Solo acoustic blues guitarist Harry Healy greeted the arriving sold-out crowd, consisting primarily of diehard Yes fans, the band of which headliner Jon Anderson was the frontman back in the 70s.
While a decent enough player and singer, Healy was somewhat repetitive with his music, and the banter onstage felt a bit forced and affected. There seems to be something of a saturation of solo artists, both male and female, with acoustic guitars similar to Harry at the moment. A decent but undistinguished opener.
After a fun game of ‘spot the under 40-year-old in the crowd’, it was time for Jon Anderson to take to the stage.
Performing solo, switching between guitar, piano, and dulcimer, tonight was a massive surprise. As much as the music of Yes has compelled and enthralled listeners throughout the past four decades, the band are also held up as one of the reasons why punk, or something like it, had to happen.
People of this train of thought point to the album Tales From Topographic Oceans, a double album with (count them) four songs on it, one per side.
Somewhat thankfully, none of them appeared this evening; instead it was a highly intriguing proposition, seeing and hearing material from throughout Anderson’s career stripped of the over the top bombast that has wildly divided listeners.
Having experienced some major health scares in 2008, tonight saw a man who has totally embraced his second chance at life and all it has to offer.
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Anderson has a distinctive voice, that of a high tenor borderline falsetto, and he deploys it in a highly affecting manner.
Kicking off with an old Yes track, “Yours Is No Disgrace”, it was something of a disarming experience to hear without the massive production and visual pyrotechnics behind it.
Anderson’s banter between songs was worth the price of admission alone. He is a brilliant raconteur, telling the audience stories from throughout his life and times.
He wouldn’t of been out of place if he had a show during the current Melbourne International Comedy Festival, such was the warmth and humour that he depicted in his life journey.
Particularly hilarious were his recollections of Greek keyboard player/composer Vangelis, with whom he has had a long and fruitful musical partnership.
It was a joy to hear the big hit they had together, “I’ll Find My Way Home”, stripped down to acoustic guitar, and that voice, still able to hit those high notes that tug at your heart strings.
“Owner Of A Lonely Heart”, which gave Yes a big hit late in the 80s, was received with rapturous applause from the supportive and adoring audience, one of the most relaxed sold out crowds The Corner has ever seen.
The set list was a really nice overview of Anderson’s entire career, with both his work with Yes and his solo endeavours receiving equal exposure.
It was really something of a journey that Anderson took the audience on. After all he has experienced in his life, both positive and negative, his onstage candour and charm are to be admired.
The encore was truly magnificent, with “State Of Independence”, a song he did with Vangelis, sending shivers down the spine. One of the more eloquent and graceful of love songs, the way in which Anderson sang as if his life depended on it was truly something to behold.
Finally leading the venue through the classic Beatles track “A Day In The Life” on ukulele, this was a joyous and life affirming night of great music.