Singer Jon Anderson, keyboardist Rick Wakeman and guitarist Trevor Rabin are going back to the future. That's because they're revisiting a storied history that's still solidly part of the present. The three are participating in a Yes reunion of sorts—one that finds them working again for the first time in 20 years. Their tour, with bassist Lee Pomeroy and drummer Louis Molino III in tow, began in early October and will keep them on the road through the spring of 2017.
Wakeman says the seeds for the project were planted nearly a dozen years ago, in 2005 to be precise. He and Anderson had just completed one phase of a tour with the other members of Yes, but when Anderson became ill and required rest, the band's other members—guitarist Steve Howe, their late bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White—insisted on continuing with a replacement singer. "I told them that I didn't want to carry on without Jon," Wakeman says. "I felt that Jon was an integral part of that band. So I said, no, I won't do that. They went off and did their thing, which was fine. But once Jon got his health back, we went out and did a duo album called The Living Tree [Voiceprint, 2010], and then two tours in England and one in America."
Inevitably, that pairing inspired thoughts about further possibilities, including asking Rabin, a member of Yes from 1982 until 1995, to join the fold. "The major difficulty was that Trevor was unbelievably busy and Jon's unbelievably busy and I'm unbelievably busy," Wakeman says. "So we realized we'd have to clear the decks in order to find the time to do this. The catalyst came when Chris Squire died and our own mortality hit everybody. We said, 'If we don't do this now, who knows when we'll get the chance to do it.'"
Naturally, it's no surprise that each musician still cherishes the time spent in employment of the mothership. "A friend of mine sent me a link of Yes doing a show in London and I sent it to my kids right away," Anderson says. "I told them, 'This is me when I was in a band as a teenager and I was so stoned.' I was so cool, man! The end of the '60s was such an extraordinary time."
Naturally, ARW performances find them tapping into the Yes catalog. "We play around within those songs to add some bits and pieces to make them sound really fresh," Wakeman says. "That idea seems to be working really, really well."
Of course, there is a version of the band that's still working on the road, and while Howe and White are committed to performing under the Yes banner, Wakeman says that ARW has a claim to the music as well, "We believe that our contributions to Yes' music haven't come to an end. That's one reason why we're doing this."
Anderson concurs. "I saw this link that someone sent me from 1971 where we talked about being in the band. Steve had just joined and [drummer] Bill [Bruford] was talking about how Yes is a school. You go in there, you learn the music, and that's what Yes is. A school of music. So me and Rick and Trevor started talking." ARW, the two agree, offers an opportunity to bring the Yes trajectory full circle.
"This is definitely not a battle of the bands," Wakeman replies when asked about competing with Howe and White performing under the Yes banner. "Whatever Steve and Alan want to do is absolutely fine, and we wish them well. But it's far removed from what we're doing." Wakeman firmly believes that, in effect, once you're a Yes man, you're a Yes man forever. "Yes music is ingrained in us. It always will be."