Jon Anderson – Tour of the Universe DVD Review

By Lorraine Kay

JULY 2005 – Released simultaneously with the CD single “State of Independence” on July 11th 2005, the debut solo DVD from legendary “YES” lead singer and songwriter, Jon Anderson, “Tour of the Universe” is a musical passage through life, time and the world beyond, featuring many new songs as well as classic hits from his work with YES and collaborations with VANGELIS. 

Year after year, Anderson’s legacy as one of the most prolific songwriters and performers of our time continues and his creative output and extensive touring across the globe shows no sign of slowing down.

 “Tour of the Universe” was recorded live at XM Radio Studios in Washington D.C. before an intimate audience of about 60 friends. Anderson performed his ‘One Man Show’, which has been crafted with dramatic animation and innovative visuals to create this pioneering concept DVD.

The graphics and animation were created by Robert Grafalo in London. ”I sent him ideas on each song as to what I would like to see visually” said Anderson, “and explained the songs lyrically. Then he came up with these beautiful experiences – very, very right on the money for me. After seeing them I was just sort of sitting there with a big grin on my face because he REALLY captured every song perfectly.”

Anderson performed to the small audience on midi guitar, acoustic nylon string guitar, electronic piano and harp, to the accompaniment of various midi rhythm tracks and orchestrations. With the assistance of a technician just off stage who triggered various previously recorded vocals and additional features, Anderson controlled most of the midi tracks with the use of pedals off camera.

In between most songs, Anderson shared his thoughts about the Golden Mean and chatted about the songs to the audience. Also in between the songs, somewhat otherworldly footage from in and around XM studios gives flavor to the DVD.

 The inclusion of 10 previously un-released songs “Harmony”, “Father Sky”, Bring On The Day”, “Standing Still, “This Is”, “White Buffalo”, “Harping”, “You Lift Me Up”, “Set Sail” and “Who Could Imagine?” – illustrate that Anderson has created some very powerful new material crossing many musical genres and his approach to song writing has no boundaries.

Classic YES songs such as “Yours Is No Disgrace”, “Long Distance Run-around”, “Your Move”, “Nous Sommes Du Soleil”, “The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)”, “And You And I” are performed by Anderson with his own unique style and arrangements.  A more recently recognised stage favourite from the fruitful YES catalogue “Show Me” is also featured, with the addition of pre-recorded piano parts and video of long-time friend and band-mate Rick Wakeman and a 50 piece Children’s choir.

Amongst several solo tunes and Vangelis collaborations, Anderson also performs the very emotive and aptly named “First Song”. “First Song”, is a song Anderson wrote as a small child, confirming that a talent for writing original material and harmony would be a path naturally set out for Anderson from a very young age.

The “Tour of the Universe(DVD) is presented with Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS and Stereo sound options and bonus material including a section on The Golden Mean, which has become a source of fascination for Anderson. Dr. Ron Knott explains the mysteries of The Golden Mean and how it is important to all of us. There is also a section on Golden Music. This section focuses on an interview with concert pianist Roy Howat of Cambridge University who explains how The Golden Mean has influenced the works of the great classical composers Béla Bartók and Claude Debussy.

The footage of the concert gives fans a chance to be up close and personal with Anderson, doing what he likes to do best – perform. The background videos and midi enhancements do just that – enhance the solo acoustic performance, and add a kind of visual rush to the stronger rock tunes. This is not just sitting and watching Anderson go through a set of acoustic tunes before a live audience, but a kind of magic carpet ride through the mind of Anderson.