LIVE: Jon Anderson & Rick Wakeman @ the Palace Theatre, 10/27/11

Jon Anderson
Jon Anderson

This was Jon Anderson’s show, to be sure. And at the Palace Theatre in Albany, his voice was simply amazing – maybe as good as it’s ever been. And that’s certainly no idle claim about a guy who celebrated his 67th birthday just two days earlier.

And Anderson’s distinctive voice was front and center the whole evening with no muscular, hyperactive prog-rock rhythm section to compete with. In fact, for much of the night, Anderson’s lone accompaniment was the keyboard wizardry of his old Yes-mate Rick Wakeman. Anderson chimed in with his acoustic guitar whenever the duo dipped into the vast Yes catalog of songs, but on the selections from the duo’s recent collaborative album, “The Living Tree,” Wakeman carried the whole load himself. Quite admirably, too, stretching from the baroque to barrelhouse during the course of a song, even though he was clearly in a supporting role to Anderson’s vocal fire-power.

The twosome struck a better balance between songs, as Anderson would regale the small but absolutely rabid crowd of fans with peace, love, back-to-nature musings until Wakeman would interrupt and bring the conversation down to earth with some quite humorous and slightly ribald commentary. I really had no idea that Wakeman was a stand-up comedian in training.

The two hour-plus sets featured plenty of Yes classics – from the opening “Starship Trooper” and “Long Distance Runaround” in the first half to “Your Move,” “I’ve Seen All Good People” and the first encore of “Roundabout” after the intermission. And while the renditions didn’t sport the kind of meat or power of the original Yes versions, the songs clearly held up in the more intimate, stripped-down setting.

The selections from “The Living Tree” – and there were seven of them scattered throughout the concert – didn’t quite live up to the majesty of the Yes gems, although a moving anti-war anthem “23/24/11” was certainly a worthy addition to Anderson’s catalog. And a big crowd-pleaser, as well.

In the end, though, it was almost too much of the same without the dynamics and variations that a full backing band would have brought to the stage. Fortunately, Wakeman came to the rescue at the end of the evening, finally asserting the keyboards with the full-on showcase of “Awaken,” one of Yes’ most ambitious efforts in a career full of ambitious tunes.

Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Zen Yes. Rick Wakeman and Rick Anderson — critical components to the Yes brand — brought their disappointing two-man show to the Palace Thursday night. Rather than reach for the steepled prog-rock heights of yesteryear, the duet brought their classics down to Earth for the small audience. There were intimate moments for sure – like the second-set opener ‘Southside of the Sky’ – but they were short-lived and it was a pity that two veteran icons of rock, alone on stage, couldn’t stray from the script and spontaneously capitalize on a good moment.”

Starship Trooper
Sweet Dreams
And You and I
The Living Tree (Part 1)
Long Distance Runaround
America (Paul Simon)
The Living Tree (Part 2)
Time and a Word
South Side of the Sky
Wonderous Stories
Just One Man
Nous Sommes du Soleil
Your Move
I’ve Seen All Good People
House of Freedom
The Meeting

Rick Wakeman
Rick Wakeman
Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson
Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson

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