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Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman Awaken Kansas City

 

 

The purple, sequined robe that Rick Wakeman was wearing would have been one of the more prog rock things the Kaufman Center has seen, but he had Jon Anderson, and Trevor Rabin in tow, performing an evening of Yes tunes. Previously touring largely overseas as ARW, after their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and performing with members of the “other” Yes band (fronted by Steve Howe), ARW renamed themselves Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman and mounted a North American tour.

The Kaufman Center is Kansas City’s new-ish home for the Kansas City Symphony, KC Ballet, and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Normally playing home to events of that caliber, it was a bit surprising to see Yes on the calendar, but the venue was definitely designed for music, and the room was acoustically perfect. Most concerts use stacks of speakers to blast a room full of sound (and Yes was definitely loud) without any dead space in the theater.

Yes’s set took a lot of songs from their 1983 album, 90125. Things started with a recorded version of Cinema playing, with most of the audience standing as the track played, and the band took the stage. They would remain standing for the duration of Perpetual Change – all 14 minutes of it. Most surprising to me was how well Jon Anderson’s voice has held up. Now in his 70’s, Jon appeared to be in remarkable shape, looking 20 years younger; clearly singing high over the decades hasn’t had much of a toll.

Rick Wakeman transitioned smoothly through all the unique synth sounds Yes is known for, utilizing 9 synthesizers, and a keytar. I guess they’re of the mind that if it can be played live, it should be played live, and not via a recorded track (well, Cinema aside…) More importantly, Yes ARW were clearly having fun on stage. Joy was very clear in Jon’s eyes (something I really didn’t see with Chris or Steve when I saw Yes a few years ago). 

After the “final” song of their set, and the encore, each member of the band shared an embrace; even for that moment, the hired guns (Lee Pomeroy on bass, and Lou Molino from Trevor Rabin’s band, on drums, were made to look and feel like full-fledged members). 

With a library of songs that are very low-key and mellow, Yes AWR did very well in keeping the energy high, and most people on their feet, throughout their near two-hour set. 

While a full Yes reunion, and tour would be wonderful, if I had to choose, my money would go for Anderson, Wakeman, Rabin; Jon Anderson has a stronger energy than Jon Davison (who singles the Yes classics -very- well), but the show feels more alive with Anderson; besides, Geoff Downes doesn’t wear capes.

For more information and tour dates, please visit: http://www.yesfeaturingarw.com/#tour

Setlist: Cinema/Perpetual Change/Hold On/South Side of the Sky/And You and I/Lift Me Up/Rhythm of Love/I Am Waiting/Heart of the Sunrise/Awaken/Owner of a Lonely Heart/Roundabout

Words and Photos by Josh Chaikin