Ever since Jon Anderson left Yes, the band has struggled along mightily with replacements. The last guy hired reminded you of a Broadway actor who was brought in to play the role of Anderson, and despite of what you might think of him, Anderson left an indelible mark as the vocalist of this legendary progressive act. Thus, a good replacement makes for a better Yes experience.
So fast forward to 2013, Yes is back on the road, and new singer Jon Davison is actually quite good. He looks like Anderson, circa 1972, and sings in the same lithing falsetto that Yes fans love but detractors would compare to the tragic (yet beautiful) voices of our time (Lemmy from Motorhead, all three chipmunks, Tiny Tim, the guy from the Darkness, etc…).
Thus, the band’s performance in San Francisco was the best of I’ve seen the quintet play since a show at the same hall back in 1997. Davison sang the songs just as Anderson would have (minus the rather strange and ethereal stage movements of Anderson), and the rest of the band played all of the songs from the three classic albums listed above with the same precision that fans have been accustomed to over the band’s 43-year career. But on this night, one Yes member stood above all others.
Guitarist Steve Howe, who on the past couple of tours looked about 20 years older than his actually age of 64 (and performed like it), played like a teenager again. His rippling runs and shading has always been a staple of the group’s best work, especially during the 70’s (every song played tonight came from that decade). But on this night Howe was engaged with the crowd (gasp!), moved around the stage rather joyfully (gasp!) and played the guitar like the legend he is (not so shocking).
The band’s only original member still active, Chris Squire, is easily one of the best bassists in rock history, and he can still play with a power and precision that leaves his contemporaries shaking their heads at his prowess. Drummer Alan White is rock solid as the foundation for the band’s rhythm section. Keyboardist Geoff Downes is familiar to Yes fans as Howe’s foil in Asia, and he can play just about anything that is thrown his way (and if you know Yes, the band throws quite a bit at the keyboardist).
Another reason this show worked (for me, anyway) is that the band played my three favorite albums, The Yes Album, Close to the Edge and Going For the One, one right after the other, all the way thru. Highlights included a spectacular “Yours is No Disgrace,” which opened the first set, the always amazing "“And You and I," and the set-closing “Awaken,” one of the most beautiful pieces of music every penned. The band would have been lynched if it hadn’t included “Roundabout” as the encore, and it did, despite the fact that it is on the band’s other classic record, Fragile.”
Yes will probably be around for a few more years, and while the group is performing at this level, you should go see these legends, even if Anderson is not included.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013 7:48 AM
Just back from the Warfield show, and as one who was on Cloud Nine following last summer's San Jose show -- arguably one of the best Yes shows *ever* for me -- this one was a comparative disappointment. There were plenty of bright spots, and I definitely recommend seeing this show (may in fact see them again in Monterey this weekend), but they were clearly not the tight band that I saw in August. Sleep beckons, so here are a few quick notes; may update in a day or so...
Pros Extremely ambitious tour! We were treated to a nearly three hour show, a fantastic value for any band, let alone one with three 60-something legends.
Albums were done in chronological order, i.e. TYA, CTTE, GFTO -- a pleasant surprise. And the only banter was between whole albums, not between songs.
Steve, Jon and Alan obviously did their homework. Steve was on fire on so many fronts, and clearly carried the night IMO. In fact, he played bandleader more than once (e.g. on the middle section of TOTC, when he was giving direction to Chris and Geoff).
While I expected that songs played on recent tours would be well done, pleasant surprises included Perpetual Change (*very* tight), Siberian Khatru (excellent vocals and tempo), GFTO (great energy from all, nice vocal interplay with JD and CS) and A Venture (which sounded rich, loose, and very well rehearsed).
JD sang TOTC in the original key!
Geoff's keys on Awaken were far improved from last tour.
The vibe among band members was excellent, and they clearly appreciated an ecstatic Bay Area audience.
Cons As I've found on early dates of prior tours, some pieces are clearly better rehearsed than others. Those that had problems included CTTE (primarily because of Downes's keys), TOTC (still working out that middle section), and Parallels.
Chris had issues with his triple neck bass on Awaken. Not sure what the problem was, but he was chatting with some folks offstage for quite a while about it before and after they closed with that piece.
More than one timing issue, particularly on the less rehearsed pieces, was obvious. I was close enough to see some confusion and rushed tempo changes on several pieces...
As I've seen in past tours, one casualty of an underrehearsed band is Chris's backing vocals. In other words, he focuses on his bass lines rather than his beautiful vocal harmonies. This means he sang far less on TOTC and Parallels than he does on the studio tracks, which was a big disappointment.
To summarize, the takeaway for me is decidedly mixed -- it's not negative, nor is it giddy positive as it was after last summer's show. But if history is any indication, these issues will be resolved shortly, and those of you who get to see the band in the second half of the tour will be in for an exceptional show. Look forward to reading your reviews once the kinks are ironed out.
Thursday, February 28, 2013 9:58 AM
According to Yes Official Facebook, this event has been cancelled.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 1:45 PM
This concert will be broadcast on AXS TV. Don't miss it and record it. Especially as people who don't live in the US (such as myself) can't access US TV. If I find anything, I will upload.