YES (Live) AT THE CITY HALL, NEWCASTLE, U.K., APRIL 29, 2016
May 1, 2016 Mick Burgess Metal Express Radio
The tragic loss of their founder member and only constant in the band since their formation in 1968, could well have marked the end for Prog Rock legends, Yes. However before his passing, bassist Chris Squire insisted the band continue and even helped to choose his own replacement. The huge influence of Squire loomed large over the evening and his image in a tribute video montage at the start of the show was met with a standing ovation. Squire may now be gone but he’ll always be the heart and soul of Yes.
Last time Yes played at the City Hall they played a marathon set featuring three albums in their entirety. None of this one album stuff and a few greatest hits for them. This time they took things a little more easy, splitting their show into two parts. The first featuring a complete run through 1980s Drama and a second half highlighting the genre defining Fragile album.
When Drama first hit the streets at the turn of the ’80s long standing fans were aghast at the departure of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman, even more so when The Buggles (yes, THAT Buggles) duo Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn jumped aboard. The resulting album however was fresh and arguably the right move to take into the new decade. With Downes back in the Yes lineup, now was a suitable time to revisit that album.
“Machine Messiah” was the perfect opener, a big, bold, overblown epic that twisted and turned through highs and lows along its 12 minute journey. Steve Howe’s intricate finger picking and mazy runs across his fret board intertwined with Downes whose keyboard set up resembled something from the NASA control room. It sounded great on record but was sensational on stage as the impact of the atmospheric lighting created an intense audio visual aura.
The big plus of playing full albums is that tracks that have not been played for years, if ever get a dusting off and a new lease of life meaning the likes of “Into The Lens and Run Through The Light” breathed new life into their set. Steve Howe recounted his first ever show at the City Hall back in 1967 before dedicating a haunting rendition of “Time and A Word” to guitarist Peter Banks, who Howe replaced back in 1970.
After “Siberian Khatru” brought the first set to a conclusion a short intermission brought a welcome toilet break for all. None of us are getting any younger and this was a long night.
With 1971’s Fragile, Yes set the Prog Rock bar high. A tour de force of musicianship and complex arrangements helped set the template for other bands to follow.
Opening with “Roundabout,” one of Yes’s most enduring classics, again set the pace for the second half. Steve Howe at times resembled a mad professor as he hopped across the stage suddenly contorting himself into unimaginable positions at just the right moment to tease the notes from his guitar. Yet during “Mood For A Day,” Howe be seated on a stool, delivered a master class in beautiful acoustic melodies. Such is Howe’s standing in the business that he has added his talents to the likes of “Innuendo” by Queen and Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome” and tonight it was easy to see why.
Chris Squire certainly left huge shoes to fill but former World Trade bassist Billy Sherwood rose to the challenge particularly on “Long Distance Runaround,” where if you half closed your eyes you’d swear it was Squire himself up on stage.
The intricacies and dynamics of Prog Rock need crystal clear sound. The sound crew at the City Hall deserve a special mention for a perfect example of how to produce a top class show and this was especially evident on the album closing, “Heart of Sunrise,” another gargantuan epic of dive-bombing dynamics underpinned by Sherwood’s bubbling bass lines and the ethereal keyboards of Downes.
As the second set drew to a close there was just enough time to drop in a few Yes classics from other albums. Jon Davison on “Don’t Kill The Whale” brought a real sense of meaning to the lyrics before Howe kicked in with the riff to “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” a song that brought Yes a No.1 hit single in The States. How do you follow that? This is Yes after all and only a vintage epic would do and “Starship Trooper” duly obliged.
For a musical genre that was supposed to have been blown away in 1977 by Punk, Prog Rock has proved to be a tad more resilient to safety pins and spittle than the music press would have you believe and fast approaching their 50th anniversary Yes, despite a few ups and downs along the way, are still very much alive and kicking at the top of their game.
Yes at Newcastle City Hall in Newcastle, UK on 29-Apr-2016
Adam Kennedy National Rock Review May 3, 2016
Yes takes a walk down memory lane by performing their seminal albums, Drama and Fragile, in full to a packed house in Newcastle. In what is to be a treat for the North East fans of the progressive rock legends, YesÂ is performing two of their treasured albums in their entirety for the first time. The audience is fortunate for the opportunity to hear these albums as they were originally conceived. Both records mark significant points in the band’s history. Fragile welcomed Rick Wakeman into the fold and the subsequent Drama was a watershed moment in the group’s career propelling them into the eighties.
Yes has an association with Newcastle, of course; drummer Alan White is originally from County Durham, a mere stone’s throw away. Trevor Horn, who performed on the Drama album and who will rejoin the band for two special shows in Oxford and the Royal Albert Hall, is also a North East lad. Lastly, the band performed on this very stage 36 years ago as part of the original Drama tour.
Tonight we remember Yes bass player Chris Squire, who sadly passed away last year after a tragic illness. Squire wished that the band would continue without him; as such, he chose Billy Sherwood to take his place.
As the house lights fall, the stage is illuminated with images of Squire throughout various stages of his career with the band accompanied by the sound of “Onward” from their 1978 album,Â Tormato. It is a fitting and touching tribute, which leaves the whole room standing to show their respect. While Chris Squire is gone, his legend lives on.
The show is made up of two parts, the first of which comprises of the Drama album and open with the epic, “Machine Messiah.” Billy Sherwood demonstrates the reason he was chosen for the gig with his superb bass intro that leads into, “Does It Really Happen.”
The band is tight, particularly on the likes of “Run Through The Light,” with each artist complimenting one another so well. Steve Howe dedicates “Time and a Word” to the late Peter Banks. “Siberian Khatru” closes out the Drama album review and features some exceptional vocal harmonies between Howe, Sherwood, and Jon Davison, the later who has a superb vocal range.
After a brief break, the band returns to the stage with all guns blazing as theyÂ take us through 1971s Fragile album and the opener “Roundabout.” Geoff Downes takes his moment in the spotlight dueling with Wakeman’s classicly inspired “Cans and Brahms.” The infectious melody of “South Side of the Sky” results in rapturous applauseÂ before the band shows off their jazzier side with “Five Percent of Nothing.”
The rhythm section of Billy Sherwood and Alan White grapple with Chris Squire’s “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)” and do the track justice. Steve Howe takes center stage for the beautiful classical acoustic piece, “Mood For A Day,” before the band brings Fragile to a close with the epic “Heart Of The Sunrise,” which results in a standing ovation from the Geordie crowd.
But Yes is not done yet. They continue to play a trio of fan favorites from their extensive back catalog, including “Don’t Kill The Whale” and the unmistakable “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” They bring the evening to a close with the classic, “Starship Trooper.”
The music of Yes is alive and well, and in safe hands. Long may they continue.