There were many marvelous moments last night while Yes played for more than two hours in the Blaisdell Concert Hall. All but one was about the musical talents of various members of the progressive rock quintet. The one that wasn’t helped open the show on a positive and heartwarming note.
Vocalist Jon Davison was a few moments into his ninth concert as a member of the group when a woman approached the stage with a lei held high. Accepting that best-known of traditional Hawaiian gifts can be difficult during a concert — especially during the opening number, when the performers are concentrating on getting the show off to a rousing start — but Davison handled it perfectly. He found a place early into the song where he could move to the front of the stage as if the move was scripted, and then receive the lei without muffling a word or missing a beat. Davison’s professionalism in handling the situation had nothing to do with the musical content of the show — and make no mistake about it, the music was superb — but it showed that the “new guy” in Yes has his heart in the right place when it comes to accommodating their fans.
Davison displayed the same finesse when other fans came forward with leis for the band. He also made sure that some of the leis went to other members of the group.
But about the music: Given that Yes could play a 16-hour concert and still have vintage album tracks left over there could have been some ultra-fans out there who went home bummed that the group didn’t do one obscure old song or another off one of the lesser-known albums. However, in real-world terms, the group included everything most folks could have asked for.
Classic material from the ‘70s dominated the set list. Three songs from the most recent Yes album, “Fly From Here,” added some of their more recent songs to the program.
Guitarist Steve Howe had a solo showcase segment where he played acoustic 6-string guitar, electric steel guitar and lute. Howe’s work on steel guitar showed the range of the instrument outside its traditional role in Hawaiian and Country music. The lute brought another set of tones and textures to the show.
Founding member Chris Squire was a charismatic showman in his own right on bass, harmonies and backing vocals. Squire alternated between three Rickenbacker electric bass guitars — one red, one green, one white — plus a fourth chocolate brown instrument that was mounted on a stand for him. Whichever one he was playing, and whatever he was doing, he was well worth watching. Squire is simultaneously a superb technician and an animated performer.
Squire also got some well-deserved time as the featured musician in the show. When the time came he worked the front of the stage for several minutes to the delight of the fans.
Keyboardist Geoff Downes spent most of the show presiding over three stacks of keyboards near the back of the stage but switched to an Roland AX7 for “Starship Trooper” so he could join Howe, Squire and Davison up front. Downes was also given plenty of time to perform for fans — many of them had their cell phone cameras ready when he did so.
The concert experience benefited from an unobtrusive video system that projected artwork and the performance itself on a single large screen for the benefit of those in the back of the house. The camera work included alternative angle views of Downes amid his keyboard stacks and drummer Alan White — who was all but out of sight behind his large and elaborate drum kit with the iconic Yes logo on the drumhead of the bass drum.
The video system was put to especially good use screening the music video version of “Fly From Here” while the band played the lengthy multi-part musical saga.
Yes had been playing for more that 90-minutes when the unmistakable opening guitar riffs of “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” brought the crowd to its feet. Davison’s voice seemed a bit higher t