In Concert: Jon Anderson’s State of Independence

Jon Anderson, 1000 Hands Tour — 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, Michigan, August 8, 2019.

The crowd was surprisingly sparse — was every other music fan in town at Sarah MacLachan’s orchestral show?   Regardless, Jon Anderson lit up 20 Monroe Live Thursday night.  Backed by a blazing new band from around the world — four young guns plus four experienced veterans  — Anderson shone brightly throughout an evening of the expected Yes classics, solo career tasters and highlights from his new 1000 Hands, radiating joy and nailing every high note. A former governor of Michigan used to blab on and on about “relentless positive action”; this was two hours of the real thing.

After all, it takes serious confidence to kick off a show with your single biggest hit, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”.   It takes even more guts to go beyond recreating past glories — as Steve Howe’s version of Yes did so effectively in the same venue a year ago — launch your best-known music off in head-snapping new directions, and keep a crowd of die-hard fans on your side throughout.  But that’s exactly what Anderson and his merry band pulled off.

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To Hear His Wondrous Stories: Jon Anderson in Concert

Jon-Anderson-Band

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.

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Yes Featuring Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman – Live at Ravinia – 9/7/18

Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, and Rick Wakeman (plus Lee Pomeroy and Louis Molino III),  Live at Ravinia, Highland Park, Illinois, September 7, 2018

Setlist:
Cinema
Hold On
I’ve Seen All Good People
Changes
And You and I
Rhythm of Love
Perpetual Change
Lift Me Up
I Am Waiting
Heart of the Sunrise
Awaken
Owner of a Lonely Heart (with a portion of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love)

Encore
Roundabout

Summer 2018 has been the summer of Yes. With two versions of the band touring the United States, fans have been treated to a double helping of fantastic music. I saw the official Yes in Grand Rapids a few months ago (see my review here). Seeing Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman was a great way to compare the two groups while getting to see a few progressive rock legends.

I had never seen Jon Anderson or Rick Wakeman (or Trevor Rabin, for that matter) live before this show. I’ve watched old live footage, but it isn’t the same. Jon Anderson is over 70, yet he sounds absolutely fantastic – maybe better than he did a decade ago. He didn’t miss any notes, and he looked like he was having the time of his life. Rick Wakeman hasn’t slowed down at all, and watching him play his eight or nine keyboards was a blast.

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“Close to the Edge” by YES (Second Spring 9)

close to the edge yes
1972.

“The shape of it is perfect,” Bill Bruford once said of the title track of the 1972 Yes album, CLOSE TO THE EDGE.  It’s hard to dispute Bruford on this.  If Yes wrote a perfect track, it is certainly “Close to the Edge.”  Other songs might be more innovative, more melodic, more complex, or quirkier, but no other Yes song matches the intensity of “Close to the Edge.”

In his own recollections of writing the song, Jon Anderson claims to have been influenced by a dream, and the dreamlike imagery is rather strong.  He also believed it to be a comment on the various Christian churches all vying for superiority, with the song actually introducing a “majestic church organ” with a Moog, itself replaced once again by “another organ solo rejoicing in the fact that you can turn your back on churches and find within yourself to be your own church.”

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Vangelis Delectus

Delectus: A book of passages from Greek or Latin authors used for study.

When you hear the name Vangelis, depending on your age and musical affinity, you think of different things.

You think of the keyboard player of Aphrodite’s Child whose astonishing album 666 has to be heard to be believed, you think of the pioneer of electronic music whose albums were all groundbreaking in their own way, you think of the soundtrack king, in particular the unforgettable Chariots of Fire, or you think of the fact he was once invited to join Yes, and then produced three fantastic albums with Jon Anderson.

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Celebrate YES: Finally Inducted

In this world, the gods have lost their way.

A huge, ginormous progarchy congratulations to YES for *finally* making into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!!!

Over our five years of existence, we’ve been huge YES fans.  Here are just a few selections of the many thousands of words we’ve written on YES over nearly half a decade.

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From our good friends at PROG magazine

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Concert Review: Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman (ARW) Saturday, November 12, 2016 at the Majestic Theater, San Antonio, Texas.

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ARW

 

With the first step into the Majestic Theater in San Antonio one crosses the threshold into a magical space, like entering a ride at a theme park.  The original 1920s tiled floors direct your paces into the main theater with beautifully sculpted dark wood lining the walls, railings, ceilings, and staircases.  Ornate chandeliers illuminate the space and the main theater is adorned in its entirety with an elaborate stucco relief which includes birds and vases and spiraling banisters. It’s a sight to behold.  My fondest concert memories are from this incredible place.

Something about the Majestic’s dramatic architectural collage made it the perfect setting for the music of Yes performed nearly fifty years after the band’s creation.  That it would be performed by the band’s founding member—arguably the soul of Yes—Jon Anderson, along with his concertmaster, ringmaster, and erstwhile musical genius Rick Wakeman, and guitarist/composer extraordinaire Trevor Rabin, made it a concert for the ages.

Opening with the track that began the joining of Rabin to Yes, the band rolled in with the rocking instrumental “Cinema” from 90125: Rabin in a slim-fit coat and slacks looking like he might have stepped off of the photo shoot from the Beatle’s Sergeant Pepper’s album, and Wakeman dramatically strolling onto the stage in his iconic cape and tennis shoes and settling in behind his mission control deck of nine keyboards.  This served as the band’s intro, much in the same way that Stravisky’s Firebird Suite had in past concerts.  The stage is set, the band are playing…

Continue reading “Concert Review: Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman (ARW) Saturday, November 12, 2016 at the Majestic Theater, San Antonio, Texas.”