During its less than two years of touring, Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman — aka Yes ARW — makes a habit of mixing songs from Yes’ 70s heyday and from guitarist Rabin’s 12-year tenure with the group. The latter is material the other edition of Yes doesn’t touch, so it makes Rabin happy that hits such as “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Rhythm of Love” — whose performance from the upcoming 50th Anniversary Live at the Apollo package premieres exclusively below — continue to get an airing on stage.
“We do about half and half,” Rabin tells Billboard about the ARW’s division of eras. “We decided we’re going to explore all this stuff, and when I’m playing something I wasn’t involved with recording I will look at (the original version) like it’s a demo and I bring to it what I would have done if I had recorded it as a new piece. So obviously I learn the piece but then I work really hard to express it in my way and change things — obviously with due respect to (the original). And with my stuff which Rick wasn’t involved in, he does the same thing. It makes it quite exciting and things take on a whole new life.”
Rabin calls “Rhythm of Love” “one of the absolutely favorite things for us to do live,” despite the song’s somewhat difficult origins. The track, which hit No. 2 on the Top Rock Songs chart in 1987, hails from Yes’ Big Generator album, the follow-up to 1983’s triple-platinum 90215. Rabin recalls that the song was written under pressure to produce another hit single, which led to an arduous creative process. “I rewrote the verse to it a number of times,” he says. “The first couple of melodies sounded OK when I sang it, but Jon’s a far superior singer and they didn’t suit his voice. Eventually I came up with a melody that sounded right for Jon and he loved singing it, and we put it out with a view of it becoming the single — but,” he adds with a laugh, “‘Love Will Find a Way’ became the first single anyway! But it’s still become a real favorite of ours live.”
Due out Sept. 7 and featuring a dozen songs from the Yes canon, Live at the Apollo comes out while the group is in the midst of its next U.S. tour, which starts Aug. 26 at the Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles. The trio adopted the Yes name shortly after the group’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2017 — legally, but causing some consternation amidst the fan base. But Rabin feels his band, and particularly Anderson, have as much claim to the name as their former bandmates.
“As far as calling this Yes, to be honest I could care less. I never cared what it was called in 1980 (when Rabin joined) and I don’t care now,” Rabin says. “Frankly, as far as having the right to use the name legally and ethically, I think Jon has more right than anyone. He’s the only original living member right now and he’s the singer and one of the prime writers. So from that point of view I think calling this Yes is a pretty honest appraisal. I’m just happy to be part of it, whatever it’s called.”
The question now remains as to whether Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman will release original music. The troupe has reportedly been working on material since as early as 2011, but Rabin — whose prolific film scoring career includes Con Air, Remember the Titans, Get Smart and Grudge Match — did play a song called “Fragile” on Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones’ Jonesy’s Jukebox radio show in Los Angeles. Rabin says that “there is a lot of music that’s been written and stuff that’s been passed backwards and forwards,” but the group appears in no hurry to put anything out at the moment.
“I have no idea whether that’s in the cards or not, but it’s certainly not something I’m against and it’s not something Jon or Rick is against,” Rabin says. “We’ve been offered a number of record deals but we don’t want to commit to that, so we’ve turned them down. Doing a record contract is not something we want to do, and if we record then we’ll record first and then decide what to do with it. There won’t be some announcement that Yes signs to whatever. That’s not something we’re even interested in.”