By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
As a member of the progressive rock band YES for nearly 40 years, drummer Alan White said while he doesn’t think they have ever performed in New Bedford, they are eager to play at the Zeiterion Theatre on Tuesday, March 29, as part of their “Rite of Spring” tour. For the brief tour, they will be performing in smaller venues, as they want to share hits like, “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” and “Roundabout,” with audiences in intimate settings.
“I’m looking forward to playing there and seeing all the fans,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to do any of the new music because the album isn’t finished, but we’ll be playing a mixture of songs that the band really loves to play and the fans love to hear, so hopefully everybody enjoys it.”
While the album is yet to be mixed and mastered, they wrapped up the recording process a few weeks ago. White said the sessions were “very good,” and anticipates it will hit stores by July. They were originally going to title it, “Weekend Fly,” but went with, “Fly From Here.”
“We always banter around with names,” White laughed. “It’s usually the last thing we decide on and it’s funny because one of the first things people ask you is, ‘what’s the name of the album?’”
In addition to being their first album in ten years, it’s also their debut recording with Oliver Wakeman on keys, as well as Benoit David, on vocals, who both joined in 2008 and have been performing with White, along with longtime members, bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Steve Howe, ever since.
White said the chemistry of the band is solid, as is the new music. Their friend, former band mate, YES collaborator, and celebrated rock producer, Trevor Horn, produced “Fly From Here,” and influenced a lot of their latest material.
“He is a great songwriter,” said White. “The writing process was pretty much driven by him, (Squire) and (Howe), with the other guys making contributions. We’ve been playing with each other for so many years and it’s really professional. We work together to achieve our goal.”
One of the main reasons White said he has stayed in the band so long is because he believes they know how to keep their sound fresh and exciting. After become a member in 1972, he enjoys being part of a band that “wants to create new music all the time.”
“It’s one of those groups that’s always looking for something new on the horizon,” he said. “With pretty much every album we make, there’s a movement forward from what the band sounds like. We’re always looking for different opportunities.”
Before he became a musician, White planned to study architecture at a technical college in England. However, playing in bands at gigs since he was 13 took up most of his time, as he was focused on improving his musical skills and building a reputation as a qualified drummer.
In 1969, when White was just 20, former Beatle John Lennon asked him to perform with the Plastic Ono Band. White agreed and the concert was recorded, becoming the successful album, “Live Peace in Toronto.” He also played on the “Imagine” album, and was featured on the single, “Instant Karma.”
“John actually took me under his wing,” White said. “He liked being around me and he liked the way I played. He used to tell me. ‘Alan, whatever you’re playing, just keep playing it because it sounds good.’”
Lennon introduced him to George Harrison, and White performed on Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” album. He said working on the album was quite the experience.
“When I was recording with (Harrison), about 15 people came into the studio everyday and picked up instruments, and it was like a regular group with him as the leader,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. Playing with them was a stepping stone in my career.”
White said he is grateful he has gotten the chance to work with acclaimed musicians, including the members of YES. He’s pleased to be on the road with them again.
“I especially love playing with a group of talented musicians like this,” he said. “They make it interesting. I’ve been doing it for so long it’s part of my life. I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t playing music on stage.”
The Zeiterion’s box office is located at 684 Purchase St., New Bedford. Tickets are priced at $65 and $49. Box Office Hours: Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and one hour before each performance. For more information, visit http://www.zeiterion.org.