February 28, 2012
The Kessler Theater
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David DiPietro
Singer / Songwriter Journeys On Solo "Storyteller" Tour
One of rock's most distinctive and enduring vocalists, Jon Anderson has been known as "The Voice of Yes" since 1969, but it should also be noted that in addition to his vocals being central to Yes' success and appeal over the years, it is his lyrics--rooted in Gnostic mysticism and having parallels in several pieces of classic literature--which helped define such genre defining progressive rock works as "Close to the Edge," Gates of Delirium" and "Awaken."
Since his unfortunate respiratory illness forced Yes to cancel their 2008 summer tour and surprisingly ended his tenure in the band as well, Anderson has continued his career undaunted. He has recorded two more solo albums, collaborated with former Yes band mates, Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin on an as-yet-to-be released project and toured the World three times over, playing selections ranging from classics written and recorded with Yes, as well as deep cuts from his 15 solo albums, including his latest opus, Open, released via download-only on his website late last year.
Anderson's stop in Dallas Tuesday night, his second solo trip through the Metroplex in as many years, found him enchanting the capacity crowd at the Kessler Theater and laying on the charm with witticisms and wonderous stories from his four decades plus as a touring performer.
Taking the candle-lit stage alone, with only an acoustic guitar for accompaniment (occasionally adding electronic drum pedal for time keeping), Anderson launched into a career-spanning set, touching on every Yes album from the'60s and'70s, with the exception of Tales From Topographic Oceans and Tormato.
While a bit of vocal raspiness early in the set slightly marred such tunes as "Yours is No Disgrace," and "America" (a Simon and Garfunkel cover and early Yes standard), as the show progressed, the aural cobwebs disappeared and Anderson's voice grew as strong and clear as I have heard him, since the Going for the One tour in October, 1977.
The thing that immediately hits you in the face upon seeing an Anderson solo performance for the first time is that without the stellar instrumental interplay of Howe, Squire, Wakeman and White, you are left with just the songs themselves, naked and unadorned, which for some longtime prog-rock fans can seem a bit disconcerting. Anderson's strumming guitar style, while obviously very different from Steve Howe's intricate classical mastery, seemed to suit the more direct, stripped-down interpretation of the songs.
"Long Distance Runaround" segued into the rarely Yes-performed, "Time and a Word," the title track from their second album in 1970. The mix of hits and rarities literally intertwined was indeed a treat and it had many in attendance cheering enthusiastically throughout the show.
Switching gears, Anderson then hit a few highlights from his solo work, notably his collaboration with the Greek new age synthesizer player, Vangelis. While the Jon and Vangelis period in the early 80's bored me to tears on vinyl, Anderson's treatment of "I'll Find My Way Home" in concert sent me scurrying for my copy of The Friends of Mr. Cairo, when I got home afterwards. Whatever one's opinion may be of his collaborations with Vangelis or his solo work, there is no denying that much of it, like that of Tangerine Dream, evokes majestic dreamscapes and journeys to the dance of the dawn.
Traveling astrally to the halcyon days of The Yes Album, "Starship Trooper," was magnificent, as was the remarkably different reading given to "Owner of a Lonely Heart," which was happily relieved of its 80's pop trappings and cheesy Cars/Dire Straits-style production flourishes that it was given on the 90215 album.
Switching from acoustic guitar to an electric keyboard set up directly behind him for the second half of the show, Anderson also switched gears and hit a few of the peak highlights of his entire recording career with, "And You and I." While not performed in its entirety, Andersons' voice was in fine form throughout this piece, hitting all of the gloriously high melodies and dazzling lyrical acrobatics.
The humorously autobiographical "Tony and Me," (a tune about his brother, with whom he played in the Warriors, his first, Beatles-inspired band in 1964) was touching, funny and insightful in a way that is unique to Anderson's personality and compellingly positive outlook on life. It had the audience giggling along and fully absorbed for its nearly 10-minute duration.
"Turn of the Century," the evening's major surprise, did indeed just that--turned the century back to the twentieth, to 1977 to be exact, and one of Yes' crowning achievements, the Going for the One album. During the year one of punk rock, Yes was one of the few bands of the old order who seemed to be totally unaffected by the safety pin-laden firebombs being lobbed across the bow from both sides of the Atlantic. This tune elicited a rousing ovation from the audience and reminded everyone of the sheer breadth of Anderson's lyrical and musical gifts; a true horn of plenty.
Predictably, "Roundabout," made an appearance late in the set, Anderson asking the Kessler crowd to provide backing vocals, which they did with great elan. "Wonderous Stories," sounded as good as it does on LP, its soaring melodies and positive vibrations a balm for the dearth of musical excitement in D/FW.
The opening chords of "Soon," (Part III of "The Gates of Delirium") had the capacity crowd near hysterics, but it fell on my ears as being bitter sweet. After hearing Anderson in such fine vocal form for most of the past two hours, it made me long to again hear "The Voice of Yes," in its proper setting--in front of Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman and Alan White. Here's hoping it happens..."Soon."