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Wilson And Wakeman
Nells Jazz And Blues Club, West Kensington, London

25th February 2017

sara harding
Words: Sara Harding, Pictures: David Craig

wilson and wakeman

What a lovely venue Nell's in West Kensington is. Recently resurrected by the legendary nightclub owner Vince Power, this speakeasy is one of London's best kept secrets. As we enter this atmospheric club our Maitre Ds are the stars of the show themselves, Damian Wilson and Adam Wakeman, greeting us all like family. It's been twenty-one years since the duo first played this place – in fact it was their first ever gig together and it's an amazing setting for this intimate gig two decades later.

Every candlelit table is full to busting and it's now standing room only. You can feel the excitement build as we realise we are going to witness something very special. Support is excellently provided by a young Venezuelan duo called the Royal Indians – an electric acoustic guitar version of Gabriela y Rodrigues. These dudes have serious chops and treat us to five songs that are melodic, mature and leave us wanting more.

Soon it's time for Messrs Wilson and Wakeman to take the stage. Damian, like the true orator he is, introduces each song with his unique, honest and hilarious anecdotes and Wakeman is equally funny with some of the best jokes I've heard in a long time. The performance kicks off with 'She's Like A Fable', a song inspired by a dream Damian had involving Rick Wakeman and funnily enough he's here playing it with his equally talented offspring.

The duo go together like the Pinot and Grigio we are supping with Adam providing his keyboards and Damian on vocals and acoustic guitar. Wilson's vocals are always on point and this venue's acoustics raise them up another notch and Adam's keyboard prowess is never better. Fresh off his last ever stint with Black Sabbath, Ozzy's loss is our gain and this certainly isn't 'The End' for these dudes.

wilson and wakeman

Next up is another favourite, 'When I Leave This Land', and Damien reminisces that he had to cancel a tour due to his allergy to a pair of socks. I spit out my Pinot with laughter as he tells us his tale of his M and S socks. Wilson truly is a medieval bard with banter and his storytelling tonsils, once again, highlight his passion for songwriting and Wakeman's subtle and sublime tinkling of the ivories. The solo from the fingers of Wakeman is simply skin tingling. Normally at any gig, there is some idiot chatting loudly or tapping on their iphone but every one here is enthralled, eyes shut and listening to sheer musical brilliance.

Before 'People Come And Go', Wilson wants some gossip from Wakeman about Ozzy but Adam is keeping schtum. So on with the song and as Damian hits those high notes, his voice is like liquid silk and even my Death Metal loving boyfriend is swooning.

These two friends chat the fact they never get together but celebrate that this is their third gig this year – which is a record for them. Adam's arrangement is up next and this time it's a clever cover of that Dylan classic 'Don't Think Twice, It's Alight'. Dang, I didn't know this dude had pipes too but what a cover and his keyboard solo puts paid to my Grade Three Piano playing. Then the baton is handed over to Damian and his gee-tar and 'Disciple'. This is storytelling that Tolkien himself would be jealous of.

Then it's time for Damian's brother Paul to join in the shenanigans on 'Written In Anger' which was written about Hammersmith Underpass. Time for another audacious ode as Wilson informs us that it was written about Christy Moore hearing Shane MacGowan busking there – is this a true tale we'll never know but is sure has inspired a damn fine song.

wilson and wakeman

'Weir Keeper's Tale' is inspired by Wilson's other occupation – and this time any singer in the room is welcomed on stage to join in on the chorus. And the Pied Piper of West Kensington is at it again as people flock to sing with the master, one from far away Finland but even better, we get to sing along in the comfort of our seats - although I'm sure the man I was singing near grimaced at my pitchy notes – OK, I'm no Janis Joplin. At the end the singing is so loud Adam laughs and says: "OK, it's not the blimmin' X Factor". He then takes centre stage to perform the song he wrote about his kids and how you want to protect them, 'Catch You When You Fall' which is another brilliant ballad – like a grown up lullaby we are all lulled into this songmanship.

We are treated to another couple of songs from Damian and Adam finds the time to pop off to the bar. That's what great about this gig, Can you imagine David Coverdale jumping off stage for a quick cup of tea or a Guinness or even a pee.

As Wakeman jumps back on stage, Damian retreats for a well deserved pint too. Adam treats us to a Dudley Moore inspired piece of classical music entitled 'Summers End' and this modern day Mozart keeps us mesmerised. Note to Julian Fellowes – this man should be composing all your film music.

Damian leaps back onto the stage, Guinness in hand, and looks at us all: "Blimey, it's like being in your front room with loads of people watching". We all laugh. We are treated to another masterpiece of acoustic witchcraftary courtesy of 'Cold' and 'Naked'.

wilson and wakeman

Then it's time for a song about herbal cigarettes called 'Homegrown' and again audience participation is called for and even Wilson's Aunty Moira is power punching the air as we all sing along to this devilishly deviant little ditty which is followed by 'Thrill Me' and 'Battle Lines'.

Then it's time for some Maiden Utd magic. We laugh as Wilson mentions that Wakeman is no longer playing Metal with Black Sabbath but he is now with this duet as they perform Iron Maiden's ultimate ode 'The Evil That Men Do'. As with Maiden, this is truly epic, as Wilson hits those high notes and Wakeman plays those blues notes, we are all encouraged to sing along again and we do so with gusto – even Aunty Moira is doing her best Brucie air grabs.

Damian jumps into the crowd and comes to each table to thank us. I'm thrilled as we get a name check, as is everyone there. It's a like a wonderful dysfunctional family party all unified by this incredible hypnotic high voice. And all too soon it's the last song, 'Seek For Adventure', another slice of Wakeman and Wilson doing what they do best.

And as they exit stage left, the standing ovation has already begun as these truly magical musical minstrels go back to their Maitre D roles and chat to everyone of us again and thank us for coming.

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