Booth Reviews: "YES Live at The Fillmore, Charlotte, NC March 25, 2011"
Review by Tim Sanford
I still remember where I was the first time I heard Roundabout. I was in the car at the shopping mall with my mom, hearing it on AM radio thru tinny car speakers, Rick Wakeman's keyboards blew this 12-year-old piano student away. Thus began my love affair with prog rock in general and Yes in particular. My physical CD collection contains more discs from Yes than any other band. If you were my age back in the early 70s, you had Fragile at the least, and more than likely Close To The Edge and Yessongs as well.
So it was with some trepidation that I went to see the current incarnation of Yes, consisting of Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White, Rick Wakeman's son Oliver, and Benoit David, who the band discovered a couple of years ago singing in a Yes tribute band when Jon Anderson was unable to make their 40th anniversary tour due to illness.
Not to worry, the show was great. Chris Squire and Steve Howe still have their prodigious instrumental chops, and the trademark 3-part harmonies are still intact, they can both still sing. Speaking of singing, during "Close To The Edge" I told my buddy who went to the show with me "man, Benoit David is awesome, he was bad in some of the You Tube videos from this tour, but he's spot on". So then he proceeds to be noticeably flat during the soft part of the song. But he recovered and was amazingly good the rest of the show, I think he is actually better than Jon Anderson ever was. Also during this song, my buddy says "this is pretty good, but of course they are not as good as in their prime". Chris and Steve then proceed into a KILLER 2-man jam, at that point we quit passing judgments.
Highlights of the show were the video screen behind the band, which showed animated versions of the Roger Dean album covers, along with moving star fields, etc. Very trippy. The sound was good but not loud enough. The crowd was my (middle) age, they sang along heartily on the classics. I knew all the words to many of the songs, this music is deeply ingrained upon my psyche. One non-classic highlight was Machine Messiah (they performed 2 songs from the 1980 album Drama, which was quite good in spite of being shunned by the true believers, since Jon Anderson was not on it). Howe, Squire, and Wakeman played the song's intricate licks in unison, which got the crowd fired up. Another highlight was The Fish bass solo, although Chris was hamming it up, I'm thinking "dude, you're one of the greatest bass players that ever lived, WE KNOW THAT, you don't have to be so freakin' cheesy, just play!". As noted before David, Howe and Squire were all excellent, Wakeman (buried in the mix for the most part) and White were underwhelming. White is not worthy to touch Bill Bruford's high-hat, huge difference between those two, which I have always thought and was confirmed at this show. Steve is way more animated than he was back in the day, looks like crazy Uncle Egbert or something with his glasses, bald top, and flowing white fringe.
All in all, I'm very glad I went, it reminded me of how much this music has been part of my life's soundtrack. This was only my second Yes show, the first being in Greensboro in 1978, the tour in support of the infamous "Tormato" album, which is blamed along with ELP's Works as being the death of prog rock. They were much better this go-round, since the setlist was designed to please the faithful. The thing that impressed me most was that the music did not sound dated in any way, shape, or form, in spite of some of it being 40 years old, that's probably due to bands like Porcupine Tree, The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, The Mars Volta, et al keeping the genre alive. Long live Prog!