The Anderson-Ponty Band Live at the Regency Grand Ballroom in San Francisco

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - In San Francisco, on a chilly November evening, as I enter the Regency Grand Ballroom to see the Anderson-Ponty Band, (APB) I proceed up the stairs from a busy Van Ness Avenue into a spacious, yet somewhat narrow lobby. The vaulted ceiling introduced a hallway on my left and my right.

Review and Photos by Camden Barbour

The entrance to the ballroom from here puts you just inside the rectangular shaped room. When I say ballroom, in this case I mean a nicely open space with a balcony opposite the stage, a firm and clean wooden floor. Here the stage is wide, set at mid-chest level with a proscenium enclosure. The seated venue holds the other fans politely talking amongst themselves and waiting for APB.

One might think the artwork a band chooses for the cover of their album might be a method to learn more about the music on the recordings inside. For their current project, APB uses the letters of the band’s name to make an interesting shape which they set on a color background. APB features the talents of Jon Anderson, the critically acclaimed singer/songwriter known from the band Yes and Jazz violinist, Jean Luc Ponty, who has recorded and played on stage with such legends as Frank Zappa, Elton John and John McLaughlin & the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

At first glance, one gets a sense that in their songs and subject matter, APB might visit some pastoral landscapes where there might be a lot of mist, ferries and unicorns. The Anderson-Ponty Band combines the songs of Yes, Jon Anderson and Jean Luc Ponty into a new symphonic hybrid sound, while the acid country, psychedelically-tinged band,

At the Regency Grand Ballroom, in San Francisco, I watch from my seat, about halfway back in the room - I have a good view of the entire band. The stage is set with the instruments and equipment. The keyboards, drums and bass are easy to spot, but not so much with the violin or singer (well, the show hadn’t started yet, so I hardly expected to see John Anderson standing there). Set center-stage is a percussionist table and a few oddly shaped string instruments standing there at the singer’s microphone.

The band members stroll onto stage to welcoming applause and begin to play, “One In the Rhythm of Hope.” As they walk out together we see the position of Mr. Ponty, to my left and Mr. Anderson, of course at center stage. Jean Luc slices and dices the song with his violin, while Jon Anderson claps 16th notes with his hands, which are surprisingly audible in the PA speakers.

The room is full of politely listening fans as Jon conducts the band with little swaying motions and sharp claps of his hands. Each song is a new adventure in that the instruments of the songs are neatly packaged into the whole of the song. A lot of the APB songs are famous or nearly famous.

This brings together two fan groups into one. Jon’s offerings of Yes songs and renderings of Jean Luc's songs is a perfect vehicle for his voice and subject matter. JLP wonderfully marks a path way through the music with his quick tossing out of the notes the pin the songs together.

After a short intermission, the Anderson-Ponty Band returns to the stage in the Regency Ballroom and launch into the well known Yes and Jean Luc songs. Jon’s voice is simply amazing and right on key. Baron Browne stands tall next to his bass cabinet with a clear view of drummer Rayford Griffin and guitar player Jamie Glaser. Wally Minko fills out the keyboards next to Jean Luc.

Together they create a sound that hypnotizes the listener and commands a landscape where the majestic and the magical can exist. The mountains really do come out of the sky and stand there. Jon Luc Ponty wrangles notes from his violin in ways you don’t expect. He weaves in and out of the landscape giving sharp accents to the crystal sound of Jon’s voice.

The band ends their set with an enthusiastic fan, (the drummer from the opening act) pouring shots of brown liquor down Curt and Chris’ throats. Elmo wisely refuses and Shandon is too busy keeping time to drink anything.