Rychard Carrington reports on The Anderson Wakeman Project 360 - Cambridge Corn Exchange, 9 October 2010

Anderson and Wakeman
Cambridge Corn Exchange, The


Defamiliarize yourself from the history of these two, and you would find it a strange concert. Even by appearance they look an odd pair. Anderson, sixty-six, small and slightly fragile -looking, is wearing neat jeans and trainers, topped by a gently flashy jacket. Despite having suffered from serious ill-health a couple of years ago, he looks in good shape. Wakeman, five years younger, tall, plump, is dressed in scruffy black (including a long cloak, perhaps in acknowledgement of his youthful caped-crusader persona): he looks like a lugubrious regular at a local pub.


Musically, then, we get Anderson's voice - refreshingly still very strong, still distinctlively high - and Wakeman's mellifluous keyboards, stopping short tonight of any flights of real extravagance, but always pleasing. Anderson strummed acoustic guitar on some numbers; otherwise there was no additional accompaniment. Without any rock muscle, they did, to be honest, sound somewhat like Chris de Burgh. The character of Anderson's songwriting became more thoroughly evident than it was in Yes, where grand intstrumental arrangements ultimately carried the sound. Jon certainly doesn't stint on New Age mysticism - the ususal imagery is piled on relentlessly, and when clear meaning emerges out of mystical poesy, the familiar Richard Bach sentiments are delivered without twist or embarassment. As we know, though, Wakeman's personal style is utterly different. A sample contrast: 'I've always been interested in spiritual energy and just what God means'; 'I wee every morning at five - unfortnately I don't wake up until six'. Is Rick lowering the tone, perchance? Jon seems too full of sweetness and light to even notice. Thus we got some unpolished but entertainingly odd banter:

'I've been thinking about the word "tentative".'

'Don't you mean "testicles"?'

'Why isn't it "ninetative"?'

'You should have stuck with "testicles". I've been talking balls all evening.'


It might be good to claim that Rick's earthy wit leavened Jon's spiritual wisdom, but really this was nothing like so clever. What united this peculiar mismatch, and ensured devoted enthusiasm from the almost-full audience, was, simply, Yes. As with many acts who were most popular some decades ago, their performance was a tribute to what Yes has meant to their faithdul followers over the years. Anderson, Wakeman and audience alike were all paying tribute to Yes. In fact every track from the duo's new album, The Living Tree, was performed; yet in character these were thoroughly consistent with the Anderson and Wakeman of Yes. Of course it was the Yes classics that were best received: all the favourites were included. Inevitably it wasn't the same sound without Howe, Squire and Bruford/White, yet the duo versions did provide at least inklings that Fragile, The Yes Album and Close To The Edge were indeed good albums. On the night, Time And A Word, Yours Is No Disgrace and Wondrous Stories perhaps came over best, while an abbreviated Roundabout delivered a successful finale.


Ultimately, though, it's Anderson's New Age persona that sticks most strongly in my mind. He appears to inhabit a mystical bubble of eternal spiritual bliss and philosophical optimism, quite untainted by worldly experience. Even now he does, aged sixty-six (while Rick jokes about his abundance of ex-wives and children). The shining of such generous light closely resembles the fulsome - the advertising flyer describes the tour as playing 'at these very special venues', yet they're just the ordinary ones you would have expected. At times I find this seeming ungroundedness annoying, yet mostly I warm to the innocently, thoroughly benign essence of it all, which in Anderson appears unblinkingly sincere. Like Anderson's voice, it's all so utterly un-rock'n'roll. It's a tribute to the strange and wonderful phenomena of hippiedom and progressive rock that Anderson has been so popular, and with a largely male audience, to boot. And, indeed, Wakeman, like most of your favourite pub regulars, succeeds in a more common aspiration: to be regarded as a 'good old boy'. Let's hear a stately instrument flourish on the old keyboards, then, in tribute to them both.


 Writer: Rychard Carrington