Review by Dean Pedley
Now set to become an annual event at Symphony Hall, Roy Wood’s Christmas Party has the feel of a 1970’s variety performance with an assortment of special guests making an appearance throughout the evening. First up were Andy Fairweather Low & The Low Riders with the Welsh guitarist, singer and songwriter marking a career that has now spanned six decades since he first started out with Amen Corner in the late 60’s. Amen Corner were part of the famous package tour of Christmas 1967 that saw a bill topped by Jimi Hendrix and also included Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd, an event which Andy fondly recalls during his forty odd minute set. Mixing up old standards (‘Bend Me, Shape Me’) with Amen Corner’s ‘(If Paradise Is) Half as Nice’ and his own ‘Wide Eyed and Legless’ and taking in rock ‘n’ roll, pop, jazz, skiffle and blues along the way, Andy and his band were rewarded with a rapturous response.
Liverpudlian stand-up comedian and a regular on 1970’s TV show The Comedians Mick Miller provided a humorous interlude for fifteen minutes or so before he introduced Roy Wood and his Rock & Roll Band and they launched into a powerful ‘California Man’. Dr Roy’s band are a well-oiled machine with hundreds of gigs behind them and they churn through his jukebox of hits including ‘Angel Fingers’, ‘Fire Brigade’ and ‘Ball Park Incident’ with Roy reminding everyone just how successful his songs were on the singles charts of yesteryear.
With the band taking a seat Roy welcomed Rick Wakeman who was also accompanied by his son, Black Sabbath and Ozzy keyboard player Adam Wakeman. For anyone who has seen one of Rick’s solo shows the anecdotes were very familiar (ex-wives, being ripped off by Cat Stevens, doing a prog album with William Shatner) but musically the father and son pairing delivered a dazzling Prokofiev inspired ‘Eleanor Rigby’ together with Rick’s beautiful interpretation of ‘Morning Has Broken’ and a full band rendition of ‘White Rock’. Rick then introduced teenage female soprano Emmy Beckett and she performed a spine-tingling rendition of the theme from ‘The Godfather’ that saw a well-deserved standing ovation.
After a show lasting close to three hours Roy and the band return for the home straight and serve up four of his biggest songs, each one a classic – ‘See My Baby Jive’, ‘Flowers in the Rain’ and, complete with strings and choir, ‘Blackberry Way’ and ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’. A true Midlands Legend performing at probably the best venue in the country was pretty much the perfect way to close out the gig calendar for 2014.