|Lisner Auditorium - Washington DC||23 October 2011||by Tom Felts|
It was in October of 1972, in the wee hours of one chemically enhanced morning experience, that I heard for the first time the opening harmonics of "And You and I". My FM radio was turned down low, but from the first opening harmonic, I was in tune to something new, different and exciting. A cluster of organ tones was mixed underneath the guitar, creating tension and Expectation - and then, as the familiar (but fresh!) I-IV-V progression kicked in, there was......OMG what the hell is that!?!?!? A radical synth line, soaring, swooping, stepping down and leading into an "Impressionistic, Transcendental, Zen Koan" lyric fest.
I was 15 years old, and my life just changed.
Yes has been many things to many people, and as a follower over the years I have come to know some of the stories. Rick's early success was paid for with a heavy price. I found it poignant that it was Jon Anderson that went to visit him in the hospital, after his early health issues manifested. As most of us know, Jon recently had his own set of health related issues, and while the rest of the "band" went off to ride the gravy train with a ringer, it was Rick Wakeman that stuck with Jon, creating a new album of music, and a new tour experience. If Jon Anderson is the soul of Yes, the surely Rick Wakeman is the heart of it.
At Lisner Auditorium in Washington DC, on the 23rd of October Jon and Rick presented a number of songs from their new album interspersed with songs from the Yes era. Armed with only 2 keyboards, 2 guitars and 2 mikes, this dynamic duo presented the core of the Yes ethos, logos and pathos, as only they could. Whatever issues Jon may have had, he still can sing. His unique voice as characteristically identifiable as ever, sounding clear and pure in the high registers ("Michigan seems like a Dream to me nooooow...") and guess what? No Autotune. Just an honest effort at some heartfelt songs. It really doesn't get ANY better. Rick Wakeman is traveling light these days (only 2 Keyboards Rick, you feeling OK?) but that is fine as he has been relying on his earthy sense of humor to carry his show as of late. With nothing to prove, as it has already been proven, Rick provides the harmony and counterpoint to Jon. His "tongue in cheek" accompaniment to Jon's "Time and a Word" was truly ludicrous, but given the context, it worked, and provided a laugh at the end. Rick is a genius, and tempers his burden of living in a world of idiots with his humor. But when he PLAYS....it is truly a wonder to behold.
As can be imagined, the arrangements of many of the songs played were pared down, given the sparseness of instrumentation. This being the 3rd stop of this tour, it was apparent that there were still "issues" with certain aspects of these arrangements…some intonation issues changing registers in verses for Jon, a dropped lyric line in "And You and I" (it would have almost passed unnoticed if Rick hadn't of made a face at that point), but these are 2 consummate musicians, in tune and aware of what the other is doing, so to that degree it is even more fascinating to be a part of.
The highlights for me: Awaken. THIS is what I am talking about. Jon's spirituality and shamanistic healing intentions, coupled with Rick's arrangement and organ solo…..absolutely sublime! And as part of the encore "The Meeting". This was another song that sat on my turntable for months, just listening to it over and over. There is a spontaneity and direct honesty in this song that just blows me away in its simplicity and power. And they delivered it.
It was a bittersweet night, as I sat there experiencing this. I may never see them again. But I can go over the edge knowing that "reasons do relive and breathe and hope and chase and love for you and you and you".
Thank you Jon and Rick.