Yes a fave in Anderson's varied lineup
By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
By Derek Paiva
Jon Anderson is still all about radiating the positive energy.
His soaring choir-boy-calling-occupants- of-interplanetary-craft vocalese has steered the pioneering prog-rock behemoth Yes through 24 albums over 40 years. And his headlong dives into trippy spiritual lyricism and very real belief in angels, nature spirits and fairy kingdoms have only strengthened his appeal with Yes fans.
On leave from Yes since 2004, Anderson began his solo tour, "Work in Progress: Tour of the Universe" last year. He'll bring the acoustic show — rife with Yes faves and obscurities like "Owner of a Lonely Heart," "Your Move," "Wondrous Stories" and "Nous Sommes Du Soleil" — to the Hawai'i Theatre on Sunday.
In a sweet-natured voice that gave much of what he said the soothing, slightly narcoleptic appeal of a cool bedtime story, Anderson answered Five Questions about the business of Yes, finding his third eye and why he never gets the blues.
Q. The Hawai'i Theatre show is billed as Jon Anderson: solo and acoustic. But it's not exactly you on stage with an acoustic guitar doing "Roundabout," is it?
A. "No, no, no. Basically, I use a MIDI guitar, which enables me to have a rhythm section and a string section or any kind of sound I want to make. ... I explain (this) to the audience. So in a way, it's like a workshop. I go through songs that they know from Yes, songs from Jon and Vangelis and some new songs. And I'm able to create, with just one guitar, this wonderful ambient sound of all different colors. I have a screen with computerized visual projections, which are projected through the MIDI as well." ... I play and sing at the piano. And then I play an acoustic set. So it's quite a varied evening."
Q. How did you select works for this tour? Did you aim for a theme?
A. "No, just the ones I could play. (Laughs.) And the ones I remembered. I'd sort of sit back and ... remember 'Yours Is No Disgrace' — which is a very early Yes song — and bring it to the table. The chords were very simple. And I just played it again and thought it was pretty cool. There's 'Long Distance Runaround.' These are songs that I wrote (that were) very, very simple. But when (Yes) performed them it became very musically complicated and very hip, if you'd like, for the time.
"When I perform them for the audience (now) it actually becomes a sing-along because everywhere I go people just start singing them. It's a lot of fun. ... I just talk to the audience like they're in my front room. ... Wherever I've been, no matter the theater or town, I get into talking about my exciting spiritual awakening, which was in Hawai'i."
Q. You've said that in the '80s, "a lovely little old lady from Hawai'i" ignited your third eye. What's a third eye and why would I want to ignite it?
A. "Well, the pineal gland is in our forehead, and it's connected to the pituitary gland. It's dormant in most people because we've never been taught over the years to wake it up.
"I started to try and meditate and it was so difficult to get that quiet in the mind. Then I read this book called 'The Finding of the Third Eye.' It (posited) the idea that (if) in this lifetime you could awaken that third eye to the consciousness of God, gosh, that would be an amazing event in your life.
"I was in L.A. (in 1987) and this friend kept bringing up that ... this lady was coming from Honolulu that I had to meet (because) she was the Divine Mother. ... I went to this little house near the L.A. airport, walked into this room and this little old lady — very much like my mum — was sitting there all dressed in white with a lei around her.
"She (asked me) to close my eyes and did a mantra, and I started to feel calmness. And I went into this beautiful space that I probably couldn't have (gone) by myself. I could still hear birds and cars outside, but I was in this wonderful place of oneness or completeness.
"Fifteen minutes later we came out of it. ... And she said, 'Now, you've gotta practice to get back there.' ... And that's what it is. It's a constant practice to get into that place of oneness with the divine. From then on it's a learning experience. ... Over the years, I've gone through this constant learning and growing, meditating every day. And I'm so thankful to her for being able to help."
Q: Your music is very spiritual, very positive. But does even Jon Anderson get the blues?
A: "No, that's the funny thing. Years ago, Vangelis used to say, 'You could do a great blues album.' I said, 'Yeah, but honestly, I haven't got the blues.'
"Generally (I've) always been the seeker, trying to find the path. I think it was because of the books that I was reading at the beginning of the '70s when Yes started to become famous. ... Hermann Hesse's 'The Journey to the East' and 'Siddhartha' and various books that were sort of about enlightenment. And I think it just becomes natural to want to sing about what you're learning about."
Q. Are you somewhat averse to getting back together with Yes after this solo tour?
A. "Well, in some ways, it really is in the back of my mind. I'm going to work with (Yes keyboardist) Rick Wakeman in July. We're actually doing about 20 shows (as a) duo in the U.K. in October. Maybe next year, we'll be able to think about doing some music for the 40th anniversary (of Yes) in 2008.
"There's a lot of fans who want to hear the band perform again. And there's no reason why we shouldn't. ... It could be really cool to do it. ... We'll see what happens."
Reach Derek Paiva at firstname.lastname@example.org.