This was a particularly good show, if not just a little strange at times. The evening started with a few words from legendary album cover artist Roger Dean, who has worked with Yes for over 50 years, a true gentleman and very enthusiastic about the works he has created for the band over the years.
He started off by talking about the loss of Alan White and played a short sequence of images of Alan’s time with the band, then Yes came onstage and started their first set with On the Silent Wings of Freedom from the ‘Tormato’ album, a song that rarely gets played live. The band were up for it though with Steve Howe especially energised for the proceedings.
There were a few gremlins sound wise but the band got through it very professionally. Billy Sherwood’s Bass was a huge sounding behemoth, very Chris Squire like in tone, and he played some exceptionally good lines throughout. Billy has a certain air about him, like a rock god from a bygone age with his long flowing hair and his boots very much an image, but he can certainly play that bass like a master. New drummer Jay Schellan kept things very tidy at the back, solid and uncluttered, much like Alan White used to really.
This latest incarnation of Yes is very much orchestrated, led and driven these days by Steve Howe, who was constantly issuing instructions to the other band members with his hands or voice. Steve is the last member with a connection to their golden age (of which ‘Close To The Edge’ is a major capstone of course). Sure, you could moan about the lack of the presence of either Rick Wakeman or Jon Anderson, however the integrity of this band stays true under Steve’s guidance. Jon Davison may not have the presence of Anderson but he is a very fine singer for this version of Yes.
The band then played Yours Is No Disgrace, which was the first of several longer pieces performed tonight. This song was obviously a long-time favourite of many of the audience who’s average age was sixty plus. It is very strange being part of a crowd this old and you definitely know it is odd when the toilet queue is twice as long for me as it is for women!
We then moved onto No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed, from the ‘Time and a Word’ album, one that no one onstage had been a part of but still played it with much gusto, making it one of the highlights of the evening so far. This was followed by a rousing version of Does It Really Happen from ‘Drama’ and Geoff Downes’ keyboards really shone making it really stand out. We were then treated to Steve Howe’s solo guitar piece, The Clap, which he delivered to much acclaim and a rapturous response.
The latest Yes studio album is ‘The Quest’, which got a mixed critical response. Well, here tonight ,the two tracks they played, The Ice Bridge and Dare To Know, were both very well received, with Steve howe really on fire with his playing, he gave the recurring riff and melody some real oomph! This led to Heart Of The Sunrise from ‘Fragile’, another lengthy workout for all the members again with the thunderous bass from Billy really made this memorable, it was another highlight for me.
After a short break and queuing for the toilets the show recommenced with the main event of the evening, legendary album ‘Close To The Edge’ in its entirety.
The three songs, Close To The Edge, And You And I and Siberian Khatru are possibly the very essence of Yes, they were certainly different to much that was around in 1972. These pieces both retain and contain all that makes Yes so loved, mystical lyrics and driving and unorthodox time signatures where musicians really worked and stretched a piece of music to the maximum. This evening the songs did just that, with an especially fine rendition of And You And I. With some dramatic and effective pedal steel guitar from Steve at the end, it soared out over the audience and was again very well received. Siberian Khatru was also well received and was an excellent finale to proceedings, with the crowd up on their feet clapping along with the music.
Then it was encore time and what could it be but Roundabout and Starship Trooper, both of which really rocked out, sending everyone home extremely happy and satisfied at what they had seen, Yes doing what they do best, remembering a lost colleague and progressing onward as only they can. It was an astonishing and wonderful evening and performance plus, to top it all, Roger Dean signed my copy of the Topographic Oceans CD!
LIVE REVIEWS Yes – Bridgewater Hall, Manchester: Live Review
Mike Ainscoe At The Barrier June 18, 2022
It’s over fifty years since a band called Yes emerged into a vibrant rock music scene with their unique blend and fifty years exactly since their meisterwork Close to The Edge appeared. We’re sitting in anticipation along with a crowd who’ve been on the same journey, in a state of the art concert hall in Manchester to share memories with the current incarnation of the band.
1972 was a period when anything vaguely imaginable was possible and Yes cracked it with Close To The Edge. Despite anything they wrote and recorded in the following decade and beyond, CTTE (as it shall be known) remains, for most, their corwoning glory. I’d argue a case for Going For The One (or GFTO) but that’s another story. Even artist Roger Dean, who’s on tour with his pop up exhhibition/shop, talks of the privilege of being part of the journey. And so he should, so it seems fitting that the man who created the visuals that are as much a part of Yes package, should be making the introduction.
But before the 2022 version of Yes sets foot on stage there’s a respectful video tribute to recently passed and much loved drummer Alan White, soundtracked by the beautiful Turn Of The Century (from GFTO of course) and those “As Autumn calls, we’ll both remember all those many years ago” fade, we take a moment to compose and ready ourselves as the show begins.
While it may be 2022 and the world seems at times a strange place, some things never change; the intro music remains the same. The Firebird Suite gives the signal for Howe, Davison, Sherwood, Schellen and Donwes to take up their places. Like Dean and his art, Stravinky is as much a goosebumps part of the Yesshow as the quintet throw a bit of a curveball and offer up a new arrangement of Tormato’ ‘sOn The Silenet WIngs Of Freedom; one that Howe says we might not have heard for some time. I’m thinking back to 1978 and the wonderful (and legendary) show from the Wembley radio broadcast. We have, however, some more familiarity with the rest of the first set that settles on a 1970-1980 theme with the softer acousticity of Wonderous Stories (GFTO – again – get my point?) balanced with a heavier touch of Drama album that seems to have more legs now than it had back in 1980.
We also get The Ice Bridge and Dare To Know from the 2021 The Quest album. It’s not clear what was sought on that quest…maybe a bit of that magic from 1972, but the former is arguably the most invigorating piece of the first half – think how you might hope yes to sound in 2022 and throw in a dash of The South Side Of The Sky in the wintery ambience and you’re on the right track. A blizzard playing out on the projection screens and Howe and Downes trading solos, it highlights the latter of the two new pieces as a lesser number by comparison.
And while much of the music might remain the same, Yes in 2022 is a different beast. Anyone waking from a fifty years’ sleep might wonder what the heck is going on. Howe is still there leading the line and still throwing some of the shapes, twists and startled expressions (the one like you’ve just heard a firework go off unexpectedly). We might be used to Geoff Downes by now – he seems a veteran having been in and out (and back in again) of Yes since 1980. Never too far from Howe, he subscribes to the banks of keyboards setup, even extending on the odd occasion to the classic arms reaching out to play on opposite banks at the same time. Probably copyrighted to a certain R.Wakeman Esq.
On the vocal front, the continued absence of Jon Anderson (the talismanic voice of Yes) Jon Davison is as good a fit as can be expected, now even featuring on two studio albums. His range makes sure we still hear the classic lines and phrases authentically in the same way that we’re also now used to Jay Schellen on the drum stool, subbing and supporting and now replacing Alan White. It’s Billy Sherwood who’s the revelation tonight though. He’s been on the teamsheet in various capacities for over twenty years, but stepping into the almost impossible to fill shoes of Chris Squire, you could argue he’s now made the spot his own. he seems inhabited by the spirit of Squire, not just in playing his parts but also in the way those parts make him move and coax the notes from his instrument. Add a flowing gauze oversize shirt and he’s even looking the part.
That first half sees cobwebs blown away and a little of the rustiness from a prolonged period of gig abstinence. We’re only two gigs into the tour – a warm up and Glasgow ticked off – and to be fair, there’s only one way to get gig fit again. Not always easy when the music and time signatures are as complex and challenging as much of the Seventies prog rock that Yesmusic set the template for.
It might be my ears or memory, but some of the lengthier outings/indulgences (Howe’s Yours Is No Disgrace solo and the repeated opening riffs in Heart Of The Sunrise) seem to have been treated to a little trim. Howe is the only soloist too… Gone are the days of indulgent solo spots between the songs. No ‘Whitefish’ bass and drums showcase as Alan White and Chris Squire used to work out on (maybe they’ve reinstated it in the great gig in the sky?) and any Wakemanesque keyboard solos pieces from Geoff Downes (or even snatches of Video Killed The Radio Star) are left in the past. It’s just Howe who gets to sit in the solo spotlight to perform Clap and you can forgive him as it’s less of an indulgence and more of a Yeshow ritual.
Things step up considerably in a second half of stone cold classic Yes. The Close To The Edge album making up three of five songs that each warranted standing ovations, whether it was the five men on stage or the music they played that earned the ovations (or perhaps both?). There’s a fire in the belly though. Howe regularly charges, almost threateningly (think De Niro – you looking at ME???) to the lip of the stage firing out a barrage of notes in the opening flurry of CTTE. He and Sherwood also nail the harmonies and 2/3 part vocal lines with Jon Davison that could easily present a stumbling block. As we emerge from I Get Up I Get Down, the organ part seems slightly subdued, but on the second cycle, the Schellen cymbal flourishes and the ground trembling Sherwood bass pedals made sure that the turbo boost of power did its job. I think I even heard someone call “Bravo!” during the deserved ovation.
For me, the ‘bravo’ would have been for And You And I; he bass pedals again, Howe’s quivering pedal steel and Sherwood blowing the harp during the jaunty mid dle section a la Squire did the trick. The towering crescendo that used to send Anderson into spiritual raptures fully realised. Maybe lesser in comparison, even Siberian Khatru was treated to a welcome increase in the tempo that of late has earned some fan criticism. A case of a half time pep talk seeing the band really hit their stride in the second half?
Hard to follow but with a double whammy of Roundabout and Starship Trooper (no – der, der-der, der-der concession to the crowd pleasing – not this crowd though – Owner Of A Lonely Heart for this line up) saturation point is imminent. Howe again leading the finale and the charge into the Wurm section and as we hit the final lap, the thought occurs of what happens to Yes when, heaven forbid, the current keeper of the flame plays his last note? We shall see, but the feeling is that someone, somewhere, is going to be playing the Yesmusic which is going to live on for much longer than most of us.
A much delayed tour due to Covid-19, it has evolved from being a performance of Relayer as part of Yes’ “album series” tours, into a 50th anniversary celebration of Close To The Edge, perhaps the album that defined what prog was all about before most of the bands of that genre disappeared up their own behinds. Close to the Edge stands head and shoulders above the rest with excellent musicianship and supreme songwriting and perfect timing allowing them to push the boundaries with expert precision – even if they didn’t fully realise it at the time.
At bang on 8pm we get an introduction from artist Roger Dean recalling touring with the band in the 70’s, there is an impressive exhibition of some of his artwork with much of it for sale in the foyer, with eye watering and wallet emptying prices.
A prelude to the show – an excerpt from Turn of the Century with stills on the screens behind the band of the recently departed Alan White which leads into the Firebird Suite as the band hit the stage.
On the Silent Wings of Freedom which opens their performance was a pleasant surprise, from the sometimes-maligned Tormato album, however it is at best scrappy which immediately had me fearful for the rest of the show. However, that was not to be because the band hit their stride.
Yours Is No Disgrace and No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed started a tour-de-force and showed how good they can be, with singer Jon Davidson handling the vocals perfectly. Whilst there are many who continually go on about “you can’t replace Jon Anderson”, this guy has shown you can… and this Jon has been in the band for 10 years now and his singing is exemplary.
From Drama we get Does It Really Happen? with an opportunity for bassist Billy Sherwood to shine delivering Chris Squire’s driving basslines perfectly whilst drummer Jay Schellen .
A pair of songs from last year’s The Quest are a nice inclusion to the set, The Ice Bridge and Dare to Know, the overtones of Topographic Oceans shining through the later at times.
The audience had been somewhat sedate so far, merely appreciative applause but that all changed after the band played Heart of the Sunrise which is simply sublime, with Steve Howe and Billy Sherwood trading licks and Geoff Downes nailing the piano breaks. A veritable highlight. Time for an intermission.
Close to the Edge both the album and the piece of music is a colossus, the crowning achievement of both Yes and quite possibly the prog movement as a whole. Roger Dean’s minimalist cover and salient landscape, along with the introduction of the infamous bubble logo, completed the package.
And tonight they deliver the whole album and it sounds immense. Steve Howe hasn’t looked this happy on stage for sometime, he is clearly enjoying himself and is incredibly spritely for a 75 year old. The band really has come together with this, with Davidson delivering the vocals perfectly.
Both And You and I and Siberian Khatru are equally sublime and the audience are on their feet at the end, recognising the feat of performing this and celebrating Close to the Edge’s 50th anniversary. Impressive it most definitely is!
A well deserved encore and Howe bounds back onto the stage and he is now at his most animated during Roundabout and an utterly brilliant Starship Trooper during which again the band shine as a whole.
This was a great celebration of Close to the Edge along with a great, well-balanced set brilliantly performed.