Show a resounding Yes! Sun Newspapers By Mark Rolan
Outside the soldout Agora Wednesday night, the scalpers were scrambling for extra tickets, and the word inside was that they were getting up to $300 per ticket for a show that to the casual rock fan, didn't mean that much. Yes, it was Yes, but then again, a 31-year-old band doesn't usually generate that amount of excitement and anticipation.
As the stage lights dimmed and the current lineup of Yes took the stage, a roar of approval greeted the group. Thanksgiving Eve is always a big night for revelers, and with the music of Yes as their soundtrack, the capacity croud of about 1,800 was revved up from the opening notes of "Yours Is No Disgrace." Steve Howe, one of the most respected guitar stylists in rock, was magnificent, stretching notes and hammering the strings of his hollow-body guitar like he was putting on a clinic, which, in a way, he was.
After a majestic rendition of "Perpertual Change" which elicited the first of many standing ovations of the night, vocalist Jon Anderson welcomed the crowd to the show.
"This place is called the Agora," he said. "Tonight it's called the House Of Yes."
For the next two hours, Anderson and the band: percussionist Alan White, guitarist Billy Sherwood and bassist extraordinaire Chris Squire, performed Yes songs old and new.
From the group's latest album "The Ladder," the band members turned in sparkling versions of "Lightning Strikes," "The Messenger" and "Homeworld (the Ladder)," Alongside the older material, the new Yes songs were in the Yes tradition of ensemble brilliance. You would be hard pressed to find a better group of musicians anywhere.
The show reached a high point during "And You And I." Howe switched from an acoustic 12-string to pedal steel and back again, while Anderson, eyes closed, was the conductor of the orchestra. Another standing ovation.
After a version of "Hearts," Squire, who seemed to switch basses with every song, came on stage with a triple-neck, and the group launched into an extended rendition of "Awaken." Anderson wished us all a Happy Thanksgiving, and they broke into "Seen All Good People."
The encores consisted of Sherwood leading the basic band through a workout of "Cinema," and then it played the group's only No. 1 hit, "Owner of a Lonely Heart." It was almost anticlimactic after all the true progressive rock that had come before this Top 40 hit. A spirited "Roundabout" finished off a show that brought back a lot of memories of early Yes appearances in Greater Cleveland.
Back then, it was a band that had something to prove. At the Agora Wednesday, it played with a youthful verve and purpose that wasn't lost on the lucky fans who were privileged to witness it.
Holan is a free-lance writer in Cleveland Heights
Yes put on a fantastic pre-Thanksgiving show here in Cleveland tonight.
The set list wasn’t markedly different from the ones posted from recent shows,so I won't elaborate too much. Five songs from “The Ladder” were featured, but the highlight of the evening was—of course—“Awaken.”
We all know who plays what instrument and that they’re all technically superior musicians, but I still can’t figure out what Billy is playing with his guitar half the time. Is he following Chris’s bass? I don’t know.
The backdrop features Roger Dean’s “square” Yes logo again (from YesYears and “The Ladder”), and a variety of images and colors were projected on the backdrop curtain throughout the set. The most effective, I think, was the sequence with the spaceship from the video game “Homeworld,” which was shown during that tune. The rest was your usual swirling kaleidescope of psychedelia--bubbles and spirals and such.
In the wardrobe department: Igor wore a long-sleeve black shirt with a silver Batman logo. Billy was dressed in his usual all black. Steve wore black dress pants and a colorful blue dress shirt. Alan wore a black T shirt with the sleeves cut off, and matching biker shorts for comfort. Jon wore a white dress shirt with a beige vest, and purple-tinged pants with matching slipper-shoes (I don't even know what you'd call half the stuff he wears--pajamas, maybe). Chris wore what I would call a “Chinatown” sort of get-up, with short, knee-length pants and one of those Chinese waiter jackets you see in old Bruce Lee pictures. He wore his usual full-length white coat over that.
Jon’s voice was top-notch. He didn't miss a note or lyric. The group was even tighter than previous shows I’ve witnessed on the last couple tours. Jon kept waving up to the balcony and making goo-goo eyes. I figured he had a friend up there, and that maybe they’d shared a joke before the show or something. Turns out it was his wife, Jane. During the end of "Lightning Strikes," Jon changed up the words and serenaded her, "Janey, help me get me some."
“Awaken” was just fantastic. A true piece de resistance. Igor really held his own with Rick's parts. He's really come into his own as a Yes-man, and although I was skeptical at first I am now convinced that he's got some great things to bring to the musical table. At "Awaken'"s climax, a bunch of confetti was shot out from the light rigs and it all cascaded down over the audience like a ticker tape parade. It was a sellout, by the way—at Cleveland’s Agora Theater.
Jon explained that the new “Messenger” was written about Bob Marley. He expounded on how great it was to rehearse and record “The Ladder,” and how producer Bruce Fairburn brought it all together. Jon also mentioned that Bruce “went up to heaven” when the album was nearly done.
I took a chance after the gig and waited with other die-hards after the show to see if any of the guys would show up. There was a barbed-wire fence in the parking lot separating the public area from the “secure” area where the tour buses and trucks were parked. A small crowd of about 25 people was there, fans just hanging out. Sure enough, every one of the guys came out the back door and passed by. Steve was first, followed by Alan, Chris, Igor, and Jon—who waved to us and smiled, but didn’t stop. The others signed whatever the people up front could hand over the fence. Chris kept telling people to “mind the barbs” and watch out so that no one got cut. Pretty amusing. I was able to get him to sign an old promo photo from the last tour. I couldn’t get the others because I wasn’t right up by the fence. No big deal. I got Steve’s autograph during the “Not Necessarily Acoustic” tour back in ’93.
But this leads me to a piece of friendly advice I’d like to give to other autograph-seekers who find themselves in this situation. Be a good sport. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones to get an autograph from one of the guys, g