On Thursday night, I went to see former Yes lead singer Jon Anderson perform in a solo concert at the Wilbur Theatre here in Boston.
While I am not intimately familiar with the discography of Yes, I have been on a Yes kick for the past few weeks. When I learned that Anderson would be in town, I figured I should strike while the iron was hot. Anderson has been in poor health in recent years and it was this poor health that contributed to Yes unceremoniously replacing Anderson back in 2008.
Indeed, Anderson has been recovering from a bout with the flu and had a tissue box on his Yamaha keyboard. Dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and a paisley green jacket, Anderson looked thin and gaunt but his wide smile lightened up the theater.
Anderson played a mix of Yes material and songs he wrote while he was recuperating. In between songs, Anderson regaled the audience with stories. One such story was about how Vangelis nearly became Yes’ new keyboard player after Rick Wakeman left the group in 1974. But that stopped dead in its tracks when he told lead guitarist Steve Howe that guitar players weren’t real musicians. However, Anderson and Vangelis would go on to record several albums together as a duo in the early 1980s.
At the height of Yes’ popularity in 1984, Anderson said the band had so many roadies there was one roadie whose only job it was to rouse Yes bassist Chris Squire from his sleep. During this same tour, he and two student filmmakers went to see This is Spinal Tap. Anderson thought it was absolutely hilarious because he had experienced almost everything that happened in the movie save for a deluge of dead drummers.
In 1963, he and his older brother Tony went to see The Beatles perform in Liverpool before the advent of Beatlemania. When they went to see them in Liverpool six months later, they couldn’t hear them. It wouldn’t be the last time.
Anderson also recalled a time when he and his brother played a gig in Sheffield and the club manager told them a young singer would be joining them on stage. This young, skinny 16-year old asked Anderson if he knew how to play “Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles. Anderson said he did and this young, skinny 16-year old sang like Ray Charles. That skinny, 16-year old was Joe Cocker.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Anderson beamed with pride when he stated he became an American citizen two and a half years ago. He then proceeded to do a cover of “America” by Simon & Garfunkel.
Despite his health problems and despite being 67, Anderson can still hit those high notes. In any case, I am glad I went because you never know if you’ll get another chance at a once in a lifetime opportunity. I leave you with Anderson performing an acoustic version of “Long Distance Runaround” at a concert in Chile last year.