Jon Anderson of Yes stronger than ever
BMS chats with former Yes singer ahead of his show in Worcester
Jennifer Carney, Contributing Writer
It’s not so much that Jon Anderson is the voice of Yes. Or that he is a prolific songwriter. Or that he wrote some of the most iconic and esoteric music of the last 40 years. He’s too focused on music as he sees it now, through whatever lens is handy. This time, that lens is a stripped-down acoustic collaboration between Anderson and long-time, iconoclastic Yes keyboardist, Rick Wakeman. They will be mixing Yes classics, music from various solo projects, and songs off of their new collaboration, The Living Tree, this Tuesday at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester.
“People love the show,” Anderson tells Boston Music Spotlight from the road. “We put on a very entertaining show doing songs from Yes and songs from the new album, The Living Tree. Rick likes to tell jokes, and people just love the show. Obviously there’s one or two classic Yes songs that they go crazy about, but they’re responding very well to the new songs.
“I sing ‘Roundabout’ and it’s a lot of fun. I sing ‘Starship Trooper’ because I love singing it. I just love singing the songs, or I wouldn’t sing them. With Wakeman, I enjoy his accompaniment and with the new [and old] songs.”
While Anderson and Wakeman are on the road, Yes is touring Europe without them, touring and recording with a new frontman, tribute singer Benoit David. When asked how he feels about the band’s decision to go on without the “voice of Yes”, Anderson is candid.
“Life moves on, you know? You’ve got to get on with your career,” he says. “I’m very connected to the music that I love. I wrote all the songs for Yes, and I still sing them like when I first wrote them – sort of stripped-down, acoustic versions – and people [on this tour] just love listening; they sing along to everything, so that works for me.”
Anderson recently recorded a collaborative album with musicians from all over the world, Survival & Other Stories, and his most recent composition, Open, marks a return to the long-form songwriting for which he has been known for over forty years.
“It’s my nature to write music, whether it’s two-minute, seven-minute, ten-minute or twenty-minute song. I was always pushing the direction of the music towards the larger pieces because I think music isn’t just making ‘radio music’ or making money. Music is a very powerful energy, and you should go on a journey of music with great symphonies and long-form pieces because it takes you on a journey. I learned that many years ago, so I still carry that on with Open. Part of my DNA is to create long-form pieces so people could sit back and relax for twenty minutes and listen to something that takes them on an adventure musically.”
Playing in Massachusetts brings back especially fond memories for Anderson. When most Bostonians think of the old Garden, they think of obstructed views, uneven parquet flooring and sweltering rafter seats. Not Jon Anderson.
“The original Boston Garden was the best rock and roll arena in the world,” he proclaims. “It just had that sound because it was made of wood and whatever and the energy there was always amazing. But the sound in that room was unbelievable from the band’s point of view.”
Fans headed to the Hanover Theatre on Tuesday night can expect an intimate show – almost recital-like – from two prog-rock legends who have spent over forty years perfecting every note. As Anderson sees it, these performances with Rick Wakeman are all about the love of music and the love of a songbook that now spans generations.
“A good performance is to project how I am today, not how I was thirty years ago. I’m 67 now, and I’m still enjoying singing my songs, so that’s why I tour.”
Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman of Yes will perform at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, Massachusetts on Tuesday, November 8. Tickets for the show, which range in price from $45 to $65, are now on sale through the venue’s website and box office.