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Jon Anderson, the voice of Yes, will sing solo at The Egg

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
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Jon Anderson, the former front man for the progressive rock band Yes, performs solo at the Egg Saturday.
Jon Anderson, the former front man for the progressive rock band Yes, performs solo at the Egg Saturday.

People familiar with Yes, the progressive rock supergroup of the 1970s, know the group’s songs were big generators for musical notes.

Big keyboards, big bouncing bass lines and big lead guitar riffs were all part of the band’s signature sound.

So was lead singer Jon Anderson’s alto tenor — he hit the appropriate high notes in hits like “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

Anderson will be center stage Saturday night at The Egg in Albany, solo and acoustic. Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $39.50. Students with a valid identification card can get half-price tickets one hour before show time.

“People can hear when I sing my words and they love it, and I actually love singing just in general,” he said in a telephone interview from Woodstock earlier this week.

“I’m there with a guitar, ukulele or a dulcimer, a piano, just singing songs people remember and people love. And new songs, new ideas that I like to throw around.”

The 69-year-old Anderson has been playing in bands since 1962, and found his greatest success as the cosmic conscience in Yes. The British band — with keyboardist Rick Wakeman, guitarist Steve Howe and bassist Chris Squire among the members — became a progressive favorite with mystical, melodious and complex pieces such as “Close to the Edge,” “Gates of Delirium” and “Siberian Khatru.”

Going it alone and away from Yes for now — there have been some hard feelings among members in the group’s ever-changing roster — Anderson believes plenty of Yes compositions are perfect for acoustic treatment.

“They were all written by me acoustically initially, so even when I do strong pieces like ‘Yours is No Disgrace’ or ‘Starship Trooper,’ they still sound pretty cool to me and the audiences love them,” he said.

“I think they fill in the band in the backs of their minds and just enjoy the song itself. Some songs, like ‘Soon,’ or ‘Leaves of Green’ from ‘[Tales from] Topographic Oceans,’ and ‘And You and I’ — they’re very, very beautiful, sort of energy songs, acoustic pieces . . . and it really works for me. I enjoy singing them.”

Anderson knows there’s an audience for Yes’ 1970s catalogs. More fans got into the band during the early 1980s, when “Owner of a Lonely Heart” became one of the outfit’s biggest hits, with the video version in heavy rotation on MTV. Anderson sees young people at his concerts, maybe taking advice from older generations. “Their parents sort of brainwashed them,” he said.

Younger fans might be able to listen to other musicians who have followed the Yes trail. Anderson believes progressive music is alive in 2014.

“There are a lot of young musicians now, even though you don’t hear them so much on the radio, they’re out there playing great music,” he said. “I don’t know if you know Wilco, I saw them in Australia and they’re such an incredible band. And they take a lot of stuff from sort of the wild and crazy side of Yes, plus some intricate music here and there.

“Most young bands, they like to listen to the Beatles, of course, and the Stones and Zappa. I’m working here in Woodstock this week with young kids and they’re studying oldies, great bands of the ’60s, ’70 and ’80s,” Anderson added. “Not much has changed musically since Nirvana, maybe most of it’s sort of pop music what you generally hear. But there’s this wonderful underground of musicians that are out there playing some very, very interesting music. Progressive music never stopped.”

Anderson fans can expect some departures from the Yes songbook. He said he’s writing new music all the time.

“I put an advert on my website about six, seven years ago, ‘Musicians wanted,’ because I couldn’t get the guys in Yes to sort of contact me with the MP3s,” he said.

“I was into this whole ‘let’s work together on the Internet’ and it was ‘No, no, not interested.’ So I put an advert on my website and got all these people from around the world sending me music. They do it every day, and it’s fantastic.”

There has been some contact with the guys from Yes in recent years, not all of it good for Anderson. In 2012, the band installed Jon Davison, the front man for Glass Hammer, as lead singer. Davison sings on the band’s upcoming 21st studio album, “Heaven and Earth.”

Anderson has not been with the group since 2008. He said there’s always a chance he could resume performances with Howe, Squire and other Yes men.

“I’m always open,” he said. “I’ve always said that. It’s up to the other guys. Rick Wakeman, we’re very good friends. We’ve toured together now and again, when he’s not doing his ‘Journey to the Center of Henry the VIII.’ ”

The last bit is a little Anderson humor. Two of Wakeman’s extravagant solo projects from the early ’70s were “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” and “Journey to the Centre of the Earth.” So Anderson, who has his spiritual, ecological and mystical sides, can tell a joke.

And watch a football game, too.

“Me and my wife, Janie, are 49ers freaks,” said Anderson, who now lives in Central California and loves San Francisco football.

“I nearly have a heart attack every time we play, especially these days because we’re so on the edge of winning stuff, then we just miss by three or four feet, 10 yards or whatever. [Quarterback Colin] Kaepernick is great . . . we’re so entrenched in the 49er world.”

 
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