Pearl Theater - Palms Resort and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
Words and Photos by Roy Rahl
Cinema | Perpetual Change | Hold On | All Good People | Drum Solo (Molino) | Lift Me Up | And You And I | Rhythm Of Love | Heart Of The Sunrise | Changes | The Fish (Pomeroy) - Long Distance Runaround | The Meeting | Awaken (Wakeman Solo) | Owner Of A Lonely Heart |
Jon Anderson: Vocals, Guitar, Harp, Various Stuff
Trevor Rabin: Guitar, Vocals
Rick Wakeman: Keyboards
Lee Pomeroy: Bass, Vocals
Louis Molino III: Drums, Vocals
Before attending this show I told myself that my concert review was not going to have any comparisons between the current Yes lineup and ARW. Both bands are manned by some of my very first music idols dating back to the early seventies. I have interviewed and spoken with a few members of each band and hope to continue doing so. Most of all, hearing comparisons between the two just makes me sad. Yes was by far my favorite and the most influential band of my adolescence. I don’t want to knick up the pedestal they are on by debating the positives and negatives of each band’s performance. I want them to co-exist on prog’s Mount Olympus.
Then I saw the show. Wow, what a performance! The balancing act isn’t going to be easy, but here goes.
Being blessed to work with one of the best editors in the business, I was treated to ARW’s meet and greet prior to their performance at the Pearl Theater inside the Palms Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. I won’t go into detail, but I will say that if you are a serious prog fan and can put up the cash this is a whole lot of fun. The band and staff take great care of their fans and genuinely seem to enjoy the interaction. Needless to say, it set the evening off to a great start.
One thing immediately noticeable was how into this concert the fans were before the first note was even played. As one would expect the crowd was, let’s generously say, of a responsible age, but still had the energy and passion to get an early start breaking in Nevada’s recently passed recreational marijuana law. The audience was thoroughly excited and ready to relive the seventies and eighties, more so than I have felt in a long series of concerts from similar bands. They couldn’t wait for the band to get onstage!
The set list for this performance was every Yes fan’s dream, and from the very beginning ARW delivered it spot on. They opened with 90125’s “Cinema”, an excellent choice that got things going quickly. In case anyone hadn’t heard him for a while, Trevor Rabin instantly reminded the crowd that he is one badass guitarist! The crowd was hooked. ARW immediately went into “Perpetual Change”, letting everyone know right away this was not going to be just an eighties era concert. This band was prepared to take the fans on a very thorough tour of Yes music in all its iterations, and it did so in an incredible fashion.
Two things really stood out from this show that I have not seen in recent concerts. One was an extremely intimate reaction to the music from the audience. There was an unmistakable feeling of immense gratification at the start of almost every song. Hearing Anderson begin to sing caused the audience to respond as though they were finally hearing something they had been desperately missing for a very long time. All night long I saw friends turning their heads to each other and nodding with a knowing look of “oh man”. Anderson’s voice has always been ethereal and somewhat magical, but on this night it was the beloved missing link everyone in the audience came to hear. They hung on his every word and happily sung along with him when asked.
The other thing I noticed was the sincere joy the band was feeling while playing these songs. They seemed genuinely happy to be there playing the old stuff, whether they were part of the band at the time the songs were written or not. They played the songs at their original tempos and in their original keys. There were no sacrifices and few deviations from the studio recorded versions. As a result, songs that may have been around for forty years came off sounding light and fresh, yet still were as familiar as everyone wanted them to be. Anderson’s voice has somehow managed to defy the gravity normally imposed upon singers’ voices. His range is just as high and wide as ever and his singing sounded effortless.
There were many poignant moments over the course of the show. As the group prepared for the next piece Anderson took a moment to speak about his recently departed dear friend. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Chris”, Anderson said with obvious emotion, and recounted some of the good times they spent together. In a tribute to the great one, ARW then played “The Fish”, including a truly classy bass solo performed by Lee Pomeroy. It was clear that Pomeroy had done his homework. He faithfully integrated well known moments of Chris Squire’s solos into a beautiful homage to the man who was the cornerstone and founder of the original Yes. It was wonderful to once again hear a Rickenbacker sing out the notes that diehard fans can repeat in their sleep. The spirit of Yessongs was in full form as the group transitioned into “Long Distance Runaround”. Squire definitely would have approved.
Then, in a stunningly beautiful moment, the stage became quiet as Anderson told the story of an evening with Rick Wakeman shortly after wrapping up an album. I’ll save the details for the concert-goers to enjoy in person, but the results of that evening was the delicately beautiful Anderson/Wakeman duet “The Meeting”. If the fans weren't already melancholy for the good old days this certainly brought them there. I can tell you this Yes fan was awestruck. It was as though I was hearing the last forty years of my life being played all at once. It was a spine tingling moment, one I have not experienced at a concert in years.
After that a small harp appeared in Anderson’s hands. The band began riffing around and a familiar tune started to come into form, one I never thought I would hear in concert again. “Wow, they’re really going to do this?” I thought to myself as ARW went into “Awaken”, the final track on Going For The One. This song has long been one of my favorites and is a perfect snapshot of everything Yes, including the intense lyrics, high speed guitar solo, dramatic tempo changes, and even a church organ appearance! Here Wakeman took command of the stage. Standing behind his ever-present wall of over ten keyboards and draped in his customary cape, Wakeman did what Wakeman does. He elaborated on the quiet moments that are present in the central part of the piece. Moving around from keyboard to keyboard he created a graceful atmosphere of soundscapes and melodies. It was wonderful to listen to a man with such incredible talent perform beautiful works without the egotistical need to prove his abilities the way a younger man might feel was necessary. This was a veteran maestro playing the way he wanted to play. He reminded us that there is wisdom that comes with the decades. It was a fantastic moment.
The last song of the set was, of course, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”. Really, considering the power of that piece and this lineup, what else could it be? Here things started to get a little crazy. Rabin showed once again that he is the undisputed master of the Harmonizer. He and the rest of the band let loose. Wakeman came out from behind his ramparts, donned a Keytar, and looked like the king on a chess board as he and Rabin jammed. Then something hilariously fantastic happened, and I’m not going to tell you what it was. You will have to find out on your own. I will say it was a perfect end to the main set and the crowd went absolutely crazy!
After taking the bows and thanking the audience, the band temporarily left the stage and returned for their encore performance. The song of choice was no surprise. ARW lit into “Roundabout” and let the energy flow. It’s been decades since I’ve heard such a passionate and powerful rendition of the song that helped launched an entire musical genre. It brought down the house and ended a spectacular evening of music.
ARW gave the crowd everything it wanted and more. This was the best show I have seen in years. This is a must-see concert for anyone calling themselves a prog fan. The old is new again and the passion is overwhelming. Do not miss this performance! Best of all, when asked at the meet and greet if a studio album was in the future, Wakeman shook his head yes. I think the prog world is about to get a little bit better!