Two Nights of Yes featuring Anderson Rabin Wakeman Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA and Palace Theatre, Albany, NY October 4 and 5, 2017
Story, photos, and video by Kelly D
To see more of Kelly D’s photography of the Yes feat. ARW concert, check out her art page on Facebook at Vital Visions: Art by Kelly D
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They may not realize they’re doing so, but the members of Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, and Rick Wakeman are dismantling the patriarchy, one bro grab at a time. I’ve seen a lot of concerts over the years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such brazen guy-on-guy hugging on a concert stage- not even between Rush’s Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, well-known rock star BFFs for over 50 years. It’s refreshing as all hell, let me tell you. It doesn’t hurt, either, that the three men comprise some of my favorite musicians ever, as former (and current, some could argue) members of the seminal prog rock band Yes. For complicated reasons, the trio (plus great touring drummer Lou Molino III and bassist Lee Pomeroy) used to call themselves Anderson Rabin Wakeman but decided to add “Yes featuring” to the beginning- if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, as the Dude from The Big Lebowski would say.
As I conveniently live in Western Massachusetts, I was able to catch two shows back-to-back of Yes featuring ARW- the first in Boston and the second in Albany. Both concerts knocked my socks off, not just because of my love for the tunes they performed but also the sheer joy that emanated from the stage. After a quick T ride into Boston on Wednesday evening, I snagged a ticket off the street before heading into the Orpheum. I was in the balcony and therefore had a great bird’s-eye view of some of the audience and the five guys below. To my chagrin, as seems to be the case lately, most prog shows I’ve been attending lately have been “sit down” affairs which is not conducive to me enjoying myself fully. I just want to dance. But I waited patiently till the last few songs, when almost everyone got on their feet to experience the magic. It was much the same in Albany, though I did have a better seat thanks to the good folks at the Palace! I amused myself by taking lots of photos to make up for sitting down. Molino, Pomeroy, Rabin, and Wakeman made their debuts first to the strains of 90125‘s instrumental “Cinema,” then out came magical pixie man Jon Anderson. My love for him truly knows no bounds. Within minutes, he was twirling around making the fringe on his pants fly, waving to folks in the crowd, and basically doing the tiny British fairy version of voguing to his bandmates playing around him. I was utterly enchanted. I’ve seen him perform in various outfits five times since May 2016, including as part of the Anderson Ponty Band, and he never disappoints. Anderson’s voice has held up over the years, which is slightly surprising given how high he can sing. “South Side of the Sky” and “Heart of the Sunrise,” both off of Fragile, were particularly impressive. Did you know he also plays harp? Because of course he does. He busted it out during a full 20+ minute rendition of “Awaken.” And he also played finger cymbals as only a prog rock legend man-sprite can, tinging them together ever so gently in front of his mic, AND a bedazzled acoustic guitar, AND a tambourine shaped like a crescent moon covered in multicolored ribbons. I’m telling ya, as a lady who enjoys the flashier things in life, Anderson is kind of a style icon of mine.
Trevor Rabin has been a sort of enigma to me as he never seemed to be as flamboyant as Anderson or Wakeman- even now, what with their penchant for glittery onstage fashion. However, his million-watt smile shows often while he’s performing and, at the show in Albany, he even started in a natty suit coat with red piping. His guitar playing is pretty damn impressive, as are his numerous production credentials. He even played toms with Lou Molino during a part of “Awaken.” Rick Wakeman is a living caricature, and for that I thank him. I loved him for his larger-than-life personality and adept keyboard playing, but my appreciation for him grew that much more when he delivered a gut-busting speech when Yes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in April. His Twitter feed is highly amusing too- anyone with a handle like @GrumpyOldRick is okay by me. It was lovely to see him festooned in two of the capes in what must be a massive collection on those back-to-back evenings, because if anyone can pull off wearing one, it’s him. Highlights in both shows included “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” wherein the five-piece onstage took their biggest pop hit of their whole career, off of 90125, and turned into an extended jam session. Rick Wakeman strapped on a keytar and swished out from behind his fortress of synthesizers, signature cape flowing behind him. In Boston, he and Rabin exited stage left (heh heh) to reappear in the balcony and give surprised fans high-fives and harried selfie opportunities all the while rocking out and gliding around looking like the badasses of prog royalty that they are. The folks in Albany didn’t quite get the same treatment- I couldn’t see what the hindrance was, but it looked like Wakeman and Rabin could only descend partially into the orchestra pit and then get back onstage to reunite with their fellow band members. https://youtu.be/L8sDVT3p2BU However, on both nights, Anderson, Molino, and Pomeroy looked like they were having the time of their lives watching their friends and coworkers greet the crowd as they remained onstage. Pomeroy even play-fell over when Wakeman came out from behind his synths, and lay prone on the floor, perhaps astounded at Wakeman’s mere presence. Anderson, naturally, was dancing throughout whilst playing guitar. I was surprised in Boston when they included a snippet of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” at the end, but the unexpected song choice worked well. In Albany, now having gotten the insider’s scoop, I had a good chuckle overhearing the astonished remarks of the first-timers who hadn’t peeked at the setlist before the show. Lee Pomeroy must get his props- the dude pulls off the late, great Chris Squire’s complicated bass licks with what looks like certain ease. The wild, frenetic energy of “Heart of the Sunrise” brought him from his perch in the back of the stage to front and center, slapping the bass strings of his left-handed Rickenbacker, and his expression showing a “bass face” of unbridled ecstasy all the while. Here’s a man who truly loves his profession, just like the rest of ARW! Lou Molino III is no slouch, either. A seasoned drummer for Rabin for many years, his joy while playing is palpable as well. When I saw him in Boston last year, during the group bow he literally was bouncing and pumping his fists with excitement. He was a bit more contained this time around, but his toothy grin could be seen even from my balcony perch in Boston. https://youtu.be/ul2k6eeUu5M Throughout the two concerts, every musician onstage couldn’t help but smile for the vast majority of the show- at each other, at the crowd, to themselves. When the shows came to a close, after a rousing rendition of “Roundabout” each time, the group bow broke up in factions of each performer hugging each other, still smiling. The good vibes were contagious. Then my heart basically exploded from glee when I saw, in Albany, that Rick Wakeman had taken his multicolored glittery cape and wrapped it around Trevor Rabin and Jon Anderson in a group hug for the ages. Seriously, though: what other prog rock bands love each other that much? Their tagline should be
Yes featuring Anderson Rabin Wakeman: Come for the music, stay for the guy love.
It really is truly beautiful to see. I can’t wait to catch them again- hopefully next year, when perhaps they’ll have new music to share! Thanks, guys, for providing unchecked mirth in a time when the world is severely lacking for it. To see more of Kelly D’s photography of the Yes feat. ARW concert, check out her art page on Facebook at Vital Visions: Art by Kelly D
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