Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman: Yes in a roundabout way

IT HAS BEEN a dozen years since Jon Anderson last performed with Yes, the British progressive-rock band he cofounded in 1968 with the late bassist Chris Squire.

During the band's 1970s salad days, Anderson's shimmering voice, and his spiritual and optimistic - if sometimes esoteric - lyrics were every bit as crucial to that group's musical fingerprint as the sophisticated arrangements and individual and collective musical virtuosity that underpinned his vocals. (Here's a vintage live performance of "Yours Is No Disgrace" from 1972.)

It was during that time that Philadelphia established itself as, arguably, the band's most loyal and vociferous U.S. market. That, in large part, was due to the patronage of the late WMMR-FM (93.3) disc jockey Ed Sciaky, who enthusiastically promoted Yes on the airwaves. The band's June 1976 concert at the long-gone JFK Stadium in South Philadelphia drew a crowd estimated at 130,000, which would have made it the best-attended ticketed music event in city history.  (Were you there? Share your memories here.)

A series of health issues, beginning with a 2004 fall off a ladder that resulted in a broken back, led the group's other members to fire Anderson in 2008. Since then, '70s veteran members guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White have toured regularly under the Yes banner with a revolving cast of musicians, including lead singers whose vocal stylings have been strikingly similar to Anderson's sound. (One former vocalist, David Benoit, had been the singer in Canadian Yes cover band Close to the Edge.) Recently, his own health issues have kept White off the tour circuit.

Meanwhile, Anderson has recorded and toured with various musicians, performing original compositions and those from the Yes catalog. The latter is the focus of the tour that brings ARW - led by Anderson and two fellow ex-Yesmen, guitarist Trevor Rabin and keyboardist Rick Wakeman - to Glenside's Keswick Theatre this weekend for two shows, and on Oct. 28 to Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

During a recent phone call before the tour's Oct. 4 opening date in Orlando, Fla., Anderson, who turns 72 this month, discussed, among other topics, his latest tribute to the Yes legacy, as well as his embrace of 21st-century technology, and his favorite Philly memories.

Let's start with the most current news, the ARW tour. How did it come together?

I worked with Rick [Wakeman] a couple of years ago. We did some shows on the East Coast and Europe, and all we talked about was when are we going to get together with Trevor? Because Trevor and Rick really get on very well. They both tell a lot of jokes, which is just crazy to me. Sometimes, it's very hard to get a word in.

It just happened late last year. Brian Lane [Wakeman's current manager and Yes manager during the 1970s] got in touch with me and Trevor and said, "Why don't you guys get together and make some music and go on tour?" We said, "It's about time." And that's basically what's happening.

What can we expect to hear at the shows, and how did you devise the set list?

 A lot of Yes music. That's who we are. We're very, very connected [through] the history of Yes. It's a celebration of Yes music.

What we did was, we tried songs out to see how it feels. Certain songs, obviously, we want to do - "Roundabout," "I've Seen All Good People," "And You and I," "Awaken," which is really very special, "Long Distance Runaround," "Starship Trooper." The list goes on and on. We're sort of wiggling it down to a concert of about two hours. (Here's ARW performing "And You and I" in Durham, N.C., on Oct. 9 at the Durham Performing Arts Center.) 

This year, you released a CD, The Invention of Knowledge, a collaboration with Roine Stolt, guitarist for the Swedish prog-rock band Flower Kings. It was recorded almost entirely via the internet. Doesn't music-making require the participants to share the same physical space?

I've always lived in the modern world of technology. I just think it's a natural thing. We're both on the same planet. We can connect with each other [on Skype] and send MP3s to each other. It's still music - music will always be the divine energy that will guide the musician. To say you always have to be in the same room, I understand that, but it doesn't make any difference to me.

It's an article of faith among fans that Yes' continued absence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is most egregious. What are your thoughts on the subject?

It never bothered me at all. "It will happen when it happens" is my mantra.

What would the Vegas odds be on your ever performing again with Yes?

Unfortunately, Alan [White] is not very well. Steve [Howe] is the only guy left from the classic period [other than Wakeman]. The 50th anniversary of Yes is coming up [in 2018]. We'll probably most likely get in the Hall of Fame [then], and that's when Steve would come along.

You've always had a special relationship with Philadelphia. What are your favorite memories?

One of the great things is remembering the fantastic, incredible concerts we did at the Spectrum [and], of course, the big show [at JFK Stadium] with Peter Frampton. I actually got a photograph from a friend of mine. He did an incredible panoramic photograph view of the [crowd]. It was an incredible moment in my life.

ARW, 8 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Keswick Theatre, Glenside, $59-$139, 215-572-7650, keswicktheatre.com. 8 p.m. Oct. 25, Borgata, Atlantic City, $65-$85, 866-900-4849, theborgata.com.

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