University Of BuffaloCenter For The Arts, Buffalo, NY – November 2, 2016
Disc 1 (66:29) Symphonic Music (Perpetual Change Theme), Cinema, Perpetual Change, Hold On, I’ve Seen All Good People, Drum Solo, Lift Me Up, And You And I, Rhythm Of Love, Heart Of The Sunrise
Disc 2 (71:28) Jon & Rick MC, Changes, Long Distance Runaround, The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus), The Meeting, Awaken, Make It Easy, Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Roundabout
If there is one tour I sadly missed seeing in 2016 it was most certainly ARW, the super group comprised of Yesmen Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, and Rick Wakeman. For one I knew nothing of the tour and when I found there was a date relatively close by it coincidently was one a day that I have tickets for a different show….curses! The formation of the band dates back many years when Yes was on their Union tour, one of the few friendships to be created from the ordeal was that of Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman, there are several interviews in the subsequent years where both spoke of making music together. Finally in 2016 it became a reality where a formation of a group that certainly has the right to challenge for the Yes mantle.
From the reviews I read and the youtube footage I watched the group seemed to be playing well and the music has been well received, sure you have that small faction of fans who wanted to hear this and that but you will always have that. I was happy to see that the Prog dedicated label Virtuoso would be releasing a title from the act and was on my list of titles to get. The subject of this title would be the group’s concert in Buffalo, New York. The recording is excellent, wonderfully ambient picking up the detail of the music with just enough crowd noise that adds to the live feel, this one sounds even better when you turn it up, it will certainly get the pictures moving on the walls. The band chose to play small theaters on this tour, this gives the performance a very intimate feeling that this recording captures very well.
The symphonic music readies the crowd and the band take the stage with Cinema, from the 90125 record, a brilliant opener sounding very muscular, the crowd gives a loud ovation mid way through when Jon Anderson takes the stage. One thing that hits me immediately is the playing of Rick, he handles the music with sheer brilliance adding his own flair to music he did not create. “1-2-3-4…” Perpetual Change follows, Jon’s vocals are great, considering all the health issues he has had not to mention he is 72 years old, his voice brings a warmth to me that only he can, his positive message ebbs and flows with the music. There is little time wasted and the band move into a heavy Hold On then into perhaps Jon’s signature song I’ve Seen All Good People. With the older Yes material I enjoy Trevor’s playing, even more so on this tour he seems to have found that space where he sounds comfortable playing classic Steve Howe parts while adding his own feel to it.
Jon finally addresses the audience, his voice sounds soft as he thanks the audience for coming and introduces Lift Me Up from Union as well as drummer Lou Molino III who does a solo prior to the song, his playing is great and makes good use of his kit, the audience enjoy it as well and cheer and holler throughout. One of the better songs from Union, Lift Me Up features great vocal harmonizing from both Jon and Trevor, I have always liked how their voices sound together. Jon speaks of the 70’s as he singingly introduces And You And I, as they flow into the song you know it’s going to be good. Lot of little chimes added in giving as rich texture, after the first lyric section when they go into a first heavy Wakeman orchestration you can feel the crowd waiting to exhale, and it becomes everything you hope it would be. Simply wonderful playing from the band that garners a huge ovation for the band that is amplified by “Rick Wakeman on keyboards”. Rhythm Of Love is a mother bleep, fricking bass line drives this song, introduced a by as rock and roll and we can only agree. Heart Of The Sunrise delivers in spades, Lee Pomeroy lays down some excellent bass lines in homage to the late Chris Squire, the audience, and me, are appreciative of his playing. Of the song what needs to be said, quintessential Yesmusic at its very best, Wakeman plays so effortlessly and just nails every little nuance of the song.
The second disc has Rick harassed by equipment and they get into a chat with the audience, with hilarious results! It all leads to Changes, again the bottom end is well anchored allowing the guitars and keys to flow at will, the song of course features some superb leads by Trevor, always one to make almost pop music sound very heavy. Certainly one of THE best songs from 90125, it does not sound dated, like the best Yesmusic. Jon tells a nice story of Chris Squire leading into Long Distance Runaround > The Fish again paying tribute to the greatly missed musician. The band go a bit deep for a wonderful version of The Meeting from the Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe record, the audience is very quiet and respectful for the song, always good to hear music from this record. Of course the showpiece of the latter half of the concert is Awaken. The best Yesmusic is creative and challenging, melodic and majestic, Awaken is one of those songs and a true tour de force. In a pre tour interview with Ultimate Classic Rock Wakeman said “One of the things that we want to do with the music is look at each of the tracks individually and look at the strengths and highlights of each of the tracks and try to take it to another level,”. The culmination of this ideology is certainly Awaken on steroids perhaps. Owner Of A Lonely Heart features the Make It Easy intro, amazing how this line up makes the 80’s output fit very well alongside the classics, far better than during the mid 80’s heyday, damn Rick really nails it! “We got one more…” and a great version of Roundabout follows. The intro is really cool, like the coming of the Gods and Rick is really into it playing some real snappy notes, Trevor, Jon, and Rick (on his portable synth set) up jamming like some southern rock band! A brillaint and well played evening of Yes music and more.
The packaging is typical Virtuoso, full color inserts with live shots from the concert and a nice posed band shot on the inner tray. CD pictures echo the cover, numbered sticker etc. So far the only silver release from this tour, great recording and stellar performance make for an equally stellar release. ARW has dates in Europe and Japan planned for 2017 and hopefully we will get a few more releases from this group.