Anderson Rabin Wakeman - Brighton Dome
15th March 2017 (with Jim Knipe and Richard Page)
Brighton is a progressive city, including the constituency of the only Green Party MP in the UK, which under normal circumstances is less than an hour away from Croydon by train. It boasts good coffee shops, good pubs, countless record stores selling both new and second-hand CDs and vinyl, and some excellent musical instrument shops. The University of Sussex is located just outside Brighton so it’s fitting that there are a number of venues for live music, some of which I’ve attended for headlining acts: Yes at the Brighton Centre; Steve Hackett at Komedia; and both Pat Metheny and the Esbjörn Svensson Trio at the Brighton Dome.
Despite not being a great fan of 80’s Yes music, holding the opinion that 90125, Big Generator and Talk are only associated with progressive rock through their historical connections, I travelled down from Croydon to the Brighton Dome to see Anderson Rabin Wakeman (ARW) performing ‘an evening of Yes music and more’. So why did I go?
The opportunity to hear Jon Anderson sing was a major factor and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his last two mini-tours with Rick Wakeman. Including Lee Pomeroy in the band was also a positive move, as Pomeroy has played with a number of prog luminaries and though I’d never heard, or heard of Louis Molino III, he turned out to be an excellent drummer. It was inevitable that the set would contain a hefty dose of 80s material but I felt that these pieces would be outweighed by tracks like And You And I, Awaken, Heart of the Sunrise and Perpetual Change; with four songs from 90125 (one of them, Cinema, being instrumental and another, Changes, being my favourite track from that album) and only one song from Big Generator (Rhythm of Love), plus the Yes-West Lift Me Up from Union, it really wasn’t too bad a trade-off. The audience response, somewhat surprisingly given that Owner of a Lonely Heart and 90125 gained a whole new audience for the band, was not as enthusiastic for the Rabin-period music. Was this the Brighton effect? I acknowledge that Trevor Rabin’s involvement with the group ensured their continued survival but fine guitarist that he undoubtedly is, his writing style is not classic-Yes and the Rabin-Squire-White group responsible for working on the majority of the material that would appear on 90125 was originally called Cinema. The songs presented by that trio had far more mainstream construction and content, lacking spiritual depth, complexity and sonic diversity, and that’s what came across at the ARW gig. Pre-Rabin Yes material varies dramatically within each composition, demonstrating the best use of long-form and it’s far more thoughtful and thought-provoking, rather than acceding to the demands of a record company for songs that have a wider, baser, appeal. A tendency towards guitar-sound homogeneity was even noticeable in the old material but overall, the musicianship and writing carried the day. Awaken was the highlight for me, rearranged with a really spaced-out middle section featuring some brilliant keyboard work. It was obvious that considerable effort had gone into all the arrangements and though I wasn’t convinced by their reworking of Long Distance Runaround, Pomeroy’s rendition of The Fish was truly remarkable, earning him a huge round of applause.
Despite my comments about the guitar sound, the show was still very good and the Brighton Dome made it more memorable than going to the Hammersmith Apollo. The musicians have really gelled as a group and seemed to be having fun; while Anderson, sporting what seemed like some sort of support on his left hand, worked through his announcements, the band provided a short synopsis of what they were about to play laced with quotations from other Yes material, including On the Silent Wings of Freedom and a theme from Tales and demonstrated an obvious pleasure for what they were doing. I returned to Croydon a happy concert-goer.