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RED BANK: YES MEN RETURN, BUT NOT AS YES

rick_wakeman-piano-4261250Longtime Yes keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman joins that classic band’s original vocalist Jon Anderson and 80s-era guitarist Trevor Rabin at the Count Basie.

Is it Yes? Actually, no… but then again maybe.

In a week when Yes was nominated (for the third time) for a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Red Bank area fans can get a major reminder of what made that prog-rock institution so special when three of its celebrated veterans take the stage of the Count Basie Theatre Wednesday night.

Billed as “An Evening of Yes Music and More,” the 8 p.m. performance features ARW — a touring supergroup fronted by the British band’s original vocalist Jon Anderson, its MTV-era guitarist Trevor Rabin, and synth virtuoso Rick Wakeman, whose Thor-like locks and flowing robes helped define that 1970s interlude when the makers of albums like Fragile and Close to the Edge became one of the biggest arena-size concert acts in the business.

Yes as an entity is still out there on the road, but like so many other acts of the classic-rock era — maybe even more so than most — the band became a brand: a revolving-door lineup that saw many a skilled musician join, quit, and in several cases re-join (then re-quit). Anderson, whose angelic choirboy tenor stamped the band’s sound from its 1968 origins through to its biggest FM-radio signatures (“All Good People,” “Roundabout”) and video-era comebacks (“Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “Leave It”) had already left the fold once before — replaced, for one album only, by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, aka the Buggles (“Video Killed the Radio Star”) — when health issues forced him off the road in 2008, to be replaced by the singer from a Yes cover band.

Wakeman replaced once-and-future Yes keyboard man Tony Kaye in 1971 for the band’s prime-time run, leaving and re-joining “on several occasions” in between high-profile solo projects like Journey to the Centre of the Earth (his son Oliver even did a tour of duty with the band from 2008-2011). The South African guitarist-vocalist Rabin had already established his own career before a team-up with the late charter-member bass player Chris Squire and best-remembered guitarist Steve Howe morphed into a surprisingly successful attempt to position Yes within the commercial landscape occupied by the Phil Collins-fronted Genesis, and Asia (co-starring Howe and Downes).

The rights to the Yes name for many years centered on Squire, which led at times to “dueling” claims on the band’s rich legacy — as well as head-scratchers like “Anderson, Wakeman, Bruford and Howe;” essentially everyone from the most fondly remembered lineup except Squire.

It gets crazier too, courtesy of the Union album and tour that attempted to fold in most if not all of the band’s former membership, plus the current post-Squire edition of Yes that features Howe, Downes, Alan White (the band’s drummer of 40-plus years), veteran session player Billy Sherwood, and what can best be described as “some guy” on vocals. You’ll need a wall of photos and newspaper clippings straight out of some police-procedural drama to make sense of it all — or simply go here to track the comings and goings of the various personnel.

Getting back to ARW: the group is described as having had its roots in that 1990 Union project, apparently the first and last time that these three particular Yes men toured together prior to this year. Picking up from that project’s retrospective feel, the headlining trio promise to touch upon all of their former band’s milestones between 1969 and the early 1990s — with hints of previewing some new material that the musicians have been composing and recording in between theater-scale gigs on their coast-to-coast American tour.

Take it here to reserve tix ($69 – $125) — and here for details on avaialble VIP options that range from $205 ( for a “Silver Hot Seat Package”) to a positively cosmic $750 (for a “Front Row Meet and Greet Package”). Then take it here for more info on other upcoming events at the Basie, including the Mavericks (Tuesday night, October 25), David Cassidy (10/27), two shows by Tracy Morgan (10/28), the return of Dead On Live (10/29), Michael Feinstein (10/30), and Steve Miller (11/1).

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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