Appropriately for a celebration, there’s a lot of reflection here tonight.
Not least of which is at the start when Roger Dean – himself celebrating 50 years with the band as the illustrator of those incredible record sleeves – talks about his involvement with the group, and of course, given the tragic news just before the tour about drummer Alan White, there’s a poignancy too.
There’s a tribute to Alan in Dean’s words, and on the big screen, as well as Steve Howe leading the crowd in a moment of appreciation. Quite right too, and it must be hard for the band.
The main celebration, though (and how fitting this is) is a celebration of the music that this band has created in the last 54 years.
Their ability to surprise is still there. Opening with the rarely played “On The Silent Wings Of Freedom” from the “Tormato” record almost underlines that. Steve Howe, the sort of de facto leader of the pack these days reckons “it was tough to play, so we dropped it from the set, but this new arrangement brings it back again”. It’s called starting as you mean to go on, I guess. And to think they were doing this at the height of punk is truly sensational.
Split into two halves – and with an absolutely stunning video wall, created by Dean, to go with it – there is so much here to enjoy. “Yours Is No Disgrace”, or “Does It Really Happen” are both technically wonderous, but also warm and welcoming. This is music to lose yourself in.
Howe plays “Clap” – one of the best acoustic solos you’ll ever see – and its tempting to imagine him as some kind of alchemist, creating these sounds in his studio, but its also true to say that Yes is a band, better than most of their peers that are not merely a heritage act.
To that end they are still releasing superb music. In the autumn of last year “The Quest” emerged, and the two from that, “The Ice Bridge” and “Dare To Know” – the latter built around a mighty keyboard riff from Geoffrey Downes to add a real depth – have fitted in so well.
Amongst it all you have Jon Davison (the bands singer for a decade now) and whilst his voice is perfect for this, he adds an air of mysticism somehow, as if he’s just popped in from somewhere else entirely and occasionally transfixed by the images behind. The three part harmonies he does with Howe and bassist Billy Sherwood soar, that’s for sure.
Set one ends with “Heart Of The Sunrise”, and its been a journey – a quest if you will – already, but the second half is the one to get really stuck into.
This show was billed as “Close to The Edge 50 Year Anniversary” and my goodness, hearing them play that album, here is almost transcendent. There’s a standing ovation after each of “Close To The Edge”, “And You And I” and “Siberian Khartru” and well might there be, because this is not your normal band playing normal songs. Look, there’s a reason so many people keep coming back time and time again for over half a century, and it’s in that almost 40 minutes.
The band take their bows after that, but with a simple: “thanks for asking us back” from Howe, they return with an utterly joyous “Roundabout” before flying off with “Starship Trooper”. I can’t help but look at Steve Howe while he plays his solo at the end. He’s jumping around the stage and dancing with all the grace you’d expect from a man in his mid 70s, but its lovely to see. Nothing else shows just how much this music and this band means to people. Even those on stage and there’s a real sense of fun amongst the five of them throughout.
There’s been some chatter about whether Yes is still Yes, with no original members in the band. That’s nonsense and perhaps typical of critics sniping as ever. Yes have just evolved to the point where they are now. And like everything else they have done tonight, they’ve done it perfectly. Glorious, overblown music that simply needs to be heard.
Forever progressing too. That’s Yes. Oh yes. Or something.
After their 'The Album Series Tour' had been rescheduled, legendary progressive rock band Yes has finally made it to Nottingham on the 18th of June. The current tour lineup features Steve Howe -guitars, Geoff Downes - keyboards, Jon Davison - vocals, Billy Sherwood - bass guitar and backing vocals, and Jay Schellen - drums and percussion.
Sadly, their long-time drummer Alan White passed away on the 26th of May, but the band decided to continue the tour as a tribute to him. Roger Dean, an artist who worked with Yes for many decades, told the story of how he met Alan and then announced the band on stage. Before the first song, there was a heart-warming yet bittersweet slideshow with Alan White's photos.
All band members showcased a high level of skill and professionalism throughout the gig. Their stage presence was powerful, making their performance even more exciting, and their genuine enthusiasm was infectious. Being one of the oldest band members, Steve Howe shared insights into how some of the songs were recorded, which was very interesting to hear.
The gig was greatly dedicated to the band's long and successful career. The band underwent many changes since its formation in the late 60s, and they remain one of the most respected pioneers of progressive rock after so many years. In addition, Yes is still relevant to younger audiences thanks to their song 'Roundabout' being used in the GTAV game, in Jojo's Bizarre Adventure anime and in internet memes.
Setlist: Turn of the Century (Alan White tribute) The Firebird Suite (Igor Stravinsky song) 1. On the Silent Wings of Freedom 2. Yours Is No Disgrace 3. No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed (Richie Havens cover) 4. Does It Really Happen? 5. Clap 6. Wonderous Stories 7. The Ice Bridge 8. Dare to Know 9. Heart of the Sunrise
Close to the Edge: 10. Close to the Edge 11. And You and I 12. Siberian Khatru
I think Saturday’s Yes show in Nottingham featured the ninth line-up I’ve seen. They’re one of the greatest bands of the 70s and I’ve followed them for years.
But I’ve not seen them live for ages – I think the last time was the Jon Anderson/trevor Rabin/rick Wakeman configuration in 2017. So what could be better in 2022 than a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the classic Close To The Edge, their best album?
Well, quite a lot, as it turned out. The story of Yes is a maddening soap opera. The band was formed 54 years ago by singer Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire. But Anderson, their creative driving force, was banished years ago and Squire died in 2015.
The latest line-up is led by guitarist Steve Howe, who joined in 1970. Keyboard player and ex-buggle Geoff Downes was in Yes for a year or so at the start of the 80s and is now back. Bassist Billy Sherwood has been an on-off sideman for aeons. Singer Jon Davison is a former member of a Yes tribute band. Drummer Jay Schellen is standing in for veteran Yesman Alan White, who tragically died on the eve of this tour.
It wasn’t bad, sometimes. The setlist featured a decent spread of old favourites, some rarely played, and a couple of new songs. The crowd, after a “polite” response to the first half, gave several ovations after the interval.
But something was off from the beginning.
They started with the striking, dramatic On The Silent Wings Of Freedom. And they butchered it. The exciting bass-driven intro was completely ditched and cuts were made in the oddest places to the rest of it, jettisoning all but one chorus. It was bizarre.
The band itself never gelled. Now, I’m not a musician. I’ve no idea how complicated this stuff is to play. But it all seemed a bit too difficult for several people on stage. This is music that relies on a degree of precision. And this outfit didn’t have it.
Sherwood and Schellen made the best fist of it, even if the drums were occasionally heavy-handed. But they seemed uncertain of their timing and never properly locked together – despite the fact that many of the songs had been dragged into slower tempos.
In place of Jon Anderson’s range, emotion and eccentricity, Davison merely contributed dour impersonation. His performance on the marvellous Heart Of The Sunrise was certainly competent. But five years ago I sat in the same room and saw Anderson’s vocal power pull people to their feet in mid-song. Saturday’s version wasn’t in the same league.
Then there’s Downes. A lot of his playing was confused and approximate, and on at least two songs – their version of Richie Haven’s No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed and new number Dare To Know – there were prominent, presumably recorded, keyboard parts he obviously wasn’t playing. When he did play... remember Wakeman’s surging church organ in the middle of Close To The Edge? Good, wasn’t it? This was the Jess Yates version.
To be fair, Howe had some sparkling flashes of inspiration. I liked one section of Yours Is No Disgrace, where he briefly seemed to enter entirely new territory, and there was a quite impressive version of Does It Really Happen?, another rarity.
Too often, however, even he was rambling and twee and, like the entire band, his timing seemed intermittent. Then, in the later stages, he began to jump around very strangely indeed. I wish he hadn’t.
By the end, buoyed by the increasingly enthusiastic audience, they’d warmed up enough to blast out rousing versions of Siberian Khatru, Roundabout and Starship Trooper.
For me, though, it was all too late. I have oceans of fondness for Yes and enduring love for huge swathes of their music. But maybe it’s time for them to call it a day.
Before Saturday’s Yes gig in Nottingham, dedicated to late drummer Alan White, guitarist Steve Howe and keyboard player Geoff Downes talk to KEVIN COOPER about their tour CELEBRATE A MILESTONE ANNIVERSARY IN CITY
Nottingham Post 15 Jun 2022
Shall we speak about the 50th anniversary of the Yes album, Close To The Edge.
Well, I have to say that would be nice but only if you really want to (laughter).
Looking back, does it really feel like it was 50 years ago?
No, to be totally honest with you it really doesn’t. If I am honest with you, then it really is a bit of a shocker especially when you get those types of anniversaries come around, not that I go out of my way to celebrate that many anniversaries, but, having said that, some are important. The fact that this album is still resonating in its own sweet way, really is quite remarkable and quite enjoyable. As you know, we are about to get back out on the road and play the whole of the Close To The Edge album. That is also a delight because playing songs is just playing songs but playing an album really does give you the chance to settle into that time warp of 1972 (laughter).
Unfortunately, as you were about to start the 1972 tour, Bill Bruford left the band to join King Crimson which
meant that you had recruit a new drummer, the late Alan White.
It was a situation which Bill (Bruford) had created, and of course we all loved and respected Bill immensely for what it was that he wanted to do, but it most certainly was not the best of timings. Alan got thrown in at the deep end and was immediately put under the spotlight. Alan was a very talented drummer who we believed would rise to the occasion, and that is exactly what he did. Don’t forget Alan was a bigname drummer; it wasn’t like we got Joe Bloggs in to play the drums. This was a wellknown drummer, and basically, he brought something to the band that only he could bring because he had the style, the adaptability, maybe more than Bill, to be able to go with us when we went on to record Tales From Topographic Oceans, or when we went somewhere else.
The album was actually released three months after the tour started. Was that planned?
That was the sort of usual nonsense that we, as a band, had to put up with. The tour had obviously been booked some time before we had finished the album, which was, in our opinion, absolutely stupid. It was partly based on people being a little greedy; wanting us to get out there and start earning the big bucks once again, because Yes was a big band.
You will be at the Royal Concert Hall on Saturday. Do you enjoy performing here?
I always find the city to be a pretty nice place. Let’s just hope that it is still nice as I haven’t been there for a while (laughter). I absolutely love performing at the Royal Concert Hall and I will remember it as the place where I have not trod the boards in many years due to the virus. Basically, like I said earlier, we have played at Madison Square Gardens but basically every stage is an opportunity to connect. I like twiddling on my guitar, I like the guitar to sound great, I like to feel good, I like to wear good clothes, I like to tune up my voice before I go on, but basically, the most important part is to put that guitar on me, plug the thing in and let me go.
Yes play the Rotal Concert Hall on Saturday. Check trch.co.uk/whats-on/ yes/ for ticket availability.
‘YES IS MUCH MORE OF A LEARNING CURVE’
How is life treating you?
Life at the moment is really good if not a little hectic. We have all been getting our sleeves rolled up for the forthcoming Yes tour and we are all really excited about it. It is almost three years now since Yes was out on the road and that’s a long time for a bunch of old guys such as us.
It is hard to believe that you have never played the Royal Concert Hall.
We are definitely Nottingham bound on this tour, where we will perform in the Royal Concert Hall which I am told really is a great venue.
You have also released an Asia In Asia deluxe box set which is the performance you did at the Budokan in Tokyo.
I have to say that I think that it is pretty good. I would certainly say that there are some very useful bits of information within the package as well about just how we had to record a parallel show just in case the satellite link did go down. So, we recorded an entire show which was running in tandem with the live broadcast, so it would have been fairly easy for them to switch that over, and feed in the backup as it were. Thankfully that never happened, so it is raw in that essence, but it does capture exactly what we were about that night. I’m very proud of it as it was a tough thing to pull off particularly in a country that we had very little or no knowledge of.
Do you ever tire of playing Heat Of The Moment?
When you have written something that people know and recognise and it is still an evergreen song that is played on radio stations all over the world, I still get a chill whenever I hear it being played on the radio. Whenever I play it on stage, I never feel as though I am on autopilot or anything like that. I really do get a kick out of it because I think to myself, “I wrote this song with John (Wetton); we have got all of these people in front of us in the audience, they are jumping up and down enjoying themselves to it” and that in itself is, to me, a real privilege.
Which did you preferworking with, Asia, Yes or The Buggles?
To be honest with you, and this is not Geoff Downes sitting on the fence, but I have to say that I love working with both Asia and Yes. I do still talk to Trevor (Horn) about The Buggles as well. We still play around with the idea of going out and doing a few shows here and there, as we have done in the past. I should also include the Downes Braide Association with Chris Braide. They are all very different in a way because, certainly with Yes, from my standpoint I’m not playing a lot of my parts; I’m actually playing music that was written by other keyboard players. So, that to me is much more of a learning curve. However, with something like Asia because the music is embedded within me, I don’t even have to think about that, and the same goes with The Buggles stuff.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
I think that when we played Madison Square Garden with Yes, that was a really iconic venue to play. It had always been a dream of mine that I would be on stage with a band who I respected and who I was really into as a teenager. And then all of a sudden, there I was standing on a stage in the middle of New York City, together with these amazing musicians.