Yes | June 17, 2018 | Grove of Anaheim | Anaheim, CA – Concert Review & Photo Gallery
Review by Shawn Perry Photos by Maria Huizinga Vintage Rock June 17, 2018
To celebrate 50 years of Yes music, two versions of Yes are making the rounds and bringing the classic songbook to the masses. There’s Yes featuring ARW, which includes the band’s original singer Jon Anderson, guitarist Trevor Rabin (who came along in the 1980s and helped reestablished the band), and the caped crusading keyboardist Rick Wakeman (who originally joined Yes in 1971, quit and returned multiple times). The other Yes — simply Yes — has guitarist Steve Howe (joined in 1970), drummer Alan White (joined in 1972), and Geoff Downes (joined in 1980, rejoined in 2011) in its ranks. Bassist Chris Squire, the only original member to appear on all issued Yes albums through 2014, was part of this lineup until his passing on June 15, 2015.
Extending credentials to the name can be confusing enough, so the best way to figure out which version to see in concert is obvious: Go see both. From the point of view of an outsider, the world of Yes would be a much more pleasant place if all the principals reunited under one Yes banner (as they did in 1991), and maybe hired Rush bassist Geddy Lee to fill in for Squire (as they did at the 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction) on a big world tour. That, unfortunately, is highly unlikely. You could call out the Yes with Howe and White as the version without any original members, but then that changed slightly when they invited original keyboardist Tony Kaye to sit in for a few numbers on the 2018 Cruise To The Edge. He’s made several appearances since.
It’s debatable as to whether Kaye’s limited participation makes much difference, although when he showed up in Anaheim, you could feel an extra surge of excitement. With Howe assuming the reigns for most of the night, the performance took on an almost cerebral tone from the get-go, as the group, who’s been playing entire albums live in recent years, easily fell into a bulky chunk of “Close To The Edge” for openers. Make no mistake though — tonight’s theme wasn’t about a particular album, it was about 50 years of Yes music. Therefore, it was important to cover most of all the bases — except the music from 1983 through 1994. They leave that for the other Yes.
So, it was indeed a treat to hear “Nine Voices (Longwalker)’ from the criminally underrated 1997 album, The Ladder, which not only includes Howe and White, but also Billy Sherwood, then a guitarist, later personally chosen by Squire as his replacement in Yes, where he remains as bassist. It all segued quite smoothly into “Parallels,” a gem from 1977’s Going For The One. Here, Downes astutely recreated the distinct church organ sound of the original. The keyboardist, who co-founded Asia with Howe, would later unveil a slice of flare of his own on “Fly From Here,” a piece he and one-time Yes singer and producer Trevor Horn wrote.
In addition to taking the spotlight for “Mood For A Day,” before singer Jon Davison joined him for “Leaves Of Green,” Howe also did most of the talking between songs, assuming a rather uncharacteristic light mood in the process. During the second set, he also indulged the audience with the shrill of the pedal steel on the “Soon” portion from “The Gates of Delirium.” That one still makes the hair on my arms stand to attention. Slender and sleight, the guitarist attacks his instrument with pointed passion and precision. It’s clear he’s not about give up his hand in the Yes legacy. Peter Banks may have been the band’s original guitarist, but it was Steve Howe who helped elevate the band to the top of the progressive rock heap. Tonight, there was simply no way to ignore his brilliance.
Alan White didn’t show up until “Awaken,” the last song of the second set. Up until that time, the drums had been expertly and respectfully handled by Jay Schellan, who’s been White’s off-and-on understudy for a couple years. Schellan stepped aside and grabbed a couple tambourines when White, who’s been battling health issues, took the throne. Although this lineup has played “Awaken.” co-written by Howe, before, it’s very much identified as a Jon Anderson song, counted among one of his favorites from the Yes catalog. Davison replicated the middle harp on keys, while White kept the chimes and percussion moving. Its magical spell entranced the five tiers of seated Yes fans, not a murmur was heard nor a stir felt.
It was during the three-song encore of “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Roundabout,” and “Starship Trooper” that Tony Kaye appeared behind a solitary Roland VK-8 Combo Organ, dwarfed by Downes’ barrage of synths, workstations and specialty keys. Kaye played with abandon, asserting his might at the breaks and on an extended solo during “Roundabout.” By the time the grand sweep of “Starship Trooper” spread its sonic space dust over the bedazzled crowd, the majestic history of Yes couldn’t have been more apparent.
Menawhile, Yes Featuring ARW have been roaming Europe, and are scheduled to bring their 50 year celebration to the States in the late summer of 2018. Tonight proved the bar has been set high, and the opportunity to catch both versions of Yes while the original and classic members are still playing up to their own exemplary standards has never been better. You never know — Yes, the Next Generation, could already be in the works and ready to take over.