Former Yes Man Jon Anderson Gets Close to the Edge...and the Audience
Photo by Deborah Anderson
Classic-rock fans might not see the connection between intricate, musically adventurous progressive rock and all-you-can-eat shrimp and shuffleboard tournaments. But increasingly, fans of this genre -- or Southern rock, or blues, or country, and even Rick Springfield or KISS -- have gathered on the high seas, on cruise ships packed with hardcore fans enjoying concerts, Q&A sessions, workshops and...shrimp.
This month, Jon Anderson -- the legendary former lead singer of Yes -- will embark on the "Progressive Nation at Sea" jaunt, while his former bandmates headline "Cruise to the Edge" in April. Anderson, who plays an intimate and career-spanning show at Dosey Doe this coming Monday, has done a couple of these events and grown to like them, despite his initial reservations.
"It ends up being a good time for me and my wife," he says in a high voice that lends credence to the fact that he does not sing in falsetto. "And this time, we've got a balcony and a patio. And we won't eat too much!"
On this adventure, Anderson will do a solo show, take part in a Q&A with fans, and sit in with Mike Portnoy's prog group Transatlantic. As to the wisdom of being in a confined area at sea with some of his most rabid fans, Anderson says he always uses a little Star Wars approach to not being mobbed.
"I usually do the Obi-Wan Kenobi thing," he says. "Just go through areas with groups and say 'we can pass.'"
Anderson's current tour mixes Yes' classic rock warhorse tunes (of course), solo material, collaborations with other artists like Vangelis, and a seemingly unstoppable flow of new music. It's a lower-key affair that the stadium and amphitheater locations he used to play with Yes.
It's the direct result of a journey he began about six years ago after recovering from the vocal difficulties that began in 2004 and saw the cancellation of a 2008 Yes tour. It led to the group he co-founded jettisoning him rather than wait any longer for his recovery.
He was replaced with Benoit David, the very Anderson-sounding lead vocalist of a Yes tribute band (their current lead singer is Jon Davison).
"People were very receptive to my solo shows," says Anderson, asserting that he's fine now and "sings every day" to keep his voice in shape. "And if I'm having a good time, the audience is as well."
Along with Deep Purple, Yes is probably the highest-profile act not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who absolutely should be. Both were on the initial ballot for induction this year, but didn't make the final cut.
And while it speaks to what many fans of hard rock, metal and prog-rock see as a bias against their favored genres, Anderson is confident that the Hall will soon say yes to Yes.
"Bands like Yes and Deep Purple and Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake & Palmer have sold millions of records, and we actually connected musical eras," he says. "It's something I don't dwell on much, but I think if it happens, I'll be very happy, especially for the fans."
He also says that's the most likely chance for him to reunite with his former band members -- if only for a few songs at the one-off ceremony.
"I have communication with them for a few business matters, but generally, they are doing their thing. I'm in touch with Alan [White, drummer] now and again because we were very close. But Steve [Howe, guitar] and Chris [Squire, bass], not really. We all have our lives to live. And you just get on with things."
Coming up Friday: Anderson on the development of Yes, the term "prog rock," how the Internet has changed making music forever, and playing Houston's "Space Dome" in the '70s. He plays Dosey Doe, 25911 I-45 N., 8 p.m. Monday, February 24.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.