LYNN — In his prime, as well as that of the band he fronted, Jon Anderson always seemed to give Yes a speck of puckishness that balanced off the supremely technical, whiz-bang virtuosity of his colleagues.
This was evident Friday night at City Hall when Anderson came by to both promote his new album — “1000 Hands” — and take us down a long and winding memory lane of Yes chestnuts.
He melded the two extremes, well, extremely well. The new material is, by and large, very nice and very accessible. The Yes songs he chose to dust off were also very nice and very accessible.
That isn’t something you could always say about the mothership. The new album is definitely worth a listen, or two, or three.
Anderson didn’t seem too interested in being more progressive-than-thou Friday. He did seem interested in putting on a good show, and leaving fans with some new tunes to learn to hum. And in that, he succeeded.
For a 74-year-old guy whose upper registers could rival the great Frankie Valli, Anderson was in fine form. There was nary a flat note. And his band was tremendous, with a couple of picky exceptions we’ll get to later.
Opening with the spacy instrumental “Ocean Song,” Anderson strode onto the stage and segued into “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” which was Yes’ official comeback song in the mid-1980s. From there, Anderson and the band moved into “Yours Is No Disgrace,” with those patented Yes harmonies done tightly and cleanly by all.
From there, Anderson started doing a little exploring. There was “Ramalama,” from the new album — a sprightly tune that kind of fits Anderson’s spritely countenance (he is only 5 feet, 5 inches, with a reedy voice). “State of Independence,” a song he recorded in 1980 with Vangelis, was also a winner as well.
After one more song from the new album (“Makes Me Happy),” Anderson did “Your Move (I’ve Seen All Good People)” and it appeared as if the guitarist had a little trouble with the beginning.
No matter. Anderson himself had no trouble hitting those soaring high notes, and the song ended up a big hit.
After a brief intermission, Anderson was back with some lesser-known material, some from the album and some of them deeper cuts. One of the highlights was the Yes song “Sweet Dreams,” and another was “First Born Leaders,” which goes back to 2010 sessions with the late Yes bassist Chris Squire, but appears on the new album.
Yes didn’t do a lot of covers, but one of the ones they did, Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” was very memorable — as it was in this show too.
Of course, no show associated with either Anderson or Yes would be complete without the two old war horses “Starship Trooper” and “Roundabout.” The former is still amazing. The long coda is kind of a rock version of Ravel’s “Bolero” in the way it begins with a simple chord progression and builds to its dramatic, pulsating conclusion with the pedal base practically going through the floor. It’s not quite the same without Yes original Steve Howe’s guitar, but then again, what is? With all the other stuff going on, I always considered it mostly Howe’s song.
“Roundabout” is “Roundabout,” a tour de force of different styles and sounds. Anderson changed the middle eight rhythmically and in texture, but it worked.
Opening up was Johnny A. (Antonopoulos), a local legend whose all-too-brief set was marred by the rudeness of fans who obviously had only come to see Anderson, and who never shut up for a second while he played.
Too bad for them. Their loss.
Johnny stuck to instrumentals, all of them harkening back to British Invasion songs from the 60s, but they weren’t the ones you usually hear. Especially impressive were “Play With Fire,” an underrated Rolling Stones song from 1965, a cool take on the Hollies’ “Bus Stop,” a medley of very difficult Beatles songs, including “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” and Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.”