“Jon, Trevor and myself have always wanted to play together, to play Yes music, and just sort of finally got round to doing it. And I think that’s been helped in this very bizarre way by the sad tragic death of Chris Squire, because something that hit us all was our own mortality, I suppose, and if we don’t do this now, which is something we really want to do, there’s a chance it might never get done. So it just sort of kicked us into action and we’ve just had a wonderful time.”
That was how keyboard extraordinaire Rick Wakeman explained his rejoining up with Jon Anderson and Trevor Rabin as ARW to play the music of their former band Yes during a recent interview with Glide. And since the tour kicked off early last month, they have been selling out venues and sparking standing ovations everywhere they have played so far. On Friday night, it was New Orleans turn to feel the music in all it’s swirls and enchantment and ARW did not disappoint.
“We wanted it to be a band very much, not just the three of us with some add-on musicians,” Wakeman said, so bass player Lee Pomeroy and drummer Lou Molino were brought aboard to enhance the already spirited music. But what they really brought to the team was a harder-edged rock sound that put more oomph into the tunes and that is exactly where Rabin absolutely came alive. Have we forgotten that this man is a boss on guitar? That he can hang with the young guitar gods without missing a beat? That his synchronicity with Wakeman in a guitar/keys duet during “And You & I” could leave you speechless? This is what Yes fans have to look forward to on this tour … and more.
It reminded me of what a gentleman told me before the show, how he had been at the Yes concert in New Orleans in July of 1971 where they opened for Jethro Tull, who had just released Aqualung, and proceeded to blow the headliners away, as the crowd kept calling them back for more and more music. It was only their tenth show in America and they had pretty much left Tull with it’s tail between their legs.
For anyone wondering if the old magic was still simmering within the chemistry, it was dissipated pretty quickly as ARW came out with “Cinema,” “Perpetual Change,” “Hold On” and “I’ve Seen All Good People.” Said Wakeman, “There is a lot of music that Trev played on with Jon that I didn’t and a lot of music that I’ve played with Jon that Trev didn’t and we thought, okay, what can we do here?” This allowed them to tinker with the music without destroying the integrity of the songs.
Anderson was in pure wine voice, hitting notes with his unique Zen expressionism, sounding as if nothing had changed since the days of Fragile, Close To The Edge and The Yes Album, which were all represented in the setlist. Rabin sang lead on “Lift Me Up” and “Changes,” from 90125 and Union respectfully, and soared on his guitar throughout. Pomeroy had the opportunity to honor Squire, who passed away in 2015, by coming to the front of the stage and giving a rip-snorting version of “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus),” which caused one fan to stand up and holler, “Who’s the Fish now!” alluding to Squire’s nic-name, in appreciation.
Wakeman, regal in his black cape with silver rhinestones, showcased his keyboard genius on “Awaken” and “Heart Of The Sunrise,” and with a lovely intro to “The Meeting,” a song he wrote with Anderson for the only studio album under the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe moniker. During “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” Wakeman strapped on his Roland and headed out through the crowd with Rabin in tow, while Anderson and Pomeroy were literally jumping to the rhythm of the music onstage.
As they were called back for an encore of “Roundabout,” where Anderson encouraged everyone to keep standing and help him sing, it was a moment to be savored. As was the entire show.
SETLIST: Cinema, Perpetual Change, Hold On, I’ve Seen All Good People, Lift Me Up, And You & I, Rhythm Of Love, Heart Of The Sunrise, Changes, Long Distance Runaround, The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus), The Meeting, Awaken, Owner Of A Lonely Heart. ENCORE: Roundabout.