AWR Concert review

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Right at the end of my work day yesterday, I got a text from my neighbor.  Would I like to go see Anderson, Wakeman, & Rabin, I have two free tickets?  Are you kidding me?  Of course I want to go.  Nothing like getting $85 tickets for free, three hours before a show!  When I got home from work and opened my mail, I read a lovely “happy birthday” message from the AARP, along with a fake card with my name on it.  Those bastards don’t miss a thing, do they(my 50th is approaching)?  It’s a good thing I had a rock concert to go to or I might have had to sit home alone and drink!

So off we went.  My neighbor Bon is a big YES fan and a big fan of Prog music, in general.  Needless to say, we get along well.  He’s also a musician so I like to get his perspective on music.  More on that later.

The show was at the Performing Arts Center at UB, a venue I’ve been to many times in the past to see such acts as Brian Wilson, Levon Helm, John Hiatt/Lyell Lovett, and King Crimson(twice, including a front row show with John Paul Jones opening.  It was deafening).

Our seats were in row KK, which was the very last row of the first floor.  $85 for the last row?  Yikes!  It was actually perfect for me though because my seat was on the aisle, which meant I could stand for the show without blocking anyone behind me.  I much prefer standing shows to sitting.  The place was packed.  I didn’t see the balcony but the first floor was completely full. Site Lines are great and the sound is perfect.

Here’s the set list:

1. Perpetual Change
2. Hold On
3. All Good People
4. Lift Me Up
5. And You And I
6. Rhythm of Love
7. Heart of the Sunrise
8. Changes
9. Long Distance/The Fish
10. The Meeting
11. Awaken
12. Owner of a Lonely Heart
13. Roundabout

I’ve seen YES in various incarnations four times previously.  This is the first time that I’ve ever seen Wakeman. I mentioned recently that I’m a completest.  Seeing Wakeman finally completes my YES family.  He was worth the wait.  First of all, seeing him come out in a full, velvet and sparkly cape, was worth the price of admission alone.  He was in full, Six Wives of King Henry VIII regalia.  It was awesome.  Wakeman was surrounded on all sides by keyboards.  I counted nine of them, plus the strap on that he wore when he and Rabin took a stroll through the crowd during Owner of a Lonely Heart.  At one point, one of his keyboards stopped working.  Wakeman took the microphone from Anderson while the crew worked to fix it.  He took the opportunity to tell a dirty joke about his “broken organ” and to say that he loves Buffalo because Bob Moog is from here.  He told a few more jokes, mentioning his four wives and was pretty damn funny.  I wish I knew more about British accents because his was particularly familiar, like a character in a Monty Python skit.  His playing was effortless and for me and Bon, Wakeman was the star of the show.

That’s not easy to do when Jon Anderson is singing.  Anderson was flawless.  His voice, at 72 years of age, has not diminished at all.  He definitely doesn’t look that old, by the way.  Think about his contemporaries, Plant, Ian Anderson, Greg Lake, etc.  Their voices, for various reasons, are all much “less” than what they once were.  Not Jon Anderson though.  His voice is still what I imagine I would hear if I lived in Lothlorien(how nerdy was that sentence?).

Having seen the current incarnation of YES over the summer at Artpark,

I can’t help but compare the two shows.  Which brings me to Rabin.  The guy is super talented.  His songs have held up pretty well too.  He breathed new life into YES when they needed it most.  So, what I’m going to say is not a put-down,  it’s just about my own personal preference.  Discussing it after the show with Bon, he told me that Rabin uses a synthesizer with his guitar and uses many effects.  It sounds great to me.  But…much of this music sounds better to me when the original, acoustic guitar parts are included.  Rabin only played an acoustic guitar once, I believe for the opening of All Good People. So as Bon said, he put his own spin on this music, probably not wanting to just ape the Howe parts.  I get it.  It was really great.  I just happen to prefer the Howe sound.

Which concert did I prefer?  I have to say the Artpark show.  If Anderson had been singing with YES, that would have been the perfect combination.  Throw Wakeman in too and have two keyboardists.  Call the tour Union. Hmmm, that sounds familiar.

A couple other thoughts. I loved hearing Awaken, from Going for the One.  That’s not an album that I’ve heard in many years.  It marked the first time, in the hundreds of concerts that I’ve seen since 1977, that I’ve ever seen someone play the harp!  As soon as they brought it out on stage, Bon knew immediately what song they were going to play.  Credit to him.  I had no idea.  It’s apparently the only song in the YES catalogue with a harp on it.  One more piece of trivia to store in my brain.

Sitting in the back row gave us an interesting vantage point.  I noticed that dozens of people sat there and recorded the show on their phones.  It was like a 21st century version of all of the mikes set up at Dead shows.  Except this requires more attention to be paid by the people recording the show.  I honestly don’t get it.  I like to take a few pictures when I’m at shows if the band doesn’t mind.  But to sit there and look at a tiny screen the whole night instead of the actual live people on stage?  For what?  At the risk of sounding like Robert Fripp, wouldn’t you rather experience the live show and have that memory?

I guess that’s it.  Thank you to Bon for the last minute invite and thank you to our other neighbor, Sue, for giving him the tickets when she was unable to go.


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