If Jon Anderson really believes Yes fans feel cheated that the band is going about their business in his absence then it’s high time the voice of so many outstanding prog rock records experiences a harsh but necessary reality check.
Those of us who follow classic rock would rarely see a live show if we boycotted those acts ploughing merrily on in the absence of their most celebrated singer or guitarist. And unlike Anderson we accept that times change. Line-ups change. Music changes.
But of course the very best bands ensure that while familiar faces come and go the music really doesn’t differ too much from era to era. It certainly helps if the vocalist continues to be the one constant but it’s by no means a necessity.
Take the Ronnie James Dio fronted Sabbath. Few doubted Tony Iommi would be in a position to take the self-styled kings of heavy metal forward in the absence of their iconic frontman Ozzy Osbourne. But Dio ensured the Sabbs recorded some of their best material post-Osbourne and it is that line-up which prevails today, playing killer shows and producing relevant new music.
Of course more pertinent to Yes and their slightly awkward situation is Journey. Oh how fans and critics alike ridiculed Neal Schon’s decision to hire a karaoke singer from the Phillipines to follow in Jeff Scott Soto’s footsteps and yet it proved to be masterstroke. JSS, brilliant as he is, does not, as a rule, sound like the man behind the mic on the majority of Journey’s biggest hits.
But his successor, the pocket rocket Arnel Pineda, is a voice double for Steve Perry. Shut your eyes at a Journey gig these days and it’s eerie just how much the band sound like the classic late 70s/early 80s line-up. Ask any one of the throng who hung on every note Pineda belted out at Download this summer whether they felt cheated and the answer would always be a resounding ‘no’.
Anderson’s argument that a Yes without him at the helm is not respectful to fans may be from the heart but it simply doesn’t ring true. And to suggest certain fans expect him to be fronting the band when they pay the 30 or 40 quid for a ticket is simply ludicrous. Rock fans – and Yes fans in particular – know their stuff and it’s been common knowledge for many months that the latest incarnation of their favourite band does not include Anderson.
In reality – and this is in no way disrespectful to one of the finest singers of his generation – very few punters will care two hoots whether Jon Anderson, Ian Anderson or even Benny Andersson is fronting Yes next month just as long as the band deliver all the hits as professionally and perfectly as possible. That might be tough to take for the man synonymous with the prog rock giants’ classic (1969-1980) period but it’s the truth.
We’d all love to watch our favourite line-ups belt out the big tunes forever more but rock music is rarely a fairytale. And in the majority of cases we’d rather see and hear our heroes in action in some way, shape or form than not at all.