red lights


Owner of a solo heart

Jon Anderson
House of Blues
Chicago, IL
Nov. 23, 2005
Jon Anderson Jon Anderson

Story and Photos By Andy Argyrakis

Upon entrance at the House of Blues for Jon Anderson's SOLO Work in Progress- Tour of the Universe, attendees all shared one point of commonality. They were fascinated by- if not totally obsessed with- the super group Yes, the always evolutionary entity that first found fame in the early 70s thanks to a combination of progressive and art rock. Like Genesis, King Crimson and even Rush to a certain degree, followers of that pack are extremely dedicated and will flock whenever one or all of the members are performing or hear even a sliver of song snippets from these revered rockers. But Anderson did more than just dabble in devotion to those ever so holy Yes years, mixing in an ample amount of the group's essentials with some solo renderings and rarities barely, if ever, performed in America.

The setting was simple and stripped down, much less in fact than the band's usual arena or large theatre shows. The usually "standing room only" venue resorted to assigned seating in the front half of the floor, hinting at a more subdued event with bare bones production. Aside from a screen projecting visual sceneries and a mostly acoustic Anderson (who only plugged in for one quick keyboard set and occasionally had piped in loops or accompaniment) it was an intimate VH1 styled "Storytellers" session packed with nearly two dozen songs. From the get go he set out to please, settling extremely early into the readily familiar "Long Distance Runaround" and dusting off the deeper cut "Yours Is No Disgrace."

The first half also saw him turn to other bodies of work such as his solo cannon for "You Lift Me Up." During this selection, Anderson relied heavily on a pre-recorded reggae beat, which despite sounding artificial, brought the chilled out chord strums to more vibrant life. Another key area of his career came from the albums he made with acclaimed instrumentalist Vangelis, which reached a mainstream peak the States via "State of Independence" (once covered by Donna Summer). Though lacking the disco dance grind in this setting, Anderson allowed room for some groove while still remaining in character. Additional attention came from that collaboration with "I'll Find My Way Home," a new aged styled track examining religious tolerance. It paved the way perfectly for the spiritually tinted "This Is," which featured a taped choir to add a gospel tint. Despite the effect coming off as cheesy, the previously undisclosed track deserved to be heard, as did its message of hope in times of distress.

Anderson also dabbled with the keyboard for a handful of old timers that came across so personal he could've very well been in the audience's living rooms. Paring the solo delicacy of "Set Sail" with the Yes staple "Close To the Edge" was intriguing, while "The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)" came across as downright chilling. Even though it was clearly the commercial apex of his career, "Owner of a Lonely Heart" was the one track that simply didn't work in this environment, trading it its slick synth-pop for an abridged and unplugged version. But come the encore "Your Move" (part of the unforgettable "I've Seen All Good People" suite) all the lighters came out and the otherwise quiet and attentive crowd let loose like a packed karaoke bar. Paired with an acapella finale of "O'er," it made for an introspective and enlightening send-off die-hards will be desperate to see again. Thankfully they'll have their chance as the tour just hit DVD on the appropriately titled Tour of the Universe.

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