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Anderson and Wakeman: an odd couple

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The eBay effect on ticket prices is well established (the artists may as well charge double what they used to, because if they sell the tickets more affordably, scumbags will hoover them up and sell them on eBay), so thanks to that, we have to pay over thirty quid (face value) now to see a low-key, every-expense-spared stage show at a provincial theatre by artists who are trading on former glories, however amicably. It’s ridiculous, but hey, we paid, so don’t blame the artists. That said, the Cambridge Corn Exchange was disappointingly only two-thirds full for prog rock legends Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman, even if they were performing with just acoustic guitar, piano and a couple of banners draped from the ceiling. Still, the two guys managed to create a fairly intimate and relaxed atmosphere, and it was a pleasant, if hardly life-changing, evening. During an hour or so either side of an interval (necessitated by prostate demands at their age of course, quipped Rick), they played a mixture of some new songs they’ve written, pared-down Yes “classics”, and some slightly indulgent but (in Rick’s case) entertaining solo stuff.

Maybe Anderson and Wakeman once had more in common, but now they appear to be from different planets. Nowadays, Rick is the amusing chap who appears on TV and radio regularly, and whilst his piano playing is beautiful, he appeared to be trying to entertain the audience as much with his humour, and may have succeeded. Meanwhile, Jon seems like a mad old uncle, forgetting the lyrics, completely missing the meaning of Rick’s asides, and you suspect that in life as much as in art, he now just lets everything float over his head. The lyrics of Anderson’s recent material are sub-sixth-form poetry, and no impeccable piano accompaniment can redeem them, but the old stuff was, of course, hard to do badly. That said, it was obvious which of the Yes songs they’d really put the effort in to rearrange for piano, acoustic guitar and voice – Awaken was worth the price of admission for me – because when they just ran through a piece, it showed. And they needed some quality control: a cod-reggae version of Time and a Word might have sounded like it was worth a try, but should probably have been filed under “er, perhaps not”. I wouldn’t class this gig as a bad one, but it’s really just a curiosity for the Yes fans.

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