new song (lyric begins "Some take...")/Yours is No Disgrace (abbreviated)
new song (lyric begins "I hear somebody cry...")/Wonderous Stories
new song (repeating lines include "Any way and always" and "You are everything you want to be")/Your Move/South Side of the Sky
Time and a Word (reggae version)
The Garden (new song)
Anderson solo set:
Wakeman solo set, interspersed with stand-up:
Jon Anderson: vocals, acoustic guitar
The tour programme explains that the format of the evening was the result of many fans contacting Anderson's and Wakeman's websites, calling for the duo to do an acoustic tour after the success of the acoustic segment on the last Yes tour. However, the reason why Anderson and Wakeman are out playing a set mainly consisting of Yes songs has, I suspect, as much to do with the poor state of relationships within Yes. Are Anderson and Wakeman doing this tour because they don't want to do a tour with the others?
These rather depressing thoughts about the state of Yes dwelt on my mind as I waited for the show to begin. With the tag line for the tour being "Acoustic Yes songs and much more", the question I had was what the "much more" offered. Would Anderson and Wakeman demonstrate that this tour was offering something positive rather than just being a fragment of a splintered Yes?
As I waited, an ambient piece with snippets of acoustic Yes was playing in the hall (along similar lines to the Open Your Eyes ambient track). The auditorium was about three-quarters full. As the lights dimmed, the volume of the tape increased with a distinctive piano theme emergent. Anderson and Wakeman walked on, Wakeman taking over from the tape and the evening began with a new song.
For the first half, the duo generally paired a new song with a Yes number without a pause in between. Four new songs here demonstrated that Anderson and Wakeman are not simply relying on nostalgia. Here was new, untested material bravely put up front (albeit carefully supported with familiar numbers). The format of the evening was Wakeman on piano while Anderson sang and played acoustic guitar, but generally Anderson just sang on the new pieces, only reaching for his guitar for the Yes songs.
The new material was good: on the shorter side, fairly simple structurally, but with some good melodies and reasonable lyrics (similar to some of Anderson's work on Magnification or Animation). "The Garden", the most developed of the new pieces in the first half, was rather clunky. I think they were a notch above the new pieces Anderson was playing on his recent solo touring, but on the other hand there wasn't anything that really stood out. As I was going home, a mere half hour after the show ended, I was struggling to remember any specifics. I was curious as to how Anderson and Wakeman were writing together: were these Wakeman compositions with Anderson singing on top or were these Anderson's melodies with embellishments by Wakeman? It was hard to tell listening to them: the melodies sounded fairly typical of Anderson, but the pieces do seem to be the product of an equal collaboration.
However, for me, the big and very welcome surprise of the first set was how well the big, dramatic pieces worked. "South Side of the Sky" (in an arrangement along the lines of the acoustic version Yes have been doing) and "Awaken" were majestic. I just did not expect these complex and heavy pieces of music to translate so well to a piano and an acoustic guitar. There was such passion and excitement in these two.
The other Yes pieces were a mixed bag. "Your Move" and "Wonderous Stories" translate to this setting obviously and were much as you'd expect them to be. The reggae "Time and a Word" was fun, but an abbreviated "Yours is No Disgrace" didn't work for me.
Anderson's guitar work was OK and he generally wasn't trying to do anything particularly complicated, although at times Steve Howe was missed (more in the second set). I expected more from Wakeman, but his playing was somewhat disappointing. While strong in places, he does not have the finesse of many players (he compares poorly to piano work I've heard from Moraz in recent years, for example).
After the interval, Anderson returned alone to the stage for a solo set. Well, Anderson plus dog, a small white terrier. I didn't quite catch whose, some family friend's, I think, but Anderson and dog seemed well acquainted and the dog wandered around the stage to everyone's amusement. Anderson began at the piano with a variation on his "Piano Songs" medley from his recent solo touring, so "Set Sail"/"Close to the Edge" extract/"Who Could Imagine?"/"Will You Marry Me Again?"/"The Revealing Science of God" extract. It's a nice mix, let down by Anderson repeatedly flubbing his words. "Will You Marry Me Again?" (I don't know if that's it's official name) is another new piece, at the more mawkish end of Anderson's work in both melody and lyric. Anderson then returned to guitar for a very nice rendition of "Give Love Each Day", followed by "Nous Sommes du Soleil".
We then switched to Wakeman's solo segment, three pieces interspersed with a bit of stand-up. Wakeman is pretty good at doing comedy: he knows how to deliver a joke and work an audience. The problem is his material. First, it's thirty years behind in style what stand-up comedians are doing. Secondly, he keeps using the same material over and over: these were old jokes when Wakeman started telling them, but he's trotted out the same ones for years. We've heard them all before.
Actually, those are the same problems with his music! He began with his well-worn "Nursery Rhyme Concerto", a series of nursery rhymes in the style of various classical composers. This is an idea with a certain potential, but Wakeman didn't reach it: his idea of 'in the style of' is superficial. I've never been Wakeman's greatest fan, but he's written some great material. This solo spot should showcase his best work but he chooses to go for something between light entertainment and music hall. Is that what he wants to be? Is that what his audience wants?
Well, clearly it was, because whatever I felt, I think "Nursery Rhyme Concerto" got the biggest response of the evening. His whole solo set got a rapturous reception; I wonder whether that's because the audience were more Wakeman fans than Yes fans? "Catherine Howard" followed, a good piece. To end, Wakeman repeated his party piece of playing a familiar tune in the style of a famous composer with his version of "Eleanor Rigby" in the style of Prokofiev. I don't know whether McCartney or Prokofiev should be more upset at the result. Oh, well, it was all a useful reminder of why I don't go to see Wakeman's solo shows.
Back to the duo for a second and, I felt, weaker set. A much abbreviated "And You and I" then "Turn of the Century" both felt lacking (lacking Steve Howe to be specific). Next was "Owner of a Lonely Heart" along similar lines to Anderson's solo version but with somewhat minimal and lacklustre additions from Wakeman. Then "Sweet Dreams"—I thought little of Wakeman's rinky-tink piano contributions. I'd enjoyed the first set, forgotten for a while my concerns about Yes, but these songs all reminded me of the absence of the full band. The set ended with the final new song.
The encore was "Roundabout" and "The Meeting". The latter worked well; of course just the same as on Yes's last tour. The arrangement for "Roundabout" was unexpected in that it didn't follow the version played on the Yes tour and on The Ultimate Yes. This was more of a rock 'n roll take: not bad, but again missing a proper guitarist.
An Anderson/Wakeman album is in the works. On sale at the show was Anderson's classic 1982 solo album Animation, released on to CD for the first time, and SoloShowSongs in LaLa Land, a live solo album recorded on Anderson's solo tour last year. The former is now available generally; the latter is not and it is unclear whether it will be. I hope Anderson gets it out properly somehow. Numerous albums by Rick Wakeman were also on sale, including his latest, Retro.
In all, it was a good show. There were some real highlights in "South Side of the Sky" and "Awaken". There was plenty that was good, if not spectacular, with some of the new songs, "Give Love Each Day", "Time and a Word", "Wonderous Stories", "Nous Sommes du Soleil", "Roundabout" and "The Meeting". There were some disappointments: I think I'm just bored of "Your Move", while "Turn of the Century" and "Sweet Dreams" should have been better. There were some poor moments, like the versions of "Yours is No Disgrace" and "And You and I" and Wakeman's solo set. I would certainly recommend going if you can get to any of the remaining dates. In the programme, Wakeman says this is his absolute final tour (although he has previously said that excludes touring with Yes and he will still be doing live shows), so I don't expect we'll see any further legs of this tour.
As for Yes, recent reports suggest they're planning for a return in
2008 (but then there had been indications that they would in 2007 and 2006
before). That could well be their last fling, a farewell tour. We are getting
to the point where you can't rely on their being a next tour. See these
people when you can.
Henry Potts, 5 Nov 06
Originally posted to alt.music.yes, Yesfans.com and Allgoodpeople.net.
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