Power of yes
Jon Anderson, one of rock’s most distinctive vocalists, is best known as “The Voice of Yes.” The former lead singer and creative force of the legendary progressive rock band, Anderson in recent years has been delighting audiences around the world as a solo artist.
Making his Maui debut Friday in the McCoy Studio Theater, Anderson said he’s thrilled to be finally performing on the island he loves.
“My wife and I got married in Maui,” he explains. “I’m very excited. I’ve always wanted to play there, and I love doing my solo shows.
“I got pretty sick on the last Yes tour 10 years ago, and after a few months, I thought maybe I should do a solo show. I went onstage and sang the songs I wrote for Yes, virtually the same way I wrote them. People all over the world enjoyed the shows. I was lucky I had so many fans everywhere.”
“Some performers are great entertainers, musicians or storytellers, but rarely all three combined,” noted a CalCoastNews review. “Jon Anderson is an exception. Somehow Anderson managed to recreate the vibrant musical complexity of Yes songs with just his voice and guitar, a truly remarkable feat.”
“I talk about the songs and I tell stories, and that’s part of the fun,” Anderson continues. “There’s something really magical for me because I can hear myself singing. With a band, you never know if you can hear yourself.”
Presenting a spectrum of his music from Yes favorites to his solo work, he also mixes in a couple of covers, including the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”
“We used to do ‘Every Little Thing’ by the Beatles, and two years ago, somebody said, ‘Why don’t you do more Beatles’ songs?’ So I started doing ‘A Day in the Life’ on ukulele. I used to go every year to Kauai, and I bought a ukulele there for $25. I still play it, and it’s still in tune.”
The seeds of Yes were sown in 1968. “I was working in a bar above the Marquee Club, the famous rock ‘n’ roll club,” Anderson explains. “I met Chris (Squire) in the bar, and we started rehearsing. People like Pete Townshend and Jimi Hendrix would wander in. I would say hello, and the next minute, I was touring with them with Yes.
“Our first major tour was with The Who, and Rod Stewart and the Faces and Joe Cocker were on the bill, and we opened. We did about 10 songs together around England, and Pete Townshend said, ‘I think you have a great future; you’re a great band.’ All I could think was: Pete Townshend is talking to me.”
Yes was known for extended songs, mystical lyrics, electrifying musicianship, elaborate staging and album art. Anderson was the primary composer of some of their most ambitious compositions, including “Close to the Edge” and “Gates of Delirium.”
“I took ‘Gates of Delirium’ to the band, and I played it on piano,” he recalls. “It must have sounded terrible because I could hardly play, but they loved it. I’d see the idea of the structure (of a song). We were lucky, because in those days, bands would play their music and do a lot of soloing; whereas, we would do long pieces of music that were very structured like, ‘Close to the Edge,’ ‘And You and I,’ ‘Gates of Delirium.’ We created a style of music that was unique, and we were so grateful that the fans enjoyed it.”
“Close to the Edge,” released in 1972, comprised only three songs, including “Siberian Khatru,” a rock adaptation of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” and the 19-minute title track, which mixed classical, psychedelic rock, pop and jazz elements. Time magazine hailed it as: “The most provocative album of the year.”
The double album, “Tales from Topographic Oceans,” which featured four epic, 20-minute-plus songs, was inspired by Indian mystic Paramahansa Yogananda.
“A guy who worked with King Crimson gave me the book, ‘Autobiography of a Yogi,’ ” Anderson explains. “It spun my head around. It made me wake up.”
The acclaimed singer’s emphasis on mystical elements in the band’s music was initially inspired by meeting a spiritual teacher from Oahu.
“It’s bizarre because most of it came from Hawaii,” he notes. “I was very lucky to meet a lovely lady from Honolulu, who was known as the Divine Mother. I was able to sit with her in Los Angeles. I wasn’t really interested in meeting gurus, and I didn’t feel close to any godlike energy, until I met this lady from Honolulu. The first thing she said to me was, ‘You know, Jon, God is free,’ and this light went on in my head. She taught me meditation, and I’ve been loyal to that energy ever since. It’s a wonderful connection to the divine. I’ve always written about it in a searching way. ‘Close to the Edge’ was close to the edge of realization.”
So what was it like for him being in a band with massive international appeal?
“It was a strange feeling,” he says. “Everybody treats it differently. A couple of guys in the band were happy to be rock stars. I just wanted to work more, and I was interested in learning more about new styles of music and how world music was important. And in the ’80s, we had this incredibly big album, ‘90125.’ We toured the world, and we were number one. Right at the beginning of that tour, I went to see the movie, ‘Spinal Tap,’ and that changed my whole perception of what we were doing. You can’t take it seriously – you can’t be serious about being a rock star -you just enjoy it and put on a good show.”
Anderson recently toured with his old Yes bandmate, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, as a duo, to rave reviews. “Rick has a joke he likes to tell,” Anderson reveals. “Jon Anderson is the only guy he knows trying to save this planet, while living on another one.”
A host of award-winning musicians arrive on our island to open the multiday Maui Classical Music Festival on Saturday at the Makawao Union Church.
Violinist Arnaud Sussmann has won raves for his “spellbinding” playing. A review of the Boston Trio advised: “Drop everything and go hear them.” And, describing the playing of Nancy Ambrose King, Double Reed magazine declared: “All oboists have a new level for which to strive.”
Other musicians performing at the 33rd annual festival include cellist Jacob Braun; violinist Irina Muresanu; former Kronos Quartet cellist, Jennifer Culp; and violist Yizhak Schotten and his wife, pianist Katherine Collier.
“A Night in Vienna” at 7 p.m. Saturday will feature works by Mozart, Brahms, Haydn and Beethoven.
The festival moves to Makena’s Keawala’i Congregational Church at 7 p.m. Monday for a “Romantic Splendor” concert, with music by St. Saens, Dohnanyi and Dvorak.
The musicians travel to Hana’s Wananalua Church at 7 p.m. Wednesday to perform works by Mozart and Dohnanyi.
The festival returns to the Makena church for a “Grace, Grandeur and Fireworks” concert at 7 p.m. May 9, featuring music by Leclair, Mozart, Shostakovich and Arensky.
A trio of musicians will also travel to Lanai to play at 3:30 p.m. May 10 at the Four Seasons’ Lodge at Koele.
* The Maui Classical Music Festival takes the stage Saturday through May 10. Suggested donation for individual Maui concerts is $25 for adults and $10 for students. Visit www.mauiclassicalmusicfestival.org.
Celebrating their annual Lei Day concert tradition on Maui, the Brothers Cazimero return to the Castle Theater at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Playing acoustic bass and 12-string guitar, Robert and Roland Cazimero have made an indelible imprint on the face of contemporary Hawaiian music. Over the course of four decades, the brothers have released around 40 albums and have won numerous Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.
Robert was just nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year, Favorite Entertainer of the Year and Hawaiian Language Performance for his wonderful solo album, “Hula 2.”
For the Lei Day concert, Robert and Roland, accompanied by hula dancers, will offer a full spectrum of their song catalog.
* The Brothers Cazimero play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Castle Theater. Tickets are $12, $28 and $37, and half price for kids 12 and younger (plus applicable fees). Call 242-7469.
* The Maui Jazz Society will kick off its annual Front Street Jazz and Blues Walk on Friday and Saturday in Lahaina.
This scholarship fundraiser celebrates America’s original musical art forms: jazz and blues. Headliners include Melveen Leed, Mel Martin, Rock Hendricks, Willie K, Fulton Tashombe, and the RE Metoyer Blues, Rock & Soul Revue. Music will be presented at six venues; entry is free, except when listed.
Friday’s schedule: Melveen Leed, 6:30 to 9 p.m., Pioneer Inn. The R.E. Metoyer’s Blues, Rock & Soul Revue, 8 to 10:30 p.m., Hard Rock Cafe. Le Gruv, 8 to 10:30 p.m., Longhi’s. Benoit JazzWorks, 2 to 4:30 p.m.; The Houseshakers, 7:30 to 10 p.m. at Captain Jack’s Island Grill. Willie K, 8 to 10 p.m., Kimo’s ($10 cover).
Saturday’s schedule: Gene Argel, Shiro Mori and Paul Marchetti, 2 to 4:30 p.m., Captain Jack’s Island Grill. The Chris Galfis Soul Jazz Trio, 4 to 6:30 p.m., Hard Rock Cafe. Ellen Bellerose, Sam Ahia and Doug White, 4:30 to 7 p.m., Longhi’s. Ahia, 8 to 10 p.m., Kimo’s. Special jazz and blues party featuring Mel Martin, Rock Hendricks, and Fulton Tashombe (with drummer Paul Marchetti and Mick Fleetwood Band bassist Lenny Castellanos), 7 to 10 p.m., Royal Lahaina Resort ($20 suggested donation).
The resort is offering a special “Room & Show” package that includes a one-night stay and two tickets to the show for $179, plus tax. Call 661-3611.
* Maui’s hip soul/funksters the Freeradicals Projekt will play a “Modern Groove” night Friday at the Maui Tropical Plantation’s Millhouse in Waikapu. The evening includes Marasco, reggae artist Mishka, singer Gretchen Rhodes and Lawai’a. Doors open at 8 p.m.; music goes from 8:30 to midnight. Cost is $15 at the door. Call 243-9618 for details.