It was when vocalist Jon Anderson gave his all at the beginning of the last section of “Heart of the Sunrise” that the hairs on the back of my neck were higher up than a Republican’s hackles if you mention Hillary Clinton.
I had chills running down my spine, and it wasn’t because the guy behind me had poured the ice cubes from his drink down my back (they had melted a long time ago and the water was now mixed in with my sweat). The stage was flooded with light from the spotlights, and I saw that the almost sold out concert venue Sentrum Scene in Oslo were having the exact same experience as me. “Love comes to you, and you foloooooooow” Anderson sang, and I realised I could either have an orgasm or start crying. I chose the latter…
But which Yes was on stage this evening? Don’t worry. If you are uninitiated, I’m not even going to attempt to explain the complicated story of exactly who is or isn’t a member of Yes at any given moment. Let’s just say that it’s complicated. I mean, really complicated. Just take my word for it, ok?
It’s so complicated that these days there are two versions of Yes currently on their 50th anniversary tours. I saw the other Yes this Easter during the 50th anniversary celebrations at the London Palladium. Said band has no original members left after bassist Chris Squire died. Still, they are the ones named just Yes, and they also are in possession of the rights to the famous Yes logo.
The band playing at Sentrum Scene in the Norwegian capital this evening, on the other hand, has Yes founder Jon Anderson as their leader and vocalist. His voice, and name, are what everybody thinks of when identifying Yes. With him he as guitarist Trevor Rabin, who came into the band in 1983 and gave the band their comeback hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
Third man out is keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who’s been in and out of Yes so many times that I ran out of fingers trying to count them. However, say “Yes” and “keyboardist” in the same sentence, and most people will say “Rick Wakeman.” He’s also had a solo career that resulted him selling more records than Yes ever did.
The last time I saw Yes on Norwegian ground it was the other Yes, with Benoit David on vocals. That was an unmitigated disaster of the biggest proportions. David sang so out of tune that a dead hamster buried in the basement of a 30 storey house under a ton of bricks would have tried to get away. And people left the concert in droves.
However, with Wakeman and Anderson on the bill, it seemed that Norwegian Yes fans were willing to give this version of Yes a chance. I was also pleased to see so many young faces there, even if I was below the medium age in the room. But it didn’t really matter, because the band was welcomed with arms that were more open than a Scotsman being told he will be paid in cash. And it’s been a long time since I saw that many people at this particular venue.
The concert started with the instrumental “Cinema” from the album “90125,” before we jumped into “Hold On” from the same album. Then it was straight back to the 70s to perform “South Side of the Sky,” a song Yes almost never played in their 70s heyday. We stayed in that decade to be served one of Yes’ most famous songs, “I’ve Seen All Good People” (- For all the good people of Oslo, as Anderson said).
And so it went. We were in the 70s (“And you and I,” “Perpetual Change,” “Heart of the Sunrise” and “Awaken), with the occasional trip to the 80s (“Changes,” “Rhythm of Love” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”) At one point we even visited 1994 and the album “Talk” through the song “I am Waiting.”
Wakeman was in character in a long glittering cape going all the way from his shoulders to the floor (you get away with that sort of thing if your name is Rick Wakeman). His fingers were dancing over the keys like they were made of air. All the soup diets he’s constantly tweeting about didn’t seem to have had much effect, but my oh my how he played. It wasn’t quite up there where it used to be, but my music teacher in middle school would have given him a A-. At least!
And then it’s Jon Anderson. The man who was described as “slightly to the right of Hitler,” by original drummer Bill Bruford, when it came to the treatment of his bandmates… Anderson is 73 years old, and even if his voice isn’t as flawless as it used to be, I know quite a few aging rock vocalists who are green with envy when they hear what Jon Anderson is still able to pull off, vocally. (A certain other Anderson, who’s first name starts with I, I’m looking at you!)
Rabin is a few years younger than Wakeman and Anderson, but he is the one who has been seeing a plastic surgeon on a regular basis, as well as getting lots of hair transplants. He looked like a cross between Ray Monroe in Twin Peaks, Michael Jackson and Little Richard. Still, he’s a great guitarist and I didn’t mind the rearrangements he did of some of the 70s material.
Drummer Lou Molino III played the drums and percussion just brilliantly, and bassist Lee Pomeroy got to play around with “Heart of the Sunrise,” where the entire opening riff is carried by the bass. However, for a band that was started by one of the most brilliant, and original, bass players of all time, Chris Squire, it’s just plain wrong to hide the bass in the mix the way they are doing on this tour. Stop it!
The concert also lasted for just over two hours, way too short for a Yes concert!
But that is just nitpicking when you think back on such magic moments like “Awaken,” where harp, church organ and Jon’s cosmic lyrics made you fly so high that you wondered if you had consumed other remedies than just beer that night. The version they did of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was also fantastic. Especially the incredible jam session they did towards the end, including a keytar solo.
And when the whole thing was concluded with an encore consisting of a flaming version of “Roundabout,” we all could just dance (or at least as close to a dance as a stiff and aging body is able to) out in the summer warm Oslo, knowing full well we had just seen “all good people.”
Please come back soon, Yes featuring ARW. I am waiting! I am ready!