ARW: Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman at the Paramount in Huntington
Yes, the legendary progressive rock band formed in London in 1968, has fielded numerous lineups featuring nineteen members during its almost 50 year existence. Though not yet members of the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame, in 2016, Yes was nominated for induction for the third time. The band's long-time and once-upon-a-time lead singer Jon Anderson (he parted ways with Yes in 2008) is a mythical figure. Its erstwhile keyboard guru (covering five different tenures as a member of Yes), Rick Wakeman cuts a mystical figure in his wizard's cape as he tickles the ivories on numerous different keyboards and synthesizers while playing his own special brand of progressive space rock. Trevor Rabin is a South African born guitarist extraordinaire who sat in the lead guitarist's seat for Yes from 1983 until 1994, playing on the band's 90125 (ATCO, 1983), Big Generator (ATCO, 1987), Union (Arista Records, 1991), and Talk (Victory Records, 1994) studio albums. In late 2016 Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman have combined forces to form ARW, a five piece unit that also features bassist Lee Pomeroy and drummer Lou Molino III. The group has been playing in the United States since early October providing exited fans with An Evening of Yes Music & More.
On a pleasant, but cool Saturday evening in late October, the band settled into Huntington, NY's Paramount for its much anticipated performance. The audience was filled with many a Yes-purist—fans who cannot bring themselves to attend any Yes concert not featuring Anderson as the lead singer. These fans looked and sounded like kids on Christmas, chomping at the bit, while waiting for the signal from their parents to open their presents. Others in attendance may not have had the opportunity to hear Anderson sing the fabled band's songs live. This being the first chance for these folks, there was a great buzz about the mid-sized venue. With no opening act, and the general length of many Yes pieces (songs is an unfair characterization for the multi-layered, multi-movement musical creations) that Anderson and his cohorts authored, the audience settled into its seats and shortly after 8pm, the lights dimmed and the loudspeakers blared with symphonic pomp and circumstance—the "Perpetual Change" theme. The band members took their places—first Molino, then Pomeroy, then Rabin and Wakeman and finally, Anderson.
With the full compliment on stage, the musicians and singer set out to give the audience exactly what they came for, Yes music in all of its glory. Any questions about the strength of Anderson's voice were immediately answered as he sang "Cinema" from 90125, the first album to feature Rabin. The band then worked its way through "Perpetual Change" from The Yes Album (Atlantic Records, 1971), "Hold On" (another from 90125) and "I've Seen All Good People" (also from The Yes Album) with the "Give Peace a Chance" refrain. Now, it was Molino's turn to shine. His drum solo would have done Bill Bruford and/or Alan White (the gentlemen who have handled the majority of the drumming for Yes over the years) proud. During the solo, Anderson was able to catch a breather, take a slug from his water bottle and regroup. The band continued with stellar, spot-on versions of "Lift Me Up," from the Union album, "And You and I" (from the 1972's Atlantic Records LP Close To The Edge), "Rhythm of Love" from Big Generator featuring Anderson on acoustic guitar, "Heart of the Sunrise" from Fragile (Atlantic Records, 1971) and the tour debut of "Changes" from the 90125 record.
The home stretch began with Anderson taking a moment to address the passing of Chris Squire. He spoke about forming Yes with Squire and how much he missed the bassist. He talked about how "Long Distance Runaround" was created and told a story about traveling across England by bus with Squire driving and the idea they had for a song about the runaround that the public gets from politicians. He also noted that Squire said that he was going to call the song's accompanying piece "The Fish." What followed was a fantastic tribute to Squire—"Long Distance Runaround" into "The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)" featuring the Pomeroy delivering the bass section with gusto. Soon it was time to deliver on the promise of the "and more" musical portion of the evening. Although the music was not Yes per se, "The Meeting" appeared on the self titled Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe album (Arista Records, 1989). Anderson explained that the genesis of the track began when he and Wakeman got together late one night in the studio and began to see what they could create.
The main set ended with a tour-de-force version of "Awaken" from 1977's Going For the One (Atlantic Records). The fifteen minute piece had the audience in complete silence, held enraptured while the band delivered the sweet and swirling sounds of the beautiful song. The main set ended with Rabin tearing up the place as he provided the lead guitar on the centerpiece and biggest hit (it reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100) from 90125 "Owner Of A Lonely Heart." The band stayed true to the essence of the song while adding special flourishes and spice to the arrangement and composition of the tune. After the shortest of short breaks, the band returned to wow the audience once again with the expected encore of "Roundabout." The song is about the time that Yes was traveling from Aberdeen to Glasgow, and the drive involved so many roundabouts or traffic circles that the band decided to include something about that aspect of the journey in a song.
Though not all the core members of ARW played in every era of Yes, the band made certain to pay homage to songs and albums released during Anderson's tenure as lead singer. The songs were treated as living organisms, musical movements and pieces that had a new, but not significantly different, life breathed into them by the band and by Anderson, the creator and voice behind the original recordings. The music was treated with reverence and performed with joy. The amazing performance was wholeheartedly welcomed by the delirious fans who cheered, applauded, whistled and clapped prior to and at the end of every song. As the audience filtered its way toward the stairs, those lucky enough to chose the staircase on the left side of the venue near the ladies lavatory, passed the concessions stand. Many were last seen gobbling up merchandise—most notably the tour's t-shirts emblazoned with the ARW logo and signed tour posters. Fans were heard commenting on how great it was to hear Anderson sing their old favorites and how wonderful it would be if in the future all of the band's members (past and present) were to get together and create a mega-group version of Yes.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon [Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon].