14 years, 6 months and 17 days ago
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Soveriegn Performing Arts Center
Monday, April 22, 2013 7:46 PM
"Yes a hit with Reading crowd"
Review by Jon Fassnacht
Life imitating imitation.
That’s the best way to describe the Yes concert Tuesday night in the Sovereign Performing Arts Center.
Lead vocalist Jon Anderson was unable to tour this year due to illness, but the rest of the group decided to soldier on. To replace Anderson’s distinctive vocals, the band tapped the lead singer of a Yes tribute band.
It’s an interesting decision, and with classic rock bands aging and the tribute band circuit growing, it’s one that likely will be made by other bands.
But it raises the question: Even though the authenticity is compromised, is it a better show if a new vocalist can hit notes the original lead singer may have trouble hitting?
Judging by the reaction of the energetic crowd, which nearly filled the theater, the answer is a resounding, er, Yes.
Benoit David, one of those people whose name sounds like it was transposed, did an admirable job aping Anderson and had great stage presence, likely due to unbridled excitement being let loose. It’s not surprising; one day he’s a singer in a Yes tribute band, the next he’s singing the same songs with the actual band backing him. Can you blame him for acting giddy?
An excerpt from Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite” welcomed Yes to the stage. The opening led right into a version of “Siberian Khatru” that lagged, with a plodding tempo and the band not quite nailing the complicated turnarounds.
But the group turned it around quickly.
The newly assembled quintet’s 2 1/2-hour show almost was entirely devoted to the band’s early-’70s peak, including the entire “Close to the Edge” album. There was nothing from its ‘80s foray into more radio-friendly material, but the serious fans in the crowd probably didn’t want to hear that anyway.
Along with David, the Yes men include long-time members Alan White on drums, Steve Howe on guitar and Chris Squire on bass. Keyboard duties are handled by Oliver Wakeman, the son of Rick Wakeman, who played keyboards on much of the band’s 1970s output. The younger Wakeman certainly looks the part, with his long blond mane and circle of keyboards surrounding him. His playing wasn’t too shabby, either.
This was prototypical progressive rock: Many of the 17 songs were at least seven minutes long, while the multisectioned “Close to the Edge” cleared the 20-minute mark. But the songs weren’t lengthy due to Grateful Dead-like jamming marathons; they were meticulously arranged extravaganzas, and those in attendance hung on every second, sometimes rising from their chairs awaiting a big entry from the band or a climactic note from David.
Howe was particularly good. He looked every one of his 61 years, but his fingers could still fly across the fretboard. His two solo acoustic numbers in the middle of the show drew some of the loudest responses.
There probably wasn’t a better way to end the evening than with main-show closer “Starship Trooper” and encore “Roundabout.” After more than two hours of playing, the band was locked in and each song had an added urgency and energy inducing many in the audience to stand up and sway to the music.
I was able to see Yes in Reading at the lovely Sovereign Performing arts Center on Tuesday and then last night at the Borgata. I am only seeing two shows this tour, down from the five I had tickets for during the scheduled summer tour. It seemed like a long time between shows this time around, as I had to satisfy my Yes cravings with Jon’s Paul Green shows and solo shows from Rick, Steve and Chris and Alan with the Syn. So the big question everyone has been asking is, “how is the kid (at 42, not really a kid) sitting in for Jon” and “how did Rick’s son do on the keys?” I have to say that even with Jon’s original post saying it wouldn’t be Yes without him, these were, indeed, Yes concerts and the new parts fit in quite nicely, thank you.
Yes stuck with their classic repertoire, playing the entire Close to the Edge album, some lesser known songs from Tormato and Going for the One (Onward, and Parallels at least in Reading), one of Peter Bank’s best in Astral Traveler, and finally two cuts from Drama that I never had heard played before, Tempus Fugit and Machine Messiah. It was great to hear some new cuts live, and they played Machine Messiah both nights with a lot of precision, obviously enjoying every minute of it. CTTE was even better at the Borgata, as Oliver’s keys and solos seemed much stronger on night two. This might have had something to do with my seats, which were close to the stage both nights but slightly to the left of Steve in Reading and lined up perfectly with Oliver on night two. I believe this helped my ear pick up Oliver’s keys much better the second night. The sound was great at both shows as the band played in front of another Roger Dean creation hanging above the stage over Alan…kind of like the crab design pulled apart. Red Lobster, anyone?
The big difference in the two shows was the length: 2:25 with an intermission in Reading, and about 1:50 last night at the Borgata with no intermission. Last night they dropped Soon, Long Distance Runaround/The Fish, Steve’s two solo songs, Chrises’ new song Aliens Are Only Us, and Parallels and added Owner of a Lonely Heart in the encore. After last night’s show, one guy was cursing them for playing such a short show as he had also been to Reading (he should have been at the 75 minute show I saw this summer from the Counting Crows). I was bothered by the length of the show but not all that much since what I saw was fantastic. It was surprising because when they played at the casinos the prior two times over the years they played the same length shows as the other ones on the respective tours. Besides, do they think they are going to make that much money off of Yes fans in the casinos? Just one I know (ha ha).
OK, OK, so what about Benoit and Oliver? I thought Benoit was really good; a 9. Not comparing him to Jon; that is not fair or possible. Just as a guy who needed to fill Jon’s shoes In the Present. I thought he was a bit more nervous in Reading and the voice that sounded thin in the You Tube videos of his tribute band was, in fact, quite the opposite: so strong that it at times overpowered not only Steve and Chrises’ vocals but that of the instruments! However, I didn’t hear that at the Borgata. And while I think they didn’t rehearse enough on this tour to be as Machine Messiah-like as they did in the old days (Benoit had a little trouble with the lyrics at times esp. with Parallels and at a couple of other moments), one has to realize that 40% of this band has played a total of about ten shows together in their lifetimes! It took Moraz and Rabin a year or more of playing to start to take the types of liberties with their playing that makes their live performances so exhilarating.
I gave Oliver an 8 the first night, but again, I don’t think I could hear his licks as well in Reading as I did last night. While he certainly is unassuming on stage and lacking his dad’s flair, he played the songs very solidly and I think will only get better the more he plays with the band. And Benoit was certainly dynamic on stage; he seemed to be having a ball so less attention was paid to Oliver who seemed to really be concentrating on getting all the songs down without error, something not easily done for a band known for their intricate arrangements, arpeggios and complicated syncopations.
The bottom line is I had a wonderful time at both shows. Astral Traveler was a dream come true; howe would Howe play those lines? I was back in my old bedroom in high school listening to that song build and build…keyboard solo…bass solo…and the start of the main verse again. Machine Messiah was wonderful; I wanted Chris to put those old sunglasses on to replicate the old art from that era as he played yet one more of his bass guitars to perfection.
Of course, it is hard not to watch Steve all night. He has gotten a little persnickety at this point. I had seen a You Tube video of him aborting Mood for a Day in New Hampshire and going on mic to say “you aren’t listening anyway.” He is such a gentle guy; he just wants us to listen while he speaks and plays so his other fans don’t need to strain to hear the beauty that comes from his fingers. But one could see how much he was enjoying playing these songs again…he rolled his pedal steel guitar from side to side during And You and I in Reading, and kicked up his leg at one point last night (but as my old friend Ed [R.I.P.] once said, “Scott, it doesn’t matter how he moves and kicks around on stage, his fingers are still doing the same thing”). Close to the Edge brought me close to tears last night, Starship Trooper sounded robust both nights. It all went by so fast.
Now, can they make new music with Benoit and Oliver? Who knows what it would sound like? I always have felt that while their solo material has been great to mixed, when all five of them made music together, the sum always exceeded the parts. I can hear what is missing when one or more of them (Jon, Rick, Steve or Chris) is gone. I’m hoping to see Jon and Rick with them again, of course. But in the meantime, with all that I have read online for such a long time, there was no reason NOT to tour with this lineup. Yes, some of the pixie dust was definitely AWOL. But wouldn’t everyone rather see some of the parts together than none at all.
God bless them all, each and every one of them who ever made a contribution.
Band played well. Wakeman gettin more comfortable each show, much improved from last week. Place was beautiful, good attendance, Howe played well as did white. David'v voice is strong and he sings well. Audience was behaved except for the select few who felt compelled to tell Steve how they felt during the quitest segments of the show.
The fish segment is cut short then Alien starts.
After And You and I,Chris says " you liked that one did you".
Your Move/I've Seen All Good People
Close To The Edge
And You And I
Steve Howe Solo:
- Catcus Boogie
Long Distance Runaround/The Fish
- Surface Tension
- Cactus Boogie
I am a long time YES fan. I have seen them 22 times. That being said I was not sure I wanted to see them without Jon. But I went tonight with my YES bud Dan his 18th show.
WHAT a SHOW!!!! The set list was refreshing and boy it looked like everybody in the band was feeding off the crowd.
The set list was pretty close to previous posts. My personal favorites were both Drama tracks, CTE, Parallels, and Starship Trooper.
As I said above I have seen YES many times. I have lived in Reading for 47 years. Tonight walking up to the PAC and seeing YES on the marquie was a dream come true.