Thoughts on “Yes”
I saw the band "Yes"in concert last night. The quotes are because with zero original members, this group of musicians is essentially a tribute band; a good one, but this Frankensteinian collection of spare parts is not nearly as powerful as the monster itself. Steve Howe as Geppetto can’t fully bring these wooden youngins to life, and slower tempos on some songs were frustrating.
The concert promised to showcase songs from throughout the band’s history, but it didn’t really deliver. I don’t particularly care for anything past Drama, but ignoring Close to the Edge, which many—me included—believe to be the greatest progressive rock album ever made, is nothing short of scandalous:
· Yes: 0 songs
· Time and a Word: 1
· The Yes Album: 2
· Fragile: 2
· Close to the Edge: 0
· Tales from Topographic Oceans: medley of all 4 songs
· Relayer: 0
· Yesterdays: 1 (just the instrumental intro to America)
· Going For the One: 2
· Tormato: 1
· Drama: 1
· 90125: 0
· Big Generator: 0
· Union: 0
· Talk: 0
· Keys to Ascension: 0
· Open Your Eyes: 0
· The Ladder: 1
· Magnification: 0
· Fly From Here: 0
· Heaven & Earth: 0
· The Quest: 0
· Mirror to the Sky: 1
Of what they played, the nicest surprises were Machine Messiah from Drama, South Side of the Sky from Fragile, and Turn of the Century from GFTO. The Tales medley didn’t start off well: the cuts between parts of songs were jarring rather than fluid, but it got better just before Howe’s lovely acoustic segment in The Ancient all the way to the end.
· Steve Howe still has his impressive chops but he also is still a prima donna, shooting looks at the audience if they made noise during the acoustic passages and chiding the light operator and his guitar roadie. Aside from the fact that he looks like Red Skull with vitiligo, every time he moved I feared he was about to fall. It appears the only way to wrest control of the band name is to pull it from his cold, dead hands.
· I’ve never been a fan of Geoff Downes but he wasn’t as bad as I’ve heard about him the last few years. He wasn’t always playing in time with the rest of the band but the important keyboard parts came across fine.
· Billy Sherwood is a prog journeyman who made his bones filling in for the sick and the dead. He clearly takes pains to make his bass sound like Chris Squire’s but he lacks consistency doing Squire’s background vocal parts—not to mention personality.
· Jon Davison’s voice is impressively similar to Jon Anderson’s but to take on that role in a band like this, you need to be more than a soundalike—you need to capture the original’s persona. Rather than prancing like a prog fairy, he moved as stiffly as most prog dudes do on a dance floor. In the end, he comes across not as the ringmaster of a prog circus but merely as Ted Neely’s understudy in Jesus Christ Superstar.
· Jay Schellen’s bio is similar to Sherwood’s; he’s been around a lot and his playing is highly competent. Being a Bill Bruford guy, I’m never going to be satisfied with who sits on the “Yes” drum seat but I appreciated that he hit all the complex transitions smoothly and didn’t overplay.
The real highlight of the evening was the presence of Roger Dean with a selection of prints for sale. He signed anything and everything that fans brought to him. When we got there we realized we hadn’t thought to bring anything for him to sign. DUH! But then I remembered that I had Yesterdays in the car, so I left the venue and ran down the street to my car, grabbed the CD case, and ran back. He was a perfectly nice gentleman, smiling and speaking freely with his admirers. He also gave a lecture prior to the concert about his work and career.