came from Trois-Rivières. I did some research on the internet, and lo and behold, it was true. There was a family tree tracing the family back to one ancestor who emigrated to Trois-Rivières from Normandy in the 1630's. I found a message board devoted to the genealogy of my family. I met lots of wonderful, friendly people through there. Craig and I sent an email to Rick telling him that his Return concert had been the catalyst to another return of sorts...a return to my roots.
We attached the photo we had taken with him in England. Well, word came back to us that Rick loved the story and wanted to ask our permission to use it in his newsletter! We of course said yes, and much to our surprise, the entire email (including the picture) made it into the newsletter almost immediately. We were quite honored! An interesting coincidence is that a lot of people I met on the family message board would be in the Trois-Rivières area themselves that very weekend for a family reunion!
6/30/2001 - World Premiere of Rick Wakeman's Return to the Centre of the EarthBarbara, our friend whom we met through the Rick Wakeman email list, stayed at our house the previous night so that we could get an early start in the morning. We were very lucky that the concert took place on a Saturday night, as Craig and I have no vacation time to spare this year, and probably would not have been able to go otherwise.
Craig, Steve, Barbara, and I left the house soon after 7 am, and stopped at Dunkin Donuts for breakfast.We were on the road by 7:45, and reached Trois-Rivières at around 1:45. We found the Delta Trois-Rivières, where we were to stay (girls in one room and boys in the other). One room was ready, so we dropped our stuff off and headed out to find some lunch. We found Parc du Champlain, which was only several minutes' walk from the hotel, and Rick and company were doing a soundcheck! We couldn't see anything, but we were able to hear "Ride of Your Life." It sounded fantastic. We would have loced to have hung around to hear more, but it was long past lunch time and we needed to get some food prior to the show.
We went into Ailes Piquantes for lunch. Craig and Steve got steaks, Barbara got a salad, and I had a turkey club. Barbara and I got "lemonade", which turned out to be carbonated and had lime and grenadine in it. Not what we were expecting, but good enough to order a second. The service was a little slow, but since the waitress was cute the guys cut her some slack. We got out of there around 4:30. We went back to the hotel and the second room was ready. It was right next door to the other room, and Barbara and I moved our stuff into it. We changed and gathered our rain gear, since the skies were clouding up. It was hot and the humidity was oppressive.
Doors were supposed to open at 6, and seating within each section was general admission, so we wanted to be early. We got in line at around 5:40. The doors ended up not opening until after 7. While in line we witnessed a weird parade of 18-wheeler cabs, which were all blowing their horns endlessly. We were getting nervous that this may go on throughout the night, but after about ten minutes, the trucks were quiet and the church bells were all ringing. We suspect that it was some sort of funeral. When we were finally allowed to enter the gates, we snagged seats in the fifth row, directly in front of Rick's keyboard setup.
The show didn't start until 9, and in the meanwhile it began raining. Luckily we were prepared, and, more luckily, the rain stopped well before 9:00. The temperature also cooled down a bit, so it was much more comfortable (exactly as Barbara had predicted).
The show was amazing. We had a great view of Rick. The stage was totally crowded: there was Rick himself, the English Rock Ensemble (Lee Pomeroy on bass, Tony Fernandez on drums, Adam Wakeman on keyboards, and Ant Glynne on guitar), a choir (L'Ensemble Vocalys), an orchestra (L'Orchestre Symphonique de Trois-Rivières), and vocal soloists Luck Mervil and Fabiola Toupin. The narrator, Bernard Fortin, was in a bucket truck to the left of the stage, and the bucket was raised as the show progressed. Eventually he ended up kind of squished into a tree.
The narration was in French, but songs were in English. Rick seemed to be concentrating very hard. He was wearing his glasses and looking at his music stand almost the entire time. At one point the wind took his sheet music, but luckily he has fast hands and was able to catch it! You could tell he was enjoying himself, though, as he mouthed the lyrics to the songs. During "Floodflames" when Rick was going nuts on the keyboard, Adam just looked at him and burst into a huge smile. The soloists were wonderful, and gave it their all. Fabiola Toupin's versions of "Is Anybody There?" and "Ride of Your Life" along with Luck Mervil's "Buried Alive" rivaled the studio recording, which boasts such talents as Ozzy Osborne, Bonnie Tyler, and Katrina Leskanich.
During "The End of the Return", there were pyrotechnics: small starburst fireworks that went off onstage, and sparklers all around the banner on the front of the stage.They did encore tunes from Return itself ("Buried Alive," "Ride of Your Life," "The Volcano," and "The End of the Return"). Fabiola got the crowd on its feet, clapping to the rhythm of "Ride of Your Life." During this rendition of "The End of the Return" streamers of confetti were shot out at the crowd from small cannon-like launchers. We got tangles up in it, and felt like we were at a performance of Blue Man Group! It was a great, exciting finale.
We waited off to the side of the stage for quite a while after the show. We met many old and new friends (Bruce and Lucia from Maine, Duane from Anchorage, Tom from Connecticut, Errol from Venezuela, Jacintho from Brazil, Nelson from Ontario, Lowell from L.A., Ray from Minnesota and his brother from New York, Big E, Big Red, and Kitten from Connecticut, and Big Ed from Ohio).
Adam came down the stairs and headed toward the stage, but people started shouting to him and he smiled and came over. He signed our "Tapestries" CD for us. Then Rick came down. I got him to sign the photo which was taken with him in Chatham. Craig mentioned that we were in the newsletter and he said "That was a good story." He said that we should joing the "PMS...err...PMT" club of original "mad" fans that travel the world to see him. He signed some CD's for us as well. Barbara is a person who does not like to be photographed, so Craig called out to Rick as she was getting an autograph and told him this. Always a joker, Rick put his hands around Barbara's throat, pretending to throttle her. The photo came out fantastic; Rick has a demonic grin and Barbara is smiling from ear to ear. However, we had to promise Barbara that we would not post it on the web. After some more signing, Rick left.
Duane and Tom walked with us, and we were trying to decide what to do next. We were debating whether to have a drink on the main street or go to the hotel bar. We decided to bring our stuff back to the hotel and decide from there. On the walk back to the hotel we passed the Embuscade bar. We saw Tony Fernandez walk in. Should we go there?
Then Adam and some friends walked by. We said "Adam, where's the party?" and he gestured to the Embuscade and said, "Right in there." We decided to go there, but we still wanted to drop things off at the hotel.
When we got to the lobby, Bruce and Lucia were in there with Jacintho, Rick, and Rick's girlfriend Alina, as well as some other folks from Rick's entourage. Rick was posing for a couple pictures, and I asked if we could get one with him. He said certainly. Craig said he can't retire any time soon because we'll need to go to another show to have this photo autographed. He said he doesn't want to retire (yay!).
Someone mentioned that Adam seemed to have been carded at the Embuscade, and Rick thought that was quite amusing, and said "Brilliant!"Then we pushed the elevator button. We got in, and so did everyone else. Rick, smiling, said, "Let's see how many people can fit in here," and then he and Alina got on. Rick was joking around and was in a very jovial mood, but it was clear that the entire event had just exhausted him. When the elevator got to their floor (the ninth), he and Alina hopped out. Rick put his arm around Alina and said "We should wave goodbye to them." They posed and waved as the elevator door closed on them. It was hilarious!
We went up to the 10th floor and dropped off our stuff. Then we met Duane and Tom in the lobby and walked to the Embuscade. We got a table in the back room, and saw Adam and some other guys playing Foosball. Lee Pomeroy walked by and Barbara caught his attention. He came to the table and talked to all of us at length. He is a really nice guy. He told us how they had been practicing every day for a week, and that they had their first rehearsal with choir and orchestra the day before. He said that they rehearsed so much that when people ask him about Quebec he will have to just say "the hall was very nice." He said Rick is great to work for and doesn't tell him, "This is how you have to do it because this is how someone did it in 1984." He was glad to hear the show sounded good, because the sound in the monitors wasn't great. He acted out how on stage when they were smiling and signaling to one another it meant, "I can't hear sh*t, can you?" He said that during that day's soundcheck, Rick had said to them, "Don't worry about the fireworks." Lee shrugged, and said "What fireworks?" So I guess they were as much of a surprise to the band as they were to the rest of us.
He said they were all going to go go-kart racing in Montreal the next day, before catching the 8:00 pm flight back to London. He said that after the warm weather in Trois-Rivières, he wasn't anxious to get back to the cool rain of London. We mentioned that it had been sunny when we went to London. "In February?" And he said that in London they think the sun is a UFO when it comes out. We got a photo with him, and Duane said the picture would be on the web soon. Lee laughed and said, "They'll put a different body on me and say, 'This man was crazy, and naked!'" He saw Craig's Sun Studios shirt and asked if we were Elvis Presley fans. We explained our recent Memphis trip. He seemed interested and said that he really likes blues as well. Lee also told us that he would be getting married in 5 weeks and will be honeymooning in Ireland. He is in two bands in addition to the Rock Ensemble, and he also has a studio in his home.
The bar scene was fun and surreal. The bar wasn't crowded. It was a very casual atmosphere, and people were just mingling and having a good time. It was really very comfortable and fun. We had a blast. The bartender only spoke a little English. As I can't drink beer, I thought I'd have a hard time getting some other kind of drink. I was able to get across "no beer," and he said "Rum?" I told him to bring me anything, as long as it wasn't beer. He said he'd bring something I'd like. He brought me a gigantic and potent fruity drink. He started to try to explain what it was, but then gave up.
We spoke to Adam and he was really nice. We got a photo with him. At one point the bartender was dancing with a woman on the bar. They were playing Pulp Fiction music, Police tunes, Bob Marley, etc. Luck and Fabiola were there and got inside the bar area and danced with each other. Adam and Tony got up on the bar and danced. The bartender was doing shots with Adam (?!) We got our picture taken with Tony, Ant, Luck, and Fabiola (all individually). They were all very gracious. Craig told Tony that we should have brought our "Zodiaque" disc for him to autograph. Smiling, he patted Craig on the back and kept repeating, "Next time."
We also got to talk to Ian the sound man. Ian was telling us how they were rehearsing in a hall, and they used masking tape to get the size of the stage, and it was hard to fit everyone in. We mentioned that it must have been hard for the violinists, who were literally inches away from the drum set. He said that they were moaning about it. We met Lowell, who had had the pleasure of hanging out with the band for the past couple of days in rehearsals.
At one point we were sitting around the table and Adam tapped Craig on the shoulder. "Here, do you want this?" He held out his stage pass. " I don't need it any more and I figured you'd want it more than I do." What a guy!
We left at 3 a.m., when the bar was getting ready to close. We walked back to the hotel with Lowell and went to bed around 3:30.
7/1/01- DepartureWe woke up at 9 a.m. and met at 10 for breakfast in the hotel dining room. Rick and the band were there. We had a buffet breakfast. I ran into Adam and said "Have fun with your go-karts today!" He smiled and gave me the thumbs up and said "Yeah, thanks!" The weather turned so bad a while later that we hope they were able to do the go-karting, but we wouldn't count on it.
We left Trois-Rivières at 11:11 a.m., but didn't get home until around 6:50 pm. There were horrible thunderstorms that we followed for the entire ride. But the weather couldn't dampen our spirits after such an amazing whirlwind trip! It truly was the ride of our lives! Thanks, Rick, and everyone else who made this such a fantastic experience!
Steve and Craig outside Parc du Champlain
Luck Mervil singing Buried Alive
Encore performance of Ride of Your Life with guest vocalist Fabiola Toupin
Encore performance of Ride of Your Life with guest vocalist Fabiola Toupin
Craig, Rick Wakeman, and Steph in the lobby of the Delta Trois-Rivières after the performance
Craig and Steph with bassist Lee Pomeroy at Embuscade
Craig and Steph with Adam Wakeman at Embuscade
Craig and Steph with Luck Mervil at Embuscade
Craig and Steph with Fabiola Toupin at Embuscade
Adam Wakeman and Tony Fernandez dance on the bar at Embuscade
Craig and Steph with Tony Fernandez at Embuscade
Craig and Steph with Ant Glynne at Embuscade