Jon Anderson (vocals and guitars) and Rick Wakeman’s (keyboards and humour de jour) fantastic 2 1/2 hour musical joyride at the Theatre St. Denis was the place to be last night. The two legendary former members of the progressive rock band Yes ended their North American tour here in Montreal.
From the first note the distinct voice of Jon Anderson filled the hall and brought us back to the 1970’s, a simple time before iPads and Xboxes and smart phones. A time when lyrics meant something and musicians cared about the music more than the money and bling.
As one of the founding members of Yes, Jon Anderson has written a number of songs that we were fortunate enough to hear last night, including their opening number Starship Trooper from the Yes album. Jon Anderson proved once again that he is the true voice of Yes. Rick Wakeman was superb and rocked on the keyboards. The energy of this 62 year old puts many younger musicians to shame.
While the Yes cover songs had to be pared down a bit to accommodate only two musicians, they were no less enjoyable and recognizable. Classics such as Long Distance Runaround, Your Move and Roundabout sounded just as good and relevant today as they did when they were written over 30 years ago. The duos rendition of Paul Simon’s America, the only cover song they have ever performed, had a nice little twist that again showcased Wakeman’s extraordinary talent and Anderson distinct vocals – they certainly made the song their own.
It was nice to see two iconic figures in such an intimate setting. With just Jon and Rick on the stage the atmosphere was warm and friendly, feeling more like a jam session with friends than a large impersonal show. The friendly banter between the two musicians was an added bonus – telling stories, making jokes, the fondness and respect between the two was patently apparent, despite having toured together for over 40 years. Wakeman, especially, was very funny, teasing Jon about hugging trees and “learning to love himself at 12” (years old). At times I felt like I was at a comedy show.
The concert also featured a number of selections from their latest album “The Living Tree” including Forever, Garden and Just One Man. You can tell how spiritual Jon is, whether he’s singing about the power of nature, soldiers at war, or religion. These songs had soul, telling stories, sometimes sad, but always with underlying messages of love and hope.
While the audience certainly enjoyed these newer numbers, it was the Yes covers such as All Good People that really got the audience on their feet. Their energy seemed to be fuelled by the energy of the audience, whose shout-out’s of love and admiration were constant and seemed to be much appreciated by Anderson.
Overall I felt the concert was excellent. Jon Anderson was outstanding, as usual. The depth and passion of his soul come through in both his lyrics and vocals. The underlying themes of love, peace and hope are a nice change from the music of today that seems to be all about hate, anger and distrust.
For anyone who enjoys great lyrics and amazing musicianship, I would highly recommend seeing Anderson & Wakeman; if, that is, we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see the two perform together again.
And You and I
*The Living Tree (Pt. 1)
Long Distance Runaround
*The Living Tree (Pt. 2)
Time and a Word
South Side of the Sky Fragile
*Just One Man
Nous Sommes Du Soleil
Leaves of Green
All Good People
House of Freedom
* = From their latest album The Living Tree