Four decades after pioneering the British art-school genre known as progressive rock, the band that bears the name Yes still lumbers on, albeit with just one member from its '70s heyday. But, as fate would have it, another group is currently on the road featuring three of the band's most celebrated members.
Vocalist Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman from the classic Yes lineup recently joined forces with Trevor Rabin — the guitarist from the band's more pop-oriented '80s era — to fulfill their long-held desire to work together outside the structure of their former band. Last month, the group embarked on its first U.S. tour as Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman (ARW, for short).
The three musicians got together in August for rehearsals, and soon added bassist Lee Pomeroy and drummer Lou Molino to round out the lineup. "We're going to be doing Yes classics," Anderson says. "That's part of who we are. We're not doing anything other than retaining our musical history and putting it out there as a tour."
Even so, the singer doesn't entirely rule out the possibility of adding some non-Yes music to the repertoire at some point. "I'd like to hear Trevor do one of his pieces of music from a movie," he says, "and I'd like to hear Rick do some new compositions."
In fact, though the details haven't been shared fully — "I've got the lyrics for five or six songs in front of me," Anderson teases — the group's plans already extend three years into the future.
In the meantime, though, ARW's focus will still fall squarely on presenting the music most associated with each of the former Yes musicians. The live set, says Anderson, will include selections from Yes' Trevor Rabin years — highlighted by 90125's "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and songs from 1994's Talk — along with favorites from the group's 1970s hit records The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge.
While the musical arrangements on Yes' 1973 live album Yessongs stayed quite close to their studio counterparts, ARW promises to take the well-known material in some different directions.
"It doesn't seem logical to carbon copy the songs anymore," says Anderson. "Because it's 40 years later ... 50 years later in some cases." He notes that some long-established bands play their songs exactly the same way they always have. "I'm thinking, 'Well, that's OK, but it's not what I want to do.' The song always comes through in the end, no matter how you surround it musically."
At age 62, South African-born guitarist Trevor Rabin is the youngest member of ARW's core group. Anderson is 71; Wakeman is 67. Both Anderson and Wakeman have had serious health issues in the past. A severe asthma attack in 2008 eventually led to Anderson's departure from Yes. Wakeman has survived three heart attacks and numerous other health problems stemming from his rock 'n' roll lifestyle.
The two musicians are much healthier now. Wakeman's been sober since 1985, and they're both excited about touring the States, which will be followed by more European dates and a tour of the Far East.
"It's going to be exciting on many levels," Anderson believes. "Life is a challenge. I don't want to stop doing challenges. I'll be 103, and I'll stop then."