‘One of the best shows Yes ever did’: The threat of gun fire in Argentina didn’t slow Jon Anderson

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Yes arrived in Argentina with “Owner of a Lonely Heart” in their back pocket as a charttopping smash. Turns out, however, that the date was still a bit too close to the end of the Falklands War.

The progressive pioneers had, of course, formed in the UK — with whom Argentina battled for sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, just off the coast of South America in 1982. That could have potentially turned a stadium crowd that was 100,000 strong against Yes.

“We were the first English band booked into Argentina,” Anderson tells Blake Aaron. “This is when we were really big. We had ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ at No. 1 around the world, and we went there. The president of Argentina rang us two days before the show, and we had it on speaker phone. He said: ‘We seem to have a problem with a lot of people who hate the British for the war in the Falklands, and so there’s been death threats against the band.’ And I said: ‘Death threats against the band? What do you mean?’ He said: ‘Oh, yes, they’re thinking that someone’s going to shoot the band when they’re on stage.'”

Anderson’s response was as quick as it was impermanent: “I’m going home.” However, someone passed him a joint (Anderson says it might have been drummer Alan White), and he came around.

“We got there,” Anderson says, “and just before we went on stage, (bassist) Chris Squire turned around and said: ‘Hey, you know who they are going to shoot at first, don’t you?’ And I said: ‘Oh, damn! The singer!'”

Needless to say, Anderson’s stage presence was particularly athletic that night — all in an effort to make himself a less willing target. Everything went off with a hitch. “In fact, they recorded that show for TV,” Anderson adds, “And it’s one of the best shows Yes ever did!”

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