Jon Anderson wants more transparency. Especially among bands calling themselves Yes. Anderson wants fans to know that the Sept. 2 show at the Kenley Amphitheater in Layton will feature Anderson, guitarist Trevor Rabin, and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Personnel from that other Yes—e.g., longtime Yes-men Steve Howe on guitar and Alan White on drums—will not be at the Layton show.
“And that’s why we are Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman,” Anderson explains in a telephone interview. “There’s a band that decided not to do that, which is part of the problem.”
Anderson, like many legacy rockers, has lost the battle to own the brand of the band whose legacy he, in large part, created. But with Yes the issue even more complicated due to the bewildering succession of nearly 20 bandmates who filtered in and out over the years.
To those who are not die-hard fans, Yes is a progressive-rock pioneering band famous for familiar classic-rock hits, including “Roundabout,” “Owner of the Lonely Heart” and “I’ve Seen All Good People.” (Later self-absorbed and tedious Yes creative efforts are said to have incited the Punk movement.)
But to Yes purists, it’s much more complicated.
That other Yes concoction, which is also touring the U.S. and Canada, is calling their current U.S. tour “Yestival,” perhaps to distinguish themselves from Anderson Rabin and Wakeman. Anderson faults the Howe/White outfit for calling itself Yes without further explanation.
“At times people ask if you’re going on tour with [Yes],” Anderson said. “And I say, ‘No, that’s the other Yes.’”
If Anderson sounds bitter, it may be because he was replaced by a singer from a Yes tribute band in 2008 after he was sidelined by an acute respiratory illness. Uncharacteristically, Anderson lashed out at his longtime band mates and accused them of misrepresenting the Yes sound.
Today, Anderson seems to have regained his Zen-like poise and does not begrudge his former comrades: “Life is never what you expect. I got very sick in 2005. . . . so nothing happened for a couple of years and then I got better. I was going to go on tour with Steve and Rick and Alan White. And then I got sick again. [Bassist] Chris [Squire] decided to carry on with Yes without me. And that’s what life is all about. It’s a sort of challenge.”
In truth, any attempt to define the quintessential Yes will fail given the sheer number of musicians who have performed as Yes during its 50-year history. Founded by Anderson and Squire in 1968, Yes exemplified and expanded progressive rock by integrating classical and jazz influences with the traditional rock format. Yes survived, in part because its revolving-door lineup infused new ideas and renewed inspiration that made the band relevant in the changing musical landscape in the 1980s. This was especially true in 1983 when guitarist Trevor Rabin replaced Steve Howe, which led to the production of “90125,” the band’s most successful effort, powered by the number one hit single “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
In 2016, Anderson united with Rabin and Wakeman and launched a U.S. tour that stopped at Utah’s Capitol Theater last November. The show drew rave reviews. Backed by bassist Lee Pomeroy and drummer Louis Molino III, this refurbished Yes was phenomenal, performing tunes from the entire Yes oeuvre, including “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “Roundabout,” “Heart of the Sunrise” and a scintillating rendition of “Awaken.”
These days, Anderson, who is now fully recovered, welcomes the plethora of Yes bands, even the Italian cover band that performs the entire “Yessongs” live album..
“I created the band with Chris [Squire], so I felt that since 50 years is coming up since the birth of Yes and it was only right to work with Rick and Trevor to become Yes. We were invited into the [Rock and Roll] Hall of Fame of fame this year. . . We will get up there and many of people will see us as Yes. So why not call ourselves Yes?”
Still, some fans may be surprised that the set list includes excerpts from Tales From Topographic Oceans, an album that was so complex and spiritual (some called it pretentious and bloated) that it almost single-handedly sparked the back-to-basics punk revolution. Topographic, released in 1973, was a “double album,” which, in vinyl-speak meant two records and about 80 minutes of music. It was also a concept album consisting of only four songs—one for each side of the record—exploring Anderson’s interpretation of sacred Hindu texts as condensed in the book Autobiography of a Yogi.
After Topographic sales flattened and Wakeman quit the band in protest, Anderson began to think the album was a colossal blunder.
“[A]fter the tour when Rick left, I started to think I’d made a big mistake. But in retrospect, 25 years later, I was able to go on tour with Yes and a full orchestra all over the world, all over Europe . . . [A]nd it was getting incredible reviews and the audience was loving it. So, the music survives no matter what.”
Anderson said he wants to please fans, but for him, it’s more important to get on stage and have fun.
“It’s very, very simple: If you come to see the show, you’ll have a great time. . . That’s what we do: We have a great time on stage. But that’s another story. That can be very easy some days and some days not. It’s like the weather; you never know what’s going to be happening. On stage, we’re professional. We put on a good show.”
Yes, Saturday, 8 p.m., Kenley Amphitheater, 403 N. Wasatch Dr., Layton