Away from his day jobs with Threshold, Headspace and the acoustic Iron Maiden covers act Maiden United, Damian Wilson has a habit of playing gigs in the most unusual of locations. Memorably, this writer has seen him perform twice on floating barges. Tonight at least we are on dry land and, better still, Wilson has brought along his Headspace partner Adam Wakeman.
“Adam is a good, good friend of mine. We made our album Weir Keeper’s Tale just so that we could go out and do this sort of thing,” Wilson announces early on. “We formed Headspace for a similar reason.”
If enthusiasm were an Olympic sport, Wilson would win Gold every four years. All but a handful of tonight’s 15 songs bear the singer’s writing credit and along with projecting a hugely likable stage presence, his magnificent, fulsome voice fills the venue from front to back. If it might appear that Wakeman is simply tagging along for the ride, all such notions are blown out of the water by his first-rate musicianship; Adam sings and plays guitar to his own arrangement of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright and later in the show rustles up a rendition of Summer’s End, a classical piece originally recorded with his dad Rick. But better still, the show’s intimate format serves to tease Wakeman out of his shell, revealing a dry wit (“A man walks into a dentist: ‘Excuse me, I think I’m a moth.’ The reply comes: ‘I’m a dentist, I think you might need a psychiatrist. Why did you come in here?’ And the man says: ‘Well, I saw the light was on’”) that suggests the apple really hasn’t fallen too far from the tree.
But let’s not mislead anybody. Although Wilson and Wakeman bleed progressive music, this show is about something altogether more relaxed. When Wakeman wonders aloud: “Was anyone out there expecting a load of prog rock tunes?” a solitary cry of “Yes!” rings out, causing Adam to sheepishly smile: “Good.”
There are no epic pieces about hobbits to be heard tonight, no cloaks or revolving stages on view, just two musicians getting a kick out of playing superb songs, assisted in their task by family members and volunteers from the audience. The stage fills up for a mellifluous Weir Keeper’s Tale, though of course Wilson requires no vocal assistance whatsoever, those tonsils soaring majestically above Wakeman’s lounge piano backing during a spine-tinging revision of Maiden’s The Evil That Men Do that reminds us that in his younger days Wilson auditioned for the job that eventually went to Blaze Bayley. ‘What if’ moments don’t come much bigger, do they?