Coverage: Jon Anderson played progressive rock with retro and modern flair at the Vilar on Wednesday
Special to the Daily
As co-founder of the 1970’s and ’80’s progressive rock band Yes, Jon Anderson continues to advance Yes hits while releasing his own. Wednesday night, millennials joined baby boomers on the Vilar Performing Arts Center stage in Anderson’s highly energetic “1000 Hands World Tour: Past, Present Future.”
Anderson has gathered eight musicians worldwide to help promote his new album, “1000 Hands.” Every band member contributed incredible back up and harmonizing vocals to Anderson’s already strong voice. Meanwhile, collectively, the band played just about every instrument present in a full orchestra. The result: a highly entertaining, quality show, complete with a concert screen split into five sections, streaming footage of trippy oil-and-liquid-like formations, star bursts, moving tunnels and kaleidoscope imagery.
From the first song, “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” bassist Tim Franklin – brother of the renowned producer of “1000 Hands” – added his deep voice to Anderson’s signature high pitch. Anderson and the band continued to perform various arrangements of Yes hits, with extended and full instrumentals and up to eight voices, while still keeping the tunes very familiar.
He infused his obvious love for the 1960s and ’70s into the show by interjecting “give peace a chance” during “I’ve Seen All Good People” and commenting on how “the ’60s was an amazing time,” and how “2020 is going to be the new ’60s. It’s going to get rid of a lot of c-r-a-p.”
After his second song, with a deep bass groove that transferred into a rocking version of “Yours Is No Disgrace,” the audience broke out into huge, appreciative shouts and applause, which he followed with “Ramalama” from his new album. He paired this, inspired by his vocal warm-up routine, with images of exotic world dances, from Sufi and African to Hawaiian and Japanese on the screen.
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By this time, audience members called for him to crank up the volume — and there were a few minor issues with sound balance.
“You’ll have to talk to the commissioner,” he said. “They said, ‘not too loud,’ and I said, ‘why not?’”
Anderson’s humor continued to emerge as he briefly acted as a ventriloquist for the stuffed animal mounted in front of his mic, told a silly Flintstone joke and introduced the band’s instrumental as “’Chicken Noodle Soup,’” or as some people call it, ‘Chicken Pot Pie’ with a lot of pot.”
The band jammed during its chicken-whatever-you-prefer-to-call-it, starting with intense, jazzy horns and moving along to feature every band member, which included two keyboardists, two percussion players (one from Trinidad), a violinist (from Taiwan) and guitarist Tommy Calton. While every musician stood out in talent, millennial and multiple horn player Billy Meethers and the young Joe Cosas — who plays “just about every instrument he can get his hands on,” Anderson said, including keys, trombone, banjo, vocoder, mandolin, harp and guitar — especially animated the show by running through the aisles playing horns, and, in general, singing and dancing around.
Anderson and his band performed the Eastern vibe, driving rhythms of “State of Independence,” “Makes Me Happy” (dedicated to his wife, on his latest album), a rhythmic arrangement of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” “Where Does Music Come From” and “Please to Remember,” the latter of which started with violinist Jocelyn Hsu and continued with Anderson playing a Martin steel-string backpacker guitar.
Then, with a laugh, Anderson introduced “To the Runner,” released in 1976 on his first solo album, as referring to “the person that runs things around,” and followed it with “Long Distance Runaround” and “Wondrous Stories.”
He had a lot to say about “First Born Leaders,” just released on his new album. He wrote it in 1991 in Big Bear, California, where he “spent four months getting stoned — no, making music,” he said. He unabashedly used a lyric cheat sheet and delivered a powerful rendition of the long-held tune.
“The interesting thing about that song was that I sing this line, ‘everybody wants what they cannot have, everybody wants what they cannot see,’ and you know why everybody wants so much is because they forget everything is here,” he said, pressing his hands to his heart, after the song. “Here is everything. Ev-er-y-thing…everything else is just an illusion.”
By the end of the show, he acted not only as lead singer, songwriter, legend and conductor, but also seemed to channel the music through his entire body, mind and spirit, finishing the performance with a rousing version of “Roundabout.”