at the Studio Theatre, Hamilton Place (April 3, 2010).
That's Jon Anderson, the lead singer from YES! That's right. In a theatre that holds, maybe 400. And, there was no-one else on stage either. Not Rick Wakeman, or Patrick Moraz, not Bill Bruford, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, or any of the other dozen or so members of YES from the past 40 years. Just Jon Anderson, and a couple of acoustic instruments. Oh, and of course, his extraordinary voice!
After being close to death from acute respiratory failure only two years ago, Jon has come back to play these solo shows. He has released a double live CD, called Live From LaLa Land which is very similar to the show we saw the other night except you might even say that the show at the Studio Theatre was stripped down even further. No midi-guitar this time, just a nylon string guitar, and a 'strummer', and a trusty ukulele. And a piano, for the weirdest part of the night, but more about that later.
Starting with "Long Distance Runaround" and "Yours is No Disgrace" Anderson gave us a virtual history of YES, focused on the vocals and without the symphonic backing we're so used to. The melodies were all there, and Anderson's alto-tenor voice pure and clear, but a song that might take up the whole side of a record was reduced to only a couple of minutes as Anderson sang the chorus and verses, with no long solo spots.
It's a fascinating exercise, to reduce these classic tracks to their ultimate facets. Melody and lyric. That's it. All accompanied by Anderson's rather clumsy guitar strumming. No fine finger-picking for him, he picks a beat and stays with it. And I have to say, it works somehow. It's like Jon Anderson 'folk-singer' and I imagine it takes a lot of gumption to do it. He admits he came to guitar playing late, but my ears told me he meant only a year or two ago, he confesses that he began at age 22. Well, that's over 40 years ago. I'm pretty sure I've improved more than this over the same length of time! I hope so.
But I don't want to dwell on the guitar playing because it was the singing that was impressed me, that and his spirit. The man is filled with good vibes. He is contagious with them. And his fans were rabid to soak them up. We sat in the balcony, but those on the floor close to the edge of the stage, were sending back all the love he put forth. And his wife of 13 years sat right there too, in front of the stage, dead centre. He sang to her, on this their anniversary. It was lovely.
The piano songs? Odd, abstract bits of noodling with noodled lyrics too. My least favourite part of the night, but still he's a charming performer, and well worth a ticket.