In the past three years, former Yes frontman Jon Anderson has rediscovered what is really important in his life.
In May 2008, the singer, famous for his near-falsetto alto tenor range, suffered a severe asthma attack that later led to a diagnosis of acute respiratory failure, forcing him off the road for six months. During that period, the other members of Yes moved on, hiring sound-alike singer Benoit David to take his place. Anderson ended up undergoing six different operations for further internal problems.
“It’s funny because, after that year — three or four years earlier, they couldn’t figure it out,” he said recently from his home in central California. “It got really bad. I had terrible internal problems with my pancreas, with blockages, and the doctors didn’t figure out what it was until 2008. I had six operations, but after 2009, I became a new person emotionally and spiritually.”
“Life is such an adventure,” he continued. “I’m so thankful to be alive. I’m blessed to do what I do, and I’m constantly working now, harder than I ever have in my life.”
Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Ave., Albany
How Much: $75, $45, $31
More Info: 465-3334, www.palacealbany.com
He’s not kidding about that. Last year he released two new studio albums. The first was a solo record, “Survival & Other Stories,” that finds him collaborating with musicians from all over the world via a “musicians wanted” ad he placed on his website four years ago. The other is a stripped-down affair with a fellow Yes alum, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, titled “The Living Tree.”
Anderson will be bringing a solo acoustic tour on the road early next year. But for the past year, he’s been focusing on his work with Wakeman. The two are touring their sparse album — built around Wakeman’s piano, Anderson’s vocals and occasional orchestral arrangements — in an equally sparse setting on their Project 360 tour, which began in the U.S. last week and heads to the Palace Theatre tonight.
Don’t ask Anderson what “Project 360” actually is though — neither he nor Wakeman knows.
“It was a mystery,” Anderson said. “We went on a tour of the U.K. last year, and I thought it was Rick, but then he asked me, ‘What’s the 360 tour?’ I don’t know. It probably should be called ‘The Living Tree’ tour. Or the Fun and Games tour, because Rick likes telling jokes all the time — many of them blue. . . . But he’s a fun guy to work with, such a great musician and great friend.”
The nine tracks on “The Living Tree” include four songs that were played on the duo’s U.K. tour last year, along with new compositions written before and during the tour. Anderson has been embracing the Internet as a means to connect with other musicians — like “Survival & Other Stories,” “The Living Tree” was primarily recorded with the two musicians sending tracks back and forth to each other.
“He [Wakeman] was in London — he lived in Norfolk, so north of London — and as he was working on the music he was sending it to me while I was on tour,” Anderson said. “I’d sing songs in hotel rooms, and that’s how we created the album. So one song I sang in Philadelphia, another in Boston, another in Canada. You never know where you are when the music comes, so you just have to be ready to sing, get up and have a good time.”
Like the duo’s best work in Yes, the songs follow a progressive musical bent, though in a much quieter setting. Also similarly, Anderson’s lyrics on tracks such as “Garden” tackle tough subjects, including war and other modern social ills.
“The lyrics are very poignant to what was happening last year with the [United Nations] resolution in North Africa, the changing of times,” Anderson said. “The world is changing very fast, and it’s [‘Garden’] about how we need to hold on to the garden, like the garden of Earth. One of the songs [‘23/24/11’] is about the sadness of war — young kids can be gung-ho to be out there in the war, but then when they get out there they can’t wait to get home. It’s a very dangerous place, and very sad.
“When you sing, you’re like troubadours — I write lyrics relative to what I’m thinking these days,” he continued.
“Especially now, with how the Internet can manifest the truth, and with people seeing the truth on so many levels, there’s this constant revolution against corruption. When you write songs about that, with energy and feeling, the change is good.”
In addition to new songs, Wakeman and Anderson have reimagined a handful of classic Yes tunes to fit the keyboards-and-vocals only format of the show.
With more than five decades and 18 studio albums of work to choose from, the two have been working the songs in with stories about their creation.
“Actually, performing the new album and the old classic Yes songs together, in this sort of format — they all sound like new songs for some reason,” Anderson said. “It’s as though time is gone — they’re timeless, the music is timeless. We have such a fun time performing the songs. It’s very professional though — we want to put on a good show. But we talk a bit about how the songs were created, life on the road and stuff, and the audience has loved it at every show.”
Yes is still touring, of course — in 2011 the band released its 19th album, “Fly From Here,” the first with David in the lead vocalist spot. Co-founder Chris Squire is the only original member left, though the band still features longtime members Steve Howe and Alan White.
Anderson’s dismissal from the group in 2008 was understandably bitter for him, but he’s not holding a grudge. A reunion would be possible, he said, but only with a larger event in conjunction.
“I think when we get into the [Rock and Roll] Hall of Fame — we missed that again this year, so maybe next year, maybe the year after that,” he said. “You never know.”
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Categories: Life and Arts