As part of Artpark’s $12 open-air Tuesday night series, YES returned to Lewiston after an absence of 4 years with a brave set of 1980’s ‘Drama’ album in its entirety and half of 1973’s controversial ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’, interspersed with classic YES staples ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’, ‘Siberian Khatru’, ‘And You And I’, ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Starship Trooper’.
Shortly before the tour began, it was announced that Alan White – ever present drummer since 1972 – had had to have back surgery and would be absent from (at least) the first few weeks of the tour. Thankfully Jay Schellen has stepped up to fill the drum-stool at short notice. Jay is known to most YES fans through his work with Circa and Asia, and it has to be said, he’s doing a great job.
In bright sunshine, the band kicked off with the ‘Drama’ album – released in 1980, it was at the time a difficult moment in YES’ history as founder member Jon Anderson and keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman were replaced by successful chart toppers Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes – aka The Buggles. 36 years later, ‘Drama’ is widely regarded as a gem in the YES back catalogue.
Album opener ‘Machine Messiah ‘ is about as heavy as YES gets, and from early on it was clear that this was a relaxed band that appeared just to be happy to play. As an album, ‘Drama’ has a nice flow to it with ‘Does It Really Happen’ and ‘Into The Lens’ being neatly bookended by standout tracks ‘Machine Messiah’ and ‘Tempus Fugit’.
Having rejoined YES in 2011, I’m sure Geoff enjoyed playing the material he wrote (mostly) for the first time. Jay provided the energy the material required, and before you knew it we were back in familiar live territory with ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ and ‘Siberian Khatru’ where Steve Howe rightly came to the fore. Set 2 started with the welcome return to the live set of the sublime ‘And You And I’, which as ever received a particularly strong reaction from the appreciative and large crowd.
I’m not sure what the more casual fan made of the ‘Tales’ tracks. 2 twenty minute pieces, with ‘Leaves Of Green’ (an acoustic duet from Steve Howe and Jon Davison from the third side – ‘The Ancient’) sandwiched in between. It’s heaven of course to the deep YES fan, culminating in Jon, Billy and Jay all pounding out rhythms towards the end of ‘Ritual’. In ‘Ritual’ especially Billy once again showed how comfortable he is filling Chris Squire’s shoes.
Jon Davison takes whatever YES throws at him in his stride, even if he did need an iPad to guide him through some of the lengthier, wordier passages of ‘The Revealing Science Of God’. Jon’s voice always seems spot on, effortlessly rising to the challenge – I’d love to hear him tackle ‘Relayer’ in full, surely the only YES challenge remaining to him?
After a rousing double encore of ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Starship Trooper’ the enthusiastic crowd left happy, knowing that once again YES had undoubtedly delivered.
Prog rockers Yes returned to Artpark sans their famous rhythm section of Squire and White to perform one of the group’s often forgotten albums, “Drama.” The 1980 melded synth-pop with progressive rock and laid the groundwork for Asia’s debut and Yes’ “90125” two hit albums that made prog more palatable to the masses.
The current lineup’s treatment of the album was flawless, and in many ways superior to the original thanks to powerful vocals by Jon Davison and inspired guitar work by Steve Howe. The presence of Goeff Downes and the driving rhythm section of Billy Sherwood and Jay Schellen on drums (in place of Alan White) added to album performance and when the band finished “Drama” they drew a rousing ovation.
They added “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Siberian Khatru” to the first set, and the versions were inspired due in no small part to Steve Howe’s guitar playing which was absolutely brilliant.
After a brief intermission the band returned to perform “And You and I” followed by sides 1 and 4 of “Tales from Topographic Oceans, a decidedly more trippy and progressive album. The 1973 album is credited with being the reason that Rick Wakeman originally left Yes.
“Tales” is a curious choice to follow “Drama” especially considering that it is in many ways the antithesis of the synth-pop stylings of “Drama” and because of its complex arrangements the album best suited for the diehards and is not quite as palatable to the casual classic rock fan.
To their credit, the band seems to enjoy the challenge of playing a complex album that was originally recorded by what many fans consider the quintessential Yes lineup, As was the case in the first set, Steve Howe was putting on a master class in guitar.
Davison had the hardest role to fill because Jon Anderson’s vocal performance on the original “Tales” was one of his best. Davison did an admirable job.
The audience reaction was mixed and there was a noticeable amount of people that left during the “Tales” portion. Those that stuck it out were treated to an excellent light show And tremendous interplay between Howe and bassist Billy Sherwood. They even threw in some fog.
After the “Tales” portion the band left the stage briefly and returned to perform “Roundabout” and “Starship Trooper.” The rest of the evening’s material was so complex that the two final numbers seemed simple by comparison.
One has to give credit to Yes for performing at a high level for two sets and over two hours of complex material. While the whole band sounded great and gelled together well it was Steve Howe’s performance that really stood out. Possibly because he is the last real connection to the band’s glory days, especially with Alan White on the mend, Howe has felt obligated to take his playing to the next level, which is saying something because he is one of the greatest guitarists off all time.
Based on the attendance, I don’t think Artpark has seen the last of Yes, and I am sure those that were in attendance will come back to see what album they try and tackle next.