In 1976, beneath three bobbing serpent heads with laser-light eyes, the British classic rock band Yes produced an epic show, expanding rock performance boundaries with sights and sounds unmatched by even today's biggest rock acts. Either that or I was easily impressed as a 17-year-old. The 1994 model of Yes rolled into The Mark of the Quad-Cities, with fresh songs from a fine new album and enough 1970s bombast and spectacle to appease my adolescent recollections.
Surrounded by a framework of illumination, the band easily rolled through three decades of familiar pieces. It's tough to call them songs. Classic Yes compositions wind through many passages, shifting quickly from acoustic simplicity to electric confusion. They still do.
The selections from the latest album, Talk, carry the flavor of Trevor Rabin, a keyboard and guitar ace who entered Yes' revolving lineup in 1983. It was Rabin who introduced the rock dinosaurs to the pop song hook, prompting groans from some loyal fans adhering to hazy '70s memories. It also prompted millions of dollars in sales from new fans who made Rabin-inspired Yes albums 90125 and Big Generator, their biggest-selling albums to date.
Tuesday's meager Mark crowd appeared to be mostly old fans, attentive through the new songs and downright excitable during the old ones. The band entered after a regal, recorded intro, then opened hard and fast with an instrumental portion of Perpetual Change. Then they hopscotched through the years: The Calling. Changes. The first set closed with Heart of the Sunrise.
After a 15-minute break, they came out with another mix. Singer Jon Anderson, pleasant and composed through most of the night, shook loose on Owner of a Lonely Heart. The whole band stepped up with another oldie, And You and I, and the place got lively.
It's amazing how much excitement 2,100 people can generate. Even a 2-for-1 ticket offer the day of the show failed to attract folks. But with 80 percent of The Mark empty, Yes responded with the same energy you'd expect in a packed arena. A sparkling encore of Roundabout, after a 2-1/2 hour show brought everyone out of their seats. Only the accountants will consider this show a dud.