The last time Yes came to Hamilton Place — in 2008 — the pioneering British prog-rock band was breaking in a new singer from Montreal to replace ailing co-founder Jon Anderson.
When Yes returns in April, the band will have another new frontman, as well as an old friend from The Buggles on keyboards.
Five years ago, the band — anchored by Chris Squire on bass, Steve Howe on guitar and Alan White on drums — spent two weeks in Hamilton rehearsing with new singer Benoit David before kicking off a world tour.
It was a contentious time for Yes fans, who had hoped the band would wait for Anderson to recover from a respiratory illness before performing a series of concerts to mark its 40th anniversary.
Instead, they picked up David, a Montreal tribute singer who Squire spotted performing Yes songs on YouTube.
The band also brought in Oliver Wakeman to replace his aging father, Rick Wakeman, the brilliant keyboard player who helped raise Yes to near the top of the U.S. charts with his distinctive Hammond organ work on the 1971 hit Roundabout.
Still, Yes pulled it off in style, gaining mostly favourable reviews.
The band recorded a new album and continued touring with the lineup through 2011. In January, 2012, "respiratory illness" also felled David.
"I guess, after a while Benoit, didn't feel it was the life for him," Squire, the only founding member still performing with Yes, said in an interview this week from his home in Arizona.
"He was a bit torn about being away from home. So eventually he decided it would be best if he moved on."
Yes had replacements on hand for both David and Oliver Wakeman, who had also left the band. On keyboards, they turned to Geoff Downes, a founder of English pop band The Buggles (Video Killed The Radio Star) and keyboardist on Yes's 1980 album, Drama.
On vocals, they found Jon Davison, a high-voiced singer in an American prog-rock band called Glass Hammer and childhood friend of Foo Fighters' drummer Taylor Hawkins.
"His name had been around for quite a few years as a suggestion," says Squire, 65.
"In fact my good buddy, Taylor Hawkins, always used to say to me, 'If you ever need someone to stand in for Jon Anderson, I know just the guy.' It turns out that Taylor and Jon Davison had been friends since they were five years old. So we gave him a tryout and he's been with us ever since."
Squire added that in the new year, the band plans to record an album of original material, the first with Davison at vocals.
When Yes returns to Hamilton Place on April 2, it plans to perform three of its best-known albums cover-to-cover, starting with Close To The Edge (1972), Going For The One (1977) and closing with The Yes Album (1971).
"All of these albums were milestones for us," Squire explained.
"The Yes Album was the first to gain us recognition in America, Close To The Edge was the first in which we did 20-minute songs taking up the entire side of a vinyl album, and Go For The One was the first we recorded outside of the U.K."
Yes has been nominated as a possible inductee next year into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. Squire said that induction could reunite the band with both original vocalist Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman.
"Obviously, if the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame thing happened, Jon and Rick would join us," Squire said.
Tickets go on sale for the April 2 concert at Hamilton Place on Monday at 10 a.m.
You might ask, are they one of the longest lasting progressive rock bands since 1968? Yes!
Would they be performing three albums, in their entirety? Yes!
Ever had Roger Dean design any of their albums? Yes!
Is the new singer a perfect replacement for the original? Yes!
Is the band who you think it is? YES!
YES performed three albums in their entirety on the last of their 10 Canadian dates, in Hamilton, on April 2nd. Starting with their 1972 album “Close to the Edge”, followed by 1977 album “Going For This One” and then after a 15 minute intermission their 1971 vinyl, “The Yes Album”. This concert covert a spectacular two and a half hours! Depending on your age this might determine the YES segment you favoured.
Original members Chris Squire (bass/vocals) and Steve Howe (guitar, mandolin, lap steel/vocals) did all the talking but only between albums. Drummer Alan White (Plastic Ono Band) who you might as well call him an original member, as he has been with the band since Bill Bruford left in 1972 to join King Crimson. Bill Bruford left just before the release of their fifth album, “Close to the Edge”. This album reached number three in the USAand number four in the UK.
The show started off with pre-recorded classical music (Firebird Suite by Stavinsky) while images flashed on a large video screen. Then the band started the first track, “Close to the Edge”, which lasted over 18 minutes. It was followed by the b-side tunes “And You and I” and “Siberian Khatru”. Geoff Downes (Keyboards) who performed with Howe in Asia, was more than efficient but unlike former keyboardist Rick Wakeman, he didn’t exhibit any of his show man like qualities. He spent most of the evening with his back to the audience however you can’t fault him; he was more than competent! And last but not least singer Jon Davidson, the replacement for Jon Anderson, was the icing on the cake. He was recommended to Squire by Taylor Hawkins (drummer Foo Fighters) who was a common friend to both. You might as well be looking and hearing Jon Anderson as he is a perfect match!
The next album on the agenda was, “Going for the One” including songs, “Going for the One”, “Turn of the Century”, Parallels”, “Wondrous Stories” and “Awaken”. Chris Squire was showing off his collection of basses for this album, but what got everyone’s attention was when he walked out with his triple neck. This was a more melodic album in true YES fashion. The fans responded with yet another standing ovation. Technically the band still is at the top of their game!
After the Intermission the band returned to the stage. Chris Squire led into a story about how the band held up in a farm house in the 1970’s, and this was the result: the band started “Yours Is No Disgrace”. It was a very cool way to open the last segment, and introduce the final album, “The Yes Album”. Then Steve Howe, pulled up a chair, sat down, and performed his solo evening, “Clap”. “Starship Trooper” followed, and then if the band hadn’t shown you all night their vocal capabilities, you were in for a treat with “I’ve Seen All Good People”. Rounding out the evening for the near sold out show was “A Venture” and “Perpetual Change”. And the encore, was, none other than, “Roundabout”!
YES performed these albums almost note for note. If you are a YES fan or even familiar with the band you would have gotten exactly what you were expecting to hear. No surprises, no flashy stage show with musicians jumping around and useless chatter. Just a complete evening of technically perfect YES’s musical pieces of art!
A few interesting points! I read another review of the evening and he thought it was a minor flaw that the albums weren’t presented in chronological order. I thought that was smart as they might have lost some of the audience as the crowd appeared to favour the first and last albums, even though all three received standing ovations!
Also I don’t think I have been to a concert where people spent more time getting beer, getting rid of it, then repeating it, rather than watching the band they paid to see. People all around were getting up and sitting down every two minutes. It was like the Bugs Bunny cartoon with over two hours of excuse me, oh excuse me, sorry, pardon me. And some people preferred to play on their phones rather than watch the show. Please, either put the phone away, or leave. Those screens are distraction. That being said it was a great concert from one of the most technical progressive rock band out there!