When Jon Anderson told us earlier in the year that he was writing more “Yes-style music” these days, this — even more than his— was what most people had in mind: A conceptually epic piece, filled with wonderment, musical twists and a theme as broad as it is hopeful.
Quite frankly, this is what Jon Anderson does. And it’s terrifically engaging, after too long spent fitting his muse into the ever-dilating strictures of Yes’ modern-day prog-pop, to hear Anderson doing it again.
“Open,” available online beginning today, reveals itself as a sweeping 21-minute opus featuring soaring vocals, thundering orchestral outbursts and sun-streaked lyrics. Along the way, Anderson deftly recalls the long-form triumphs of “Close to the Edge” and “Gate of Delirium,” even as he escapes from even their assumed parameters. That starts with his string-focused musical structure: Led by Stefan Podell, the orchestra moves from diaphanous atmospherics to crashing salvos of sound and fury. While there are keyboards and brief flurries of guitar, “Opens” has a much tighter focus on the layered vocal interplay that has marked so many of his own compositions, both with his old band and as a solo artist. Freed not just of the expectations so closely associated with Yes — the classically imbued Howe solo, the thumping Squire bass, the mad-scientist Wakeman keyboard wizardry — but of the politics and the personalities themselves, Anderson hasn’t sounded more present, more completely sure of himself, in three decades.
There will be those fans who miss the classically imbued Howe solo, etc., etc. Part of the magic, and the tragedy, of Yes is its very internecine nature. In its worst moments, you had snitty little side projects like Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe — the equivalent of calling a car “Steering Wheel, Transmission, Radials and Chassis.” In its best moments, though, those competing dynamics made for brilliant and complex rock music.
Either way, Jon Anderson’s compositions away from them (exultantly, blissfully joyous though they may be) sometimes lack that essential friction. You can’t blame Anderson for that, though. It’s what he always brought to the band — and it’s what he took with him.
Former Yes members Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman are playing a select number of North American engagements this fall, with a setlist that features songs from their original band as well as the duo’s 2010 collaboration The Living Tree.
THE JON ANDERSON-RICK WAKEMAN FALL 2011 TOUR DATES:
Oct. 26: Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY
Oct. 27: The Palace Theatre, Albany, NY
Oct. 29: Tropicana Casino Resort, Atlantic City, NJ
Oct. 30: Temple Performing Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA
Nov. 1: Capitol Center for the Arts, Concord, NH
Nov. 2: The Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT
Nov. 4: Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, NJ
Nov. 5: Sherman Theatre, Stroudsburg, PA
Nov. 6: Theatre at Westbury, Westbury, NY
Nov. 8: Hanover Theatre, Worcester, MA
Nov. 10: Grande Theatre du Quebec, Quebec City, Canada
Nov. 12: St. Denis Theatre, Montreal, Canada
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