"Yes gets full approval from fans in Vancouver - Prog rock veterans can’t do much wrong with classics-driven show"
article by: Francois Marchand
You could arguably have stayed home, dusted off your old vinyl platters of Close To The Edge (1972), Going For The One (1977) and, to wrap, The Yes Album (1971), sparked a fat one for old times’ sake, and you would have heard almost note for note the same music you heard at the Queen E.
What you wouldn’t have experienced, however, was to see the current lineup of vocalist Jon Davison, guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Geoff Downes and drummer Alan White show off their skills and parade an array of vintage instruments that made the many gearheads in the room drool with envy.
If the live 2014 experience wasn’t too far off its stellar recorded mark, it was arguably much different than, say, seeing the band featuring original singer Jon Anderson, keyboardist Rick Wakeman and drummer Bill Bruford with Howe and Squire at the ol’ Coliseum back in the day.
But Davison is both in name and sound a decent enough approximation of Anderson, one of rock’s singular voices, and the band wasn’t lacking in instrumental pyrotechnics.
Sparks indeed flew during the title track to Close To The Edge, a 20-minute existential prog masterwork that gave each member (especially Howe) a good workout.
Davison, unfortunately, suffered early on from a muscular mix emphasizing his mates during the full band sections.
Yet when he could shine in sparser moments and when he sang the classic Close To The Edge chorus, “I get up, I get down,” you couldn’t help but feel your spine tingle.
There were many shiver-inducing moments, none as glorious as Howe’s stratospheric slide guitar during And You And I and, later, to kick off Going For The One, an album Howe said owed to the band’s “weird obsessions” at the time.
Going For The One is indeed a strange album when stacked against the two others on offer. Some may have preferred 1972’s Fragile, arguably the true companion to Close To The Edge.
But each track ended with a sizable chunk of the audience rising to its feet, with the entire room enraptured at the end of the mind-expanding Awaken, a 25-minute monster cut that featured Squire’s triple-necked bass, Downes nailing a massive organ section, and some spectacularly off-kilter noodling from Howe.
The Yes Album came last, a record born from “the psychedelic summer of 1970” and the one most often spun on classic rock radio, thanks to heavy hitters Yours Is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper and I’ve Seen All Good People.
Closing with The Yes Album made sense: It was arguably the night’s most straightforward rock offering, but it was also the one where Anderson’s absence was most felt.
Overall, you couldn’t walk out of this Yes concert a naysayer.
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Saturday, March 22, 2014 7:00 AM
"Old rockers Yes keep progressing"
article by: Mike Devlin
Playing in a legendary rock band, even one as low-key as British progressive pioneers Yes, has its privileges.
But considering that ribald rock ’n’ roll decadence was never Yes’s forte, the band’s walks on the wild side are less dangerous than those of its ’70s rock peers. And considerably less tittilating.
Once, when the band’s drummer, Alan White, was travelling to Victoria from Seattle aboard the Victoria Clipper, he was spotted by one of the ship’s senior staff. A few handshakes later, and White was being shuttled to the Clipper’s staff-only area, the ferry-service version of being handed the keys to the catamaran. “He recognized me and let me get in (the bridge) at the front,” White said with a laugh, down the line from Los Angeles.
White, 64, is used to these types of encounters. Yes hosts its own annual rock ’n’ roll cruise, entitled Cruise to the Edge, which gives White and his current bandmates — guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, singer John Davison and keyboardist Geoff Downes — five days to spend with its most hardcore fans, who can chat and have pictures taken with Yes between the band’s on-board performances.
When asked if the question-and-answer sessions aboard the ship (which sails out of Miami in April) ever run off the rails, White said Yes superfans are understated almost to a fault. “People appreciate the fact they can have some insight into bands they have grown up with for a long time.”
White, who lives in Seattle, has enjoyed a 37-year career with the Grammy-winning group, the longest-running and most successful prog-rock band around. He is behind only Squire (who co-founded the group with singer Jon Anderson in 1968) and Howe (who joined in 1970) in terms of tenure, which is all the more impressive when you consider the constant lineup changes that have come to define the group.
Anderson, one of the most identifiable singers in rock, has not been with Yes since 2004. Other core members, such as keyboardists Rick Wakeman and Tony Kaye and drummer Bill Bruford, have also long since left the group. All told, Yes has had 19 members, a dubious honour that White and his current bandmates spend very little time thinking about.
“We reminisce on some things about what happened when, but we’re also very occupied with keeping things current and looking towards the future,” White said. “The band still has that frame of mind when it moves forward.”
Yes has been in Los Angeles for the past two months recording a new album that is expected to be out by summer. The sessions were more modernized and technical than in the past, White said. Yes has recorded in both analog and digital, though format rarely matters in the end. The only constant when Yes is in the studio is that everything adheres to its exacting standards.
Yes does not often improvise, given the complexity of its material, White said. “We very rarely do anything in the studio that can’t be repeated on stage. We are conscious of that.”
The band doesn’t leave a lot to chance in concert, either. Yes arrived in Victoria Monday, three days before its Vancouver show on Thursday, simply to rehearse. “You’ve got to tighten things up,” White said. “Some of these songs, we haven’t played for six months. We need to get in the mode.”
The band’s Vancouver date is part of a unique tour that will see them perform three records in their entirety each night: The Yes Album (1971), Close To The Edge (1972) and Going For the One (1977). White likes the idea because each album represents a different stage of the band.
“Close to the Edge is a pretty iconic album from the early ’70s, and Going For the One was a slight change of stream in what we had created. And The Yes Album has most of the radio-playable hits the band had. It’s a great mix.”
Though he has played songs like I’ve Seen All Good Peopl
I don’t own any albums, I can’t name the majority of their songs (if I can even name more than about 10 without an assist), and I would’ve earned a big 0 on trying to name any band members before the night of the concert.
But when I was younger, my Dad had a Yes “Greatest Hits” album that we listened to in the car on the way to and from school and that’s how I was introduced to them. Songs like ‘Roundabout’, ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ and ‘Wonderous Stories’ ran through my head amongst who knows what else I was listening to at the time, and I feel it had a pretty big effect on how my taste in music evolved. A lot of memories are held with that album and those songs; so when I heard that I could see one of the biggest and most influential prog rock bands of all time, I immediately jumped at the chance to hear some of my favourite songs live.
The concert was held at the Queen Elizabeth Theater which is confusingly connected to the Vancouver Playhouse but I managed to figure it out. There was no opening band, so the stage was set for Yes already as people rolled in slowly until 7:30 hit, which was when the flood came in. I think I could count the number of people there that were my age on my fingers, and given the cost of tickets that made sense. However, that price also reflected how dedicated some of the fans were; coming to out to see a band they’ve loved for up to about 46 years, potentially for the last time they’ll ever come around these parts. There was even a fellow there that was blind. That’s dedication.
As the night started, a clipshow started up on the screen behind the set. It ran through pictures of the band and albums, and the audience cheered along as their favourites came along. Afterwards, the band hit the stage to cheers and applause, with some people standing up in their seats already, and started with part of ‘The Firebird Suite’ (something I never would’ve known without the internet) which they work into the beginning of ‘Close to the Edge’ perfectly. Yes played three albums that evening, first of which was, of course Close to the Edge. A psychedelic background ran across the screen behind them as they rocked out; Steve Howe was playing guitar and also had a second guitar set up on a stand so he could play it also without removing his first guitar, Geoff Downes had the epic and nigh-ridiculous keyboard set up, Alan White was crashing away on his drum kit, Chris Squire had a fan keeping his hair flowing in the wind, and Jon Davison looked like a man out of time as the frontman of the band. Though there were parts pf ‘Close to the Edge’ that felt janky, things felt a lot more together and cleaner for ‘And You And I’. Steve Howe got on his pedal steel on wheels, and Chris Squire busted out a harmonica for people to go wild for. ‘Siberian Khatru’, of course, closed that portion of the set, leaving Chris Squire and Steve Howe to talk about the first two of the three albums that would be played that night.
Album 2 was Going for the One, so ‘Going for the One’ (one of my favourite Yes songs) was followed by ‘Turn of the Century’ which was amazing during the acoustic section, and ‘Parallels’ which has that heavy church organ-style keyboard line. ‘Wonderous Stories’ is another of my favourite songs, being one that I remember from years long gone, and with ‘Awaken’, Steve Howe played the bizarre Steinberger model guitar, and Chris Squire had his triple bass which was a bizarre but incredible sight to see. As Chris Squire held his bass up in the air with one hand, it was time for intermission and I sat back and waited for the final album.
The album I was greeted with was, as the people next to me had said it would be, The Yes Album. ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’ which once again sounded a bit off time at points but at the same time Steve Howe just killed it on his guitar solo. Speaking of which ‘Clap’ is incredible. The rest of the band left the stage and Steve Howe just busted the song out on his acoustic, hitting every note in utter perfection. ‘Starship Trooper’ and ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ are a couple more songs that click into place with my memory of Yes and are two incredibly well written songs. With stuff like this, it can’t be denied for even a second that The Yes Album is an incredible album. ‘A Venture’ and ‘Perpetual Change’ ended the night, and near the end of ‘Perpetual Change’ two cannons on the side of the stage just blasted out confetti all over the crowd as Yes laid waste to the end of the song. The band was then named off, and with some bows being taken, left the stage.
But as one would expect from a veteran group, there was an encore and they came out and played the one song I wanted them to play more than anything else: ‘Roundabout’ from Fragile. There is nothing about the song that isn’t amazing: the harmonies, the heavy bass line, the fingers flying on the keyboard, the snappy work on the drums; all perfect. There was no better way to end things.
Like I say, there were certainly times where things weren’t as tight as they should’ve been but for the majority of the show they were everything that I wanted the band to be.
Excluding one little nitpicky thing that I kind of hate bringing up because there’s really no avoiding it.
Jon Davison is not Jon Anderson. At all. He’s a decent enough sound-alike but that’s all he is. Which isn’t to take away from his ability at all but Jon Anderson’s voice is just so tied into the group and the sound of their songs that hearing anyone else singing them just won’t ever be as good. Even with Howe and Squire’s still pretty damn dead on vocal harmonies, Davison just can’t quite ever measure up.
Yes is an incredible and influential band that everyone should have or should be listening to. There’s still plenty of time left on the tour and if you can shell out the money for a ticket, you won’t ever regret it.