Jon Anderson with the Paul Green School of Rock

Jon Anderson's Children of Light

Jon Anderson & the Paul Green School of Rock

Highline Ballroom - New York, NY

First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2008, Volume 15, #3

Written by Matt Parish

Photos by Arnold Brower

Sun March 16, 2008, 05:00 PM CDT

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Emmett Butler

Paul Green and Kevin Pendergrast

On March 10, Yes’ Jon Anderson joined the Paul Green School of Rock All Stars at New York City’s Highline Ballroom for what proved to be a truly unique event. Watching Anderson as he interacted in such a special and close setting with a group that was composed of kids made the show a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And, I can’t wait to do it again....

In 1998, Paul Green established a school that was designed to teach young musicians about the hard work and discipline that are necessary for becoming successful artists. The difference in Green’s methodology, however, is that the students’ recitals take the form of rock concerts, which allows them to reap the ultimate reward of playing music as a unit in a live setting. If there were questions about how well his approach works, they immediately were answered by the entourage that took the stage at the Highline Ballroom. Right from the opening notes of Siberian Khatru — a track from Yes’ legendary outing Close to the Edge — it was apparent that the assembled crowd was indeed in for a real treat.

The decision to perform the music of Yes was one that easily could have backfired. The intricate chord changes, complex song arrangements, and machine-gun-fire speed at which the notes are supposed to be played collectively present a daunting hurdle even for the most seasoned player. With Anderson on board as the preacher, teacher, director, and conductor, this statement of braggadocio soon became a well-schooled confidence that propelled these students throughout their stellar performance.

When Green and Anderson stepped onto the stage, the feeling of love and adoration that they had developed for their students swept through the room. Of course, these levels of admiration and respect were returned ten-fold from the stars-in-the-making. The quantity and quality of the smiles of everyone who was involved in the project certainly served as testaments to Anderson’s comforting presence as well as his supportive, parental guidance.

Ian Barr, Gina Gleason, Rachel Rubinsky, and Jon Anderson

Truth be told, all of the kids were marvelous, and there were many highlights that filled this wonderful show. On Siberian Khatru, Gina Gleason — a 15-year-old, dynamo guitarist and vocalist from the Philadelphia branch of the school — literally shredded her way through the P.A. system to reach the "awe’d-iance." Ramsey Modiri and Ronnie Disimone’s exceptional instrumental duet on the Fragile classic Mood for a Day was just one prime example of the astounding performances that left a lasting impression. The two-hour-plus, 14-song set included many favorites from Yes’ catalogue, such as Roundabout, Your Move/All Good People, and Owner of a Lonely Heart. The ensemble also delivered a few surprising selections like The Beatles’ Every Little Thing and Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Long Time Gone. The full slate of material showcased the remarkable talents of the 23 boys and five girls who appeared on this remarkable tour.

Jon Anderson - Highline Ballroom

There were plenty of other wondrous moments, too. During And You And I, which came near the end of the show, for example, the musicians were lumbering with the song’s complex timing. Anderson quite literally helped to move the performance along by conducting the ensemble not only with his mind but also with his entire body. Elsewhere, as the band ran through Magnification, Anderson discovered that he had misplaced the lyrics, but all he needed to do for help was to look to his left where 16-year-old guitarist/vocalist Natalie Butts stood. She mouthed the words to him just when he needed them. These kinds of kindred and tribal techniques of support were evident throughout the evening.

As the various individual solos took place, Anderson frequently stood back, freely giving up the spotlight to the featured performer. On the few occasions, when the audience unintentionally fell short with its applause, Anderson would sneak up behind the soloist and enthusiastically coach the crowd until it launched into a more appreciative frenzy. This paternal gesture had the touching, two-fold effect of bettering the performance and enhancing the crowd’s participation and experience.

During the after-show party, as I listened to him speak with fans, Anderson remained a smiling, jovial figure, who graciously posed for photos and signed autographs. Having been a fan of Yes for more than 35 years, I felt obligated to thank Paul Green and his invaluable assistant Tina Kerekes personally for inviting my family to witness this remarkable, emotional show. In an ironic and karmic twist, as I was away from the action, gathering our belongings, my 15-year-old son had the opportunity to meet Anderson before he said his final goodbyes to the crowd.

It’s all right, though. In keeping with the glorious familial theme of the night, it really was all about the kids....

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Copyright © 2008 The Music Box