Yes (well, no, actually Howe, Squire, and White of Yes) made it to the Ryman for the first time in their forty-year careers tonight, and they seemed very happy to be here. As so many other rock and roll acts who have played here in recent years, they walked around backstage, made note of all the photos of the country legends who walked these hallowed boards before them, and seemed to be very impressed, if not somewhat in awe. Add in the great acoustics and the intimacy with the audience and you have all the ingredients for a special night. There were quite a few smiles on the stage tonight.
So it’s not Yes because Jon Anderson, their distinctive lead singer, is not in the best of health so he couldn’t tour, and Rick Wakeman, their legendary keyboard player, decided not to tour. So as often happens with bands that are on 40th anniversary tours, the youngsters are brought in to pick up the slack. Anderson’s vocals were done by Benoit David, who does sound like Anderson but lacks his presence somehow. Wakeman’s keys were covered by Wakeman, that is, his son Oliver. While at times the boards brought back slight memories of the old Yes, for the most part they lacked the grandiose prominence of the elder Wakeman’s style. I always felt Howe’s guitars and Wakeman’s keyboards were of equal importance in Yes music, but in this line up it’s all Howe, and that’s a disappointment. With Rick I used to feel like I was in a cathedral; with Oliver, it’s just background music with little animation. Somebody needs to tell him to turn it up.
Mr. Howe, however, hasn’t lost much. His playing on a vast assortment of guitars, often two or three in one song (if you count the pedal steel), is still quite amazing. Whether electric or acoustic, he brings it. Plenty of tempo, textural, and intensity changes, often within the same song (typical of Yes songs), were heard throughout the evening. He hits all the notes and chords you recall from their classics to perfection. Sometimes expansive, sometimes staccato, the transitions from one part of a song to another were effortless. Along with the rhythm section of original members Chris Squire on a very prominent bass (I’m talking Jack Bruce or John Entwhistle prominent), and Alan White on the skins, the core of Yes was still intact and very effective. Squire had the Ryman shakin!
The stage setup was interesting as well; light and airy just like Yes’ music. What looked like white parasails where strung up above and across the stage, and multi-colored spotlights kept the background in constant flux, sometimes in sync with the music. There was also a bit of special effect lighting on them, which to me was just a hint of psychedelia, and some interesting usage of floodlighting as well. The only negatives were when they decided to turn the lights on us, which were blinding at times.
So what did we hear? Well, some may argue that any of this old music is classic, but certainly some songs are more well-known than others. The big ones were “I’ve Seen All Good People”, “Close to the Edge”, “And You and I”, “Long Distance Runaround”, and “Roundabout”. I personally was disappointed that they left out “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. One of the hotter parts of the concert was the trio of “Tempus Fugit”, “Onward”, and “Astral Traveler”. Steve did three nice change of pace solo acoustic numbers (nice picking), including some Chet Atkins (his tribute to the Ryman). Rounding out the 2 ½ hour show (great value for the money) were “Siberian Khatru”, “Aliens” (which I didn’t particularly care for), “Machine Messiah”, and “Starship Trooper”.
So indeed, this is not Yes. Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman were missed. But Howe, Squire, and White still have it. One thing of note was the size of the audience; I’d say the Ryman was about half full. This could have been due to the fact people were looking at this lineup as a tribute band (which would have been a mistake), or it could b
The Ryman is a great place to see a show. Unless you are in the odd seat under the balcony overhang that intersects a column, there is not a bad seat in the house and the acoustics are fantastic. Show started about 15 minutes late and even at that people were still fashionably late getting seated. At roughly 2300 seating capacity, I'd estimate the venue was about 2/3 full. I thought the audience was very interesting. The usual older fans, mid 20's people, families with their teen and young kids..Had a mid 40's female with her late teen son just to the left of me. Obviously she brought him up right because he was very into the setlist. As for the show, it was fantastic. I was DFC about 16 rows back on the floor. Sound and sight lines were perfect. Highlights had to be the trilogy of Tempus Fugit, Onward and Astral Traveler. Having never seen these live, it was a great treat to see all three in a row. Without giving a blow by blow review I can say that I have not seen so much interaction between Steve and Chris. There were so many smiles on stage I was wondering if this was "Yes". No train wrecks..CttE and AYaI were fab...as people before have commented, it's nice to hear those tunes not played at the funeral dirge pace. On the downside...Oliver is just standing around and for the most part looks like he would rather be someplace else. Aliens comes across better live than on the boots I have heard but is still shit. Chris and Steve do drown out Benoit on some of the harmonies, but since that has been a common complaint... perhaps it's by design. All in all a fantastic show, highlights far outweighing the negatives. Although I was introduced to Yes in the mid 70's I never had a chance to see them until the YesWest era....so seeing the Drama material was worth the ticket.
Yes in Nashville at the Ryman - What a great show! Little did I know that the seats I purchased would be within 3 feet of the stage! To be close enough to actually touch the stage while Yes is performing on it was indeed a rare treat. And one my entire family will not forget! Of Course, the music was awesome. Chris remarked that he’d never expected Yes to make it to the Grand Ole Opry before the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. And Steve Howe presented a real surprise when he did a Chet Atkins song during his solo. WOW! To wrap up an already unforgettable evening, Benoit handed my son one of Alan’s autographed drum sticks as they were leaving the stage. What a magical night !