Among the seminal progressive rock groups of the late '60s and early '70s, Yes has undergone its share of personnel changes. The group started out with Chris Squire (bass), Peter Banks (guitar), Jon Anderson (vocals), Bill Bruford (drums), and Tony Kaye (keyboards), and released two albums, the eponymous Yes, and Time and A Word. Banks either left or was fired (it depends on who you believe), and was replaced with Steve Howe. N.B. Peter Banks passed away in March 2013. This new line-up produced just one album, The Yes Album. Kaye left due to band friction, and was replaced by Rick Wakeman. This line-up produced two albums, Fragile and Close to the Edge -- the latter being the band's tour-de-force, and one of the most revered progressive rock albums of all time (see my CC article, The Absolutely Essential Progressive Rock Albums), as well as one of the first albums on which the entire first side of a vinyl disc was comprised of a single track. Bruford left to join King Crimson, and was replaced by Alan White. This line-up produced just one album, Tales from Topographic Oceans, a massive two-disc set that was not only written largely with live performance in mind, but caused enormous friction both in the band and among its fans. Wakeman left to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by Patrick Moraz. This line-up also produced just one album, Relayer. Moraz was let go, and Wakeman returned for two albums, Going for the One and Tormato. Further line-up changes (and many albums) ensued, but the most relevant one here is the departure of Jon Anderson in 2008. After using vocalist Benoit David (who was fronting a Yes tribute band) for a short time, the band brought on Jon Davison, front man for Glass Hammer, a Yes-inspired progressive rock group.
And so we have our current line-up: Squire (now the only original member of Yes), Howe, White, Davison, and keyboardist Geoff Downes (who has been in and out of the group for both recording and touring since 1980).
Yes is on tour, playing three of its most-loved albums -- The Yes Album, Close to the Edge, and Going for the One -- in their entirety. They performed at The Beacon Theater in New York City on April 9th, and I was able to purchase quite literally the last available ticket: an obstructed view seat behind the sound and light boards. Setting aside my love of Yes and their music, why would I pay full price for an obstructed view? Simple. Because although my view was obstructed (thankfully, not very much), the seats around the sound board afford the best sound in the theater, for obvious reasons. So I actually lucked out.
After a shaky "Solid Time of Change" (the opening section of the "Close to the Edge" suite) -- apparently due to a combination of technical issues and stage confusion -- the band found its footing in the second section ("Total Mass Retain"), and hummed along nicely through "I Get Up I Get Down" and "Seasons of Man" (the final two sections). Now meshing beautifully, the band absolutely nailed "And You and I," another four-part suite, after which they received their first, well-deserved, extended standing ovation. A well-played "Siberian Khatru" followed, ending Close to the Edge. Mr. Squire then welcomed everyone, noting that this tour was the first time in history that the album had been played in its entirety, in proper order. (The Close to the Edge tour apparently opened with "And You and I."
The opening of "Yours Is No Disgrace" was also a bit shaky (this would be a theme for the evening: shaky opening numbers), but the band caught themselves quickly and were solid by the end. After the rest of the band left the stage, Mr. Howe played "The Clap," a complicated solo piece for acoustic guitar, and a favorite of Yes fans. At one point, he openly smile
Monday, April 15, 2013 8:58 PM
New York Times Review
Tour Bus Rolls On, Newbies Included Yes, at the Beacon Theater
By STEVE SMITH Published: April 10, 2013*
Despite one of music’s most positive names the veteran quintet Yes has seen more than its share of turbulence and rivalries over a life span that has now reached its 45th year. A hard-touring institution, the current Yes came to the Beacon Theater on Tuesday night for a show comprising three of its most durable albums: all from the 1970s, each played from start to finish.
Plucked from a discography of 20 studio albums (or 21, depending on whom you ask), the tour playlist features “The Yes Album” (1971); “Close to the Edge” (1972); and “Going for the One” (1977). The most enduring Yes creations, they mark the birth, acme and last gasp of the group’s most fertile period, an efflorescence of post-Beatles psychedelic rock infused and elongated with classical rigor, jazzy display and New Age spirituality.
The core of Yes, which performs in Toronto on Thursday and Detroit on Friday before heading for Brazil, is the bassist Chris Squire, the sole remaining founder; the guitarist Steve Howe, enlisted for “The Yes Album”; and the drummer Alan White, who joined shortly after the completion of “Close to the Edge.” Gone since a 2004 tour are Jon Anderson, whose high keening treble made him one of rock’s most distinctive singers, and Rick Wakeman, the keyboardist whose prodigious technique was critical to the group’s maturation. Manning the extensive keyboard turret now is Geoff Downes, a member of Yes in 1980 before departing with Mr. Howe to form another band, Asia.
Jon Davison, the current vocalist, previously served as the bassist for Sky Cries Mary, a Seattle trance-rock band. More recently the singer for Glass Hammer, a latter-day prog-rock band, Mr. Davison earned a place in Yes in 2012, through his work in a tribute group, Roundabout. He replaced Benôit David, also plucked from a tribute act.
A development previously played out by Judas Priest and Journey, the recruitment of a singer chiefly qualified by an ability to mimic a storied predecessor caused dissension among some fans. That response was compounded by the acrimonious departure of Mr. Anderson, whose replacement because of a respiratory ailment initially seemed temporary. (Mr. Anderson has since recovered, a point made during a 2011 concert with Mr. Wakeman at the New York Society for Ethical Culture.)
But few bands of Yes’s stature control their own destinies entirely; fan expectations and fiscal necessities exert unobserved pressures. The group soldiered on, sounding rejuvenated in 2008, but by 2011 Mr. David’s voice seemed imperiled. In 2012, touring with Mr. Davison behind a new album, “Fly from Here,” Yes sounded hungry again.
The same was true at the Beacon, despite technical issues that rendered an opening account of the ambitious title suite from “Close to the Edge” ragged and murky. In a majestic “And You and I” the players and their engineers found a footing; “Siberian Khatru,” generally a reliable barometer of Yes’s health, sounded rock solid if not particularly urgent. Mr. Davison’s gentle singing lacks something of Mr. Anderson’s perky rasp but inhabits a mandatory stratospheric range with eminent comfort.
Placing “The Yes Album” second in the rotation proved wise. “The Clap,” Mr. Howe’s twangy acoustic solo piece, provided a breather for the rest of the group. Vintage songs like “Starship Trooper” and “All Good People” had their customary verve, with familiarity and communal enthusiasm compensating for smudged veneer.
After intermission Yes returned to dispatch “Going for the One.” The album’s sequence of bluesy jive, madrigalesque ballads and tricky meters culminates in “Awaken,” the group’s last convincing foray into extended structure, and the apotheosis of Mr. Anderson’s spiritual concerns. Minor gaffes aside, the rendition was genuinely gripping, t
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 7:03 PM
I was standing with my brother outside the Beacon enjoying a last few minutes of a beautiful NYC spring day. A guy comes up to me and says " It's great to see all these Yes shirts, I have been a fan for years, but I just cant bring myself to see them without Jon Anderson" I tell him I miss Jon A but you have to let it go and move forward, these guys still put on a quality show. He just smiled and wished me a good time as he walked away.
3 Hours later Yes had proved my point. They put on a great show, played really well, especially Steve and Chris. High energy all night. And the crowd was really into it. I love Close to the Edge as a concert opener, and Awaken works real well as the pre-encore closer. I never thought I could picture anyone but Rick playing Awaken, but Geoff did a nice job. Jon Davidson did well also, he is certainly an improvement over Benoit David.
Just a great evening. Cant wait to see them again when they are back this summer