Zen Yes. Rick Wakeman and Rick Anderson — critical components to the Yes brand — brought their disappointing two-man show to the Palace Thursday night. Rather than reach for the steepled prog-rock heights of yesteryear, the duet brought their classics down to Earth for the small audience.
There were intimate moments for sure — like the second-set opener “Southside of the Sky” — but they were short-lived and it was a pity that two veteran icons of rock, alone on stage, couldn’t stray from the script and spontaneously capitalize on a good moment.
The night felt like a private performance rather than a concert. Great songs like “Wondrous Stories” and “And You and I” were as beautiful as expected, Anderson’s voice controlled and gentle as ever.
Wakeman can be a mad scientist with his full-blown keyboard sound surrounding Anderson’s high-pitched alto. But that didn’t happen Thursday night. Instead, Anderson kept his voice in safe range and volume, while Anderson played a thin-sounding piano with his right hand, his left hand rarely lifting from underneath with the rich anthemic chords we expect from him.
They traded all night between Yes classics and songs from the duet’s latest, “The Living Tree.”
The title track to that album had nice moments as Wakeman hovered nicely above the melody with his electronics. And while the song started simply with promise, it sadly descended into a near nursery rhyme. Though its intent may have been honest, repeated lines like “Living in the living tree of life” distracted from its quality.
The two knew enough to recover quickly with “Long Distance Runaround,” the first tune that they visibly pushed to raise the energy of an otherwise uneventful night but they failed to lift the song where it likes to go. Next came their classic cover of “America,” Anderson opening his throat a tad to fill the hall with his gifted one-in-a-gazillion voice. Here Wakeman came swooping in with his jumpy — almost jazzy — solo. Wakeman often threatens to swing on these types of tunes, but never actually crosses the line, leaving you a bit empty. Why not go for it just once for all of us?
Anderson didn’t preach, but he came close when introducing the new tunes, talking often about “mother Earth,” her “quiet and peace,” and the lessons we can learn in the garden. These new songs seemed more fit for an elementary school class than the high-end, demanding taste of a Yes audience. While the lyrics were simple — “I’m planting in the garden” — the melody was simpler. His intentions are all good, his spiritual message admirable, but you expect a more ambitious musical calling from an Anderson-Wakeman team.
“Bob Marley, I love you Bob Marley,” Anderson said — who would’ve thought — before singing his reggae “Time and a Word.”
Wakeman was the funny man of the night, insisting that they needed an intermission for a bathroom break. His humor was predictable and toward the end the small crowd barely chuckled.
While the tunes never reached an intensity or intimacy they should have, there were plenty of beautiful spots within the tunes. They forced a sing-along during the great song “Your Move,” reducing the amazing song to a playful ditty.
“I’ve Seen All Good People” created the best moment of the night for about 30 seconds — far too little and too late to save the night.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Entertainment, News