Progressive rock legends YES make a welcome return to Tyneside to mark their milestone 50th anniversary.
Formed back in 1968 YES have undergone numerous lineup changes throughout their extensive history. The current incarnation of the group features YES stalwarts Steve Howe, Alan White and Geoff Downes at the helm along with their newest recruits Billy Sherwood and Jon Davison on bass and vocals respectively. Subsequently, the group were deservedly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year.
Following the band’s incredible 2016 UK tour, which included a full airing of their much celebrated Fragile and Drama albums in full, YES are back out on the road again showcasing key numbers from their impressive songbook.
Tonight the band perform in front of a packed out audience at the prestigious Sage Gateshead. Of course, YES has a long association with the North East of England due to the fact that drummer Alan White is a County Durham lad himself.
With a back catalogue spanning an impressive 21 studio albums, it’s always going to be difficult picking a setlist for a show like this. This evening’s celebration of the group’s beloved music focuses on their early years with the core of the setlist taken from their 1969-1977 period. YES open the show with “Yours Is No Disgrace” and “I’ve Seen All The Good People” from their eponymous debut album, which in turn sets the tone for the night ahead.
Tonight’s musical extravaganza comes complete with complimentary visuals at the rear of the stage which perfectly accompany each track in the band’s marathon almost three-hour show.
Following an incredibly infectious performance of “South Side of the Sky” lead guitarist Steve Howe takes centre stage armed only with his acoustic guitar as he delivers a stunning rendition of “Mood For A Day”.
As the group walk their fans down memory lane they take a moment to reflect on the contribution of the late great Chris Squire. Throughout the show, Billy Sherwood perfectly executes the bass lines laid down by Squire with compassion and respect. Likewise, frontman Jon Davison’s phenomenal vocal range fills this acoustically perfect room at the Sage Gateshead all night long, particularly during the likes of the classic “Wonderous Stories”.
The second half of the show centres on the progressive rock masterpiece Tales From Topographic Oceans. This is an album which witnessed great commercial success for YES being the first album to be certified Gold on pre-orders alone. The band’s seminal long-player topped the charts in the UK for two weeks as well as reaching Number 6 in the US.
This evening YES perform two sides of their groundbreaking concept album in full including the epic “Revealing Science of God” and an incredible performance of “Ritual”. During the latter parts of the previously mentioned song Alan White takes over from former Asia sticks man Jay Schellen and delivers a hard-hitting drum solo.
A crowd-pleasing two-song encore of classic YES numbers follow, that includes both an uplifting performance of “Roundabout” that has the whole room on their feet singing and clapping along, before “Starship Trooper” brings the show full circle and closes out a career spanning YES show at the Sage Gateshead. The band leave the stage to a standing ovation from the North East faithful.
In this day and age, it’s very rare that a group gets to hit their 50th anniversary and tonight’s show is a testament to the musical talent of YES that has catalysed the group’s success and excited the band’s loyal fan base since 1968.
Yes, yes, yes... prog rockers go down a storm in 50th anniversary gig at the Sage
Yes was formed in 1968 and long-serving and more recent members were in Sage One to perform favourite tracks
David Whetstone ChronicleLive March 19, 2018
YES 50th Anniversary Tour, Sage Gateshead
The prog rockers felt the love from the stage of a packed Sage One on Sunday night – standing ovations and even a few people on their feet at the front.
If you flashed back 40 or 50 years there would have been a lot of long hair in the room. And a lot of bell-bottom flares.
As it is, the core audience has aged with the longest-serving members of the band.
But it’s a devoted and knowledgeable core and clearly you’re never too old to covet a souvenir T-shirt (the merchandise stall on the concourse seemed to be trading steadily).
The band opened their set with Yours Is No Disgrace from the Yessongs album... “silly human, silly human race” is a line that always sounds topical.
Jon Davison, the American lead singer of YES since 2012, is perfectly equipped to deliver the soaring vocal sound patented by Jon Anderson back in 1968 when he founded the band with Chris Squire.
Tribute was paid to the bassist who died in 2015, a year after I last saw YES at Newcastle City Hall.
Davison has the flowing locks reminiscent of the YES heyday but while the ponytail is a little threadbare these days, it is Steve Howe who ensures these prog rock survivors still have the power to mesmerise.
Seventy years young and waif-like, the Londoner is one of the world’s great rock guitarists and he demonstrated his versatility on a succession of different instruments as the night unfolded.
“Great to be back in the wonderful Sage,” he said. “And I like the little room too.”
Despite the passing of the years, Yes are far too big and popular for the Sage Two polygon although Howe, as he demonstrated repeatedly, could fill it performing solo. He can do rock, he can do Flamenco, he can probably do anything with a guitar.
Sweet Dreams, from the album Time and a Word, and South Side of the Sky, from Fragile, were among the old favourites to get an airing.
But the second half was largely dedicated to the 1973 album Tales from Topographic Oceans, with coloured lights flashing and the artwork of Roger Dean projected on three screens behind the stage.
With Geoff Downes in charge of the banks of keyboards and Billy Sherwood a stoical presence on bass, it was left to Davison to deliver the intricate lyrics that are pure prog rock but hardly stand up to close scrutiny when lying cold on the page (eh, what?).
You could argue that YES demonstrate both why prog rock is often derided – over-blown, pretentious, hippy-happy – and why it is great.
When County Durham-born Alan White came on in the second part, replacing Jay Schellen (who has been standing in for White while his health hasn’t been so good) on drums, it was as if the concert moved up a gear. Schellen is a good drummer but White has been 46 years in YES and added oomph with a superb solo which I could hardly watch because a spotlight was flashing in my eyes.
At these moments, with the hall rocking, you can forgive a great deal. And for all that punk perhaps recalibrated the music industry at the right time, a YES gig makes a good argument for rock music that aspires to be profound.
The band’s final bow came when everyone knew there were still 20 minutes to go. That’s what you need for a prog rock encore and it brought us Roundabout (also from Fragile). The audience was already on its feet.
The final final bow brought a tidal wave of appreciation. Even the band seemed overwhelmed, applauding and blowing kisses as they left the stage.
FOOTNOTE: Just to clear up a possible source of confusion, another manifestation of Yes is coming our way in the summer. This is YES featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman, the founder member and two former members of the band, who are playing Newcastle City Hall on Tuesday, June 12. Yes fans might want to go and see this one too on the principle that you can’t have too much of a good thing. [Link]
YES (Live) AT THE SAGE, GATESHEAD, U.K., MARCH 18, 2018
Mick Burgess Metal Express Radio March 19, 2018
It was never meant to be like this. Wasn’t Punk supposed to have burned brightly but briefly to consign the dinosaurs of Prog Rock to the waste bin of musical history? How wrong those experts were as Prog titans, YES, were back in the region to celebrate an incredible half century in the business.
With no support, this was all about YES and a celebration of 50 years of ground-breaking music across two main sets.
Opening with Yours Is No Disgrace from their 1969 self-titled debut release, YES were straight into the thick of it. This was a classic YES; a multi-faceted epic with Billy Sherwood’s bubbling bass and Steve Howe’s dexterous guitar runs twisting and turning at every possible moment and Geoff Downes adding layer upon layer of atmospheric keyboards over the top.
Close your eyes for a moment and you’d swear original singer Jon Anderson was in the room such was the precision of John Davison’s vocals. Now wonder the Foo Fighter’s Taylor Hawkins, was so keen to recommend his childhood friend to the band at every opportunity and Davison did not disappoint.
I’ve Seen All Good People and Wonderous Stories are probably the closest YES get to commerciality. Howe’s mandolin combined with the exquisite three-part vocal harmonies and atmospheric lighting and three huge video screens created quite a stunning ambience.
One of the biggest cheers of the night was Davison’s tribute to the sadly departed original bassist Chris Squire who was the heartbeat of YES and the one constant member throughout the whole of their history. That Squire personally chose Billy Sherwood as his replacement is testament to his contribution to the band as his pulsating bass along with the layered church organ of Downes created an imposing wall of sound during Parallels.
With Set 1 closing with And You and I, a song that gave Howe the chance to switch between two guitars and his Fender lap steel, an hour or so had flashed by in an instant.
On previous tours YES, have performed albums including Close To the Edge and Drama in their entirety. For Set 2, the rest of the show was built around their Number 1 album Tales From Topographic Oceans, an album that came to symbolise the excess of Prog Rock but this was exactly what the Sage had come to hear.
For such a long piece of music Sides 1 and 4 were played in their entirety with a tasteful snippet of Side 3 giving Howe the chance to fire off some tasteful Flamenco guitar during Leaves Of Green. The Revealing Science of God and Ritual span almost 45 minutes with frequent tempo changes, diverse mood flows and a startling exhibition of intense musicianship. This was hard work but ultimately incredibly rewarding to see musicians of this calibre recreate this music live on stage.
For the bulk of the set Jay Schellen had occupied the drum stool showing off an incredible grasp of some exceptionally tricky time changes learned in a very short space of time but his constant beaming smile showed someone enjoying every minute. During Ritual, there was a seamless changeover with Schellen stepping aside for long-time drummer and local boy, Alan White, who had recently undergone back surgery, to take his rightful place as Schellen contributed percussion for the remainder of the show much to the joy of the crowd.
The 20-minute encore featuring Roundabout and Starship Trooper had the Sage up on their feet dancing and singing along. Quite a remarkable sight for such complex music.
The enthusiastic standing ovation they received at the end of a set that lasted almost 3 hours was quite something to behold but was testament to a band that has been at the top of their game over a 50-year period and the level of appreciation was richly deserved for such an accomplished and impressive performance.