Jon Anderson of Yes fame is one matter. Jean -Luc Ponty is an entire different matter. Place the two together and what you receive in return – matters the most !
The pair were in Montreal last evening on the heels of their album; ‘Better Late Than Never’. An album which took thirty -odd years to come into fruition. Judging by the live versions of the songs on the album; The Anderson -Ponty Band, arranged with a more fusion based sound combined with Yes and Ponty songs,
is better late than never at all!
Former Yes frontman Jon Anderson along with Ponty, have assembled a band who have no business being this good. Each performer, a headliner on their own. Each musician – masters at their craft and then some. Magical as performers, mystifying as a unit.
Drummer Rayford Griffin, Wally Minko (keys), Keith Jones (Bass) and Jamie Glaser (guitar) placed the doubters in attendance at ease at Theatre St Denis.
Early on, within One in the Rhythm of Hope, A for Aria and Yes favourite Owner of a Lonely Heart – the stage was set as Ponty and Anderson introduced their talents. Ponty, the Jaco Pastorius of the violin, piercing the air and replacing lead guitar with his soul grabbing chords. Anderson, the elfin removed from a fairy tale of years gone by. His unmistakable voice recalling Yes while reaching out to Mr. Cairo.
Listening With Me, Time and a Word (Yes) and Infinite Mirage . Three tunes which bridged the gap. Sustaining the concreteness within the art. If anyone at this point stood out, drummer Griffin was the man. Power and finesse combined with Jazz -induced rhythms. Griffin was the engine. The motor that roared all on all cylinders. All night. Tight.
The Anderson – Ponty Band is a hybrid of creative forces. Combining remakes of Yes songs, Ponty tunes and new collaborations. It is a perfect blend of Prog Rock, Jazz Fusion and – a lot mixed in between. The band channeling Donny and Marie Osmond with a little bit Country and a little bit Rock n Roll.
Soul Eternal perhaps Anderson’s defining song of the evening. Anderson is as artistic as a soul can be. Introducing the song and singing it with enough conviction to steal souls, resuscitate and give them flight. Anderson cut from the same cloth as the boys from Genesis. Schooled in Fairy Tales and channeling it into music and lyrics.
Jig – the Ponty tune, made everyone in attendance give careful consideration that Ponty just may be Quebecoise. The Acadian – French connection up front and personal as Ponty and his violin stole the spotlight and hearts of the crowd. A musical hump day within a show accelerating towards the weekend.
New New World and especially New Country ( Ponty), showcased guitar and songwriting. Elegant, precise and astute. Somehow, within the structure of such a tight group lay the songwriting. A magnifying glass can easily weed through the rough and get to the roots of music.
Hidden between and within songs such as Never Ever (Anderson), Wonderous Stories (Yes) and Long Distance Runaround (Yes), were gems. Solo following solo. Pieces of art painted on top of pieces of art. Picasso on Mozart – Mozart on Picasso. Treat after treat flipped to Pavlov’s dogs musing in the audience. The punters were hungry and promptly fed a juicy piece of steak.
Rayford Griffin laid down an enormous drum solo.
Enormous may be an understatement. Gigant – enormous may be reaching.
The man who has worked with Ponty, Stanley Clarke, Michael Jackson and everyone noteworthy within music, laid down his law. Physics. Gravity. However labelled – it was a lesson in hard -hitting. Rayford’s Pop / Funk / Jazz background shining through in a different way. Not a Rock drum solo a la Bonham. Not a monster solo a la Peart. A solo a la Griffin. Unique, his own and proper for the Anderson – Ponty Band.
Enigmatic Ocean, Part II – calmed the storm brought on by Griffin. Ponty’s salvation if you will. Soothing the nerves and calming the souls saved by Anderson. And You and I ( Yes) rekindled the 1970’s. Allowing Ponty and Keyboardist Minko to rest before battling it out in a beautiful duet / duel. Taunting, stabbing and sparring while teasing, satisfying and provoking. A moment in time between two musicians. A moment in time between artists and a crowd.
The quintessential Yes tune. Ending the show. Anderson prompting the crowd onto their feet and dance with one of the only danceable numbers of the evening. A virgin among whores …
Setting the stage and audience for an earth shattering ovation. Passion on it’s feet, celebrating and recommending a performance as professional as it was. As they come …
Remembering Molecules and Soon finished it off. Sadly for the punters. Thankfully for the band.
Expanding the amount of energy into a relatively short time period, exhausting for Anderson and Ponty. Two wily old veterans making a statement. Tossing their musical gloves into a ring filled with younger opponents and rivals.
Anderson – Ponty. Coming out victorious.