Anderson Rabin Wakeman

November 22, 2016
Orpheum Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Ron Lyon

“More Yes than Yes” is how some have described the experience of seeing Anderson Rabin Wakeman. That’s debatable, but certainly not without merit and credibility. After all, Jon Anderson is the original singer of Yes; keyboardist Rick Wakeman was in and out of the group and part of the so-called “classic” lineup; and Trevor Rabin helped revive Yes as their guitarist, second vocalist and songwriter during the 80s.

When you add to the fact that many of the songs ARW are tackling on their first tour together are ones the current version of Yes simply don’t play live for various reasons, you begin to realize that maybe the two factions can exist side-by-side without any competition or interference. Perhaps, as Jon Anderson and even Steve Howe, have suggested, the “music” and “idea” of Yes is more powerful than its members. That was my impression after seeing ARW at the Orpheum.

For Jon Anderson, who was unceremoniously shown the door by the band he co-founded, ARW offers a quantifying redemption of sorts. The health issues that shrouded his future seemed to have dissipated as he sang and performed with stunning confidence and energy. Standing next to Rabin, Anderson also gets to revisit songs like “Hold On,” “Lift Me Up,” and “Rhythm Of Love” for the first time since the early 90s.

When you step back and look over the body of work that Yes has amassed over the past 50 years or so, it’s easy to see how tracks from the 80s and 90s, along with early nuggets like “Perpetual Change,” can get lost in the shuffle. ARW is giving these songs a reprieve, a second lease on life! Hopefully, as they roll into 2017, some material from 1994’s Talk, as promised, will be added. And then there’s those rumors of new music.

The creative spigot continues to flow for Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman as all three continue to record and release new music — stagnant sales and changed consumption habits be damned. Based on tonight’s performance, the possibilities seem endless.

Everyone, including bassist Lee Pomeroy and drummer Lou Molino III, was in total sync and beaming with excitement. Rabin and Wakeman keyed off each other all night. They even walked up and down the aisles together during an extended break in “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” stopping for solo face-offs like warriors on a quest (Wakeman even wore his cape).

Speaking of solos, ARW’s communal vibe extended to both Pomeroy and Molino. I had seen Pomeroy over the summer with ELO, where his bass playing and background vocals served the songs and remained subdued for the most part. Tonight, he effortlessly embraced “The Fish” in a tribute to Chris Squire, and left the wide-eyed skeptics speechless.

Molino was equally impressive on the skins, striking a balance between what Bill Bruford and Alan White brought to the original Yes songs and then some. A longtime ally of Rabin’s, he willingly gave up his throne during “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” so the guitarist’s son, Ryan, could have a bash.

Of course, as former Yes men, ARW was obligated to play a few staples that their former band still perform as well. It’s been a long time coming to see these musicians, especially Anderson and Wakeman, take on classics like “I've Seen All Good People,” “And You and I,” “Heart Of The Sunrise,” “Long Distance Runaround” and “Roundabout.” No one seemed to mind.

The night’s most moving moment was when the epic “Awaken,” from 1977’s Going For The One album, was resuscitated in all its proggy glory. Seeing Wakeman navigate his Korgs and Moogs through a terrestrial measure spearheaded by Anderson’s simple yet haunting harp refrain is something I’ve missed in Yes since 2004.

Comments I heard in the lobby after the show revolved around what ARW should do next, followed by the “more Yes than Yes” remarks. The memory of Chris Squire still fresh on everyone’s mind, and the imminent chance of Yes getting inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, it would seem the most obvious move for all concerned parties is another “Union” type tour. That would bridge the gap and poetically complete the circle of the band’s lifespan. It would be the ultimate Yes Fest!

Imagine if you will: Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman reconnect with Steve Howe and Alan White in tribute to Chris Squire. They invite present Yes bassist Billy Sherwood and keyboardist Geoff Downes to the party. Original members, keyboardist Tony Kaye and drummer Bill Bruford, are still alive and kicking, and asked to participate. And who knows — maybe even the band’s other lead vocalists — Jon Davison, Trevor Horn and Benoît David — could sing a song or two. It may well prove to be the most harmonious reunion of any band. “It can happen to you…It can happen to me…” — so the lyrics to yet another Yes song long absent from the setlist go. “It can happen to everyone eventually…”

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