The lights are dimmed. “Ocean Song,” the opening track from Olias of Sunhillow, plays in the background as the band members (eight in total) find their positions on stage. Suddenly, the guitarist strikes the familiar opening chords of “Owner of a Lonely Heart”: the show has begun. Seconds later, a diminutive man, clad in black, glides onto the stage. His voice, tinged with that distinctive Lancashire accent, is a bit raspier now, but his vocals are nevertheless clear and melodious. Jon Anderson the performer has not changed a whole lot over the years. And he did not disappoint last night.
The Yes catalogue is both diverse and extensive, and Anderson made some excellent choices: “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was followed by a jazzier version of “Yours Is No Disgrace” (Anderson has a woodwind and horn player accompanying him on tour). Also in the setlist, sandwiched between selections from his solo albums, were “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Sweet Dreams,” and an acoustic version of “Long Distance Runaround.” I must confess that I am not too familiar with Anderson’s solo work, so I was not as engaged with the songs he chose to play from his personal catalogue, but a few did capture my attention. Before transitioning into a dynamic performance of “Starship Trooper,” Anderson played two songs that had never been performed prior to this tour: “First Born Leaders”, a song he has been working on for some time (around thirty years), and “Come Up”, a previously unreleased song from the album he just recently finished, 1000 Hands: Chapter One. This new album was actually a project begun nearly thirty years ago, but was left forgotten in a box in Anderson’s garage until 2016. Considering the heavy-hitting talent that was featured on the first chapter—Ian Anderson, Billy Cobham, and the late Chris Squire, among others—it will be interesting to see where Anderson goes next with this project.
At 74 years old, you might imagine that a chap who has been performing on stage for nearly fifty years now might be a bit burnt out. Anderson indicated last night—as he performed in front of a small audience in North Las Vegas, Nevada—that this was not the case. I could not help but smile as I watched this man, who possesses still so much joie de vivre, dance and interact with his younger band members on stage. He had a smile on his face for the entire hour and a half show, from the opening piece to the grand finale—the fan favorite “Roundabout”—during which he brought his lovely wife Jane out on stage for a brief dance. Even a cynic like myself was not immune to the contagious enthusiasm and joy present at this concert.
Keep going strong, Jon! We at Progarchy wish you only the best.