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Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman Bring ‘The Holy Trinity of Yes’ to Life at Sold-Out Ohio Show

Photo Credit: Joe Kleon, joekleon.com
Joe Kleon, joekleon.com

On the heels of a mesmerizing performance of the Yes classic “Heart of the Sunrise” Saturday night, singer Jon Anderson paused to tell the audience, “There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about Chris Squire.” The legendary bassist, who died in June 2015, left behind a musical legacy that’s unforgettable. That’s one thing that was made clear onstage during the two hours that Anderson and the members of ARW performed in Akron’s Goodyear Theater.

ARW’s tour — which features Anderson and his fellow former Yes bandmates, guitarist Trevor Rabin and keyboardist Rick Wakeman — has been a long time coming. A lot of that came down to the difficulty of aligning schedules. In a 2012 chat with Ultimate Classic Rock, Anderson spoke of the new music that the trio had been working on, but said that things were on hold. “You keep the door open and hope that it will happen,” he said at the time.

When they announced the ARW tour earlier this year, all of the roadblocks had been cleared, with Rabin putting his movie-scoring career on pause, and Wakeman and Anderson freeing their schedules. Wakeman called the tour “the holy trinity of Yes.”

There was much talk leading up to the tour about what everyone wanted to play, so when the set list was revealed for the opening night in Orlando on Oct. 4, it showed some compromises.

But the final rundown, which has continued to evolve a bit as the tour progresses, splits between the band’s classic ’70s era and the ‘80s hitmaking version. It was hard to imagine how the 90125 instrumental “Cinema” would segue into “Perpetual Change” from 1971’s The Yes Album, but it worked onstage, and they seamlessly moved between eras in similar fashion throughout the Oct. 29 performance.

The set mixed epic moments (“And You and I,” “Heart of the Sunrise,”) with some songs that had been long neglected. One of the most frustrating things about the resurrection of the “classic” Yes lineup in the mid-’90s was that besides “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” they rarely touched anything else from the ‘80s albums.

ARW’s tour rectifies that, pulling in vibrantly performed versions of “Hold On” and “Changes” from 90125, “Rhythm of Love” from 1987’s Big Generator and “Lift Me Up,” which members point to as one of the few bright spots from 1990’s Union album.

But they also spent plenty of time exploring the group’s epic past, taking a 20-minute run through “Awaken,” from 1977’s Going for the One album that gave everyone onstage chances to shine.

Rabin acknowledged in a recent Facebook post that there was a bit of rust to shake off during the tour’s early shows, the result of largely being away from the stage for more than two decades. But with 15 performances now under his belt, he looked like he had sufficiently worked through that, playing the classic guitar lines with ease. He stayed fairly faithful to the recorded arrangements in a lot of spots, tweaking only a few things here and there, including abandoning the signature acoustic intro of “Roundabout,” performing the opening moments on electric instead.

In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock shortly after the tour was announced, Wakeman promised that he wouldn’t be reducing the size of his rig and he was indeed surrounded by an impressive fortress of keyboards, all of which he used at one point or another during the night. He had all of the sounds dialed in, even for the ‘80s material, and seemed exuberantly engaged performing all of it. He was clearly having fun, going as far as to work a bit of his over-the-top ‘70s-era voodoo into “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

One big question was whether or not the 72-year-old Anderson would be up to the task of singing the classic Yes catalog in an electric setting with the same vocal power that he’s known for. But he delivered an astounding performance that was amazingly on point and consistent across the night. More than two weeks into the tour, he still sounds flawless, and brought incredible energy to the stage, rhythmically swaying and dancing to the music, alternating a variety of accessories, including his signature tambourine, acoustic guitar, bells and even a harp during “Awaken.”

The rhythm section was also solid, with drummer Louis Molino III and bassist Lee Pomeroy adding expert musicianship as well as additional voices that helped complete the thick wall of vocal harmonies. Pomeroy, in particular, had the biggest shoes to fill, playing Squire’s classic parts with equal amounts of respect, reverence and enthusiasm. “Long Distance Runaround” was performed as a tribute to Squire, and Pomeroy turned in a jaw-dropping version of the late bassist’s classic “The Fish.”

It was an incredible evening that Yes fans have waited for a long time, and one that delivered an experience that sent the sold-out audience home with smiles. There were just as many smiles onstage, with Wakeman and Rabin sharing an embrace at the beginning of the night, and all of the band members hugging at the end.

The band’s U.S. dates run through December, with European shows beginning in early 2017. According to Rabin, these concerts are only the beginning. “We intend to complete what we’ve been working on after the tour in order to present new music, which will be all the better from the band getting so tight and together. … I don’t want this to stop.” After seeing this show, the feeling is mutual.

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