What the hell am I doing here? It was suggested that I go a see Yes back when the ‘covid was a twinkle in a monkey’s eye. Back then, at the turn of the decade, the gig was advertised as being a performance of the album Relayer. I was not familiar with this album, as I didn’t own it. Or any Yes albums, as it happened.
The gig was postponed and postponed, but lo and behold over two years later than intended, Yes come to town, albeit after the death of drummer Alan White. Plus there had been a change from playing Relayer to Close To The Edge, which was now 50 years old in 2022. 50! Even I’m not 50 (yet). Happily I was not the youngest person in the crowd as there were 20-something Progheads amply dotted about the place.
A few days beforehand I realised the whole thing clashed with a very important primary school graduation, then the instigator of all this, Mr Steven C, had to call in sick and my ticket remained in Belfast. This explains why I sauntered in late having explained everything to the very nice door staff at Vicar St and missed the first half-dozen or so songs. When I did find my impressively good seat, Yes, for it was they etc, were mid-Wonderous Stories, a song I know, all of a sudden things seemed well in the world.
Having crash-landed into the gig I could only marvel at the Steve Howe-ness of Steve Howe and the insouciance of Geoff Downes, who might as well have been wearing a dressing gown as he was so relaxed. If I was responsible for Video Killed The Radio Star, I’d be the same way too.
Then they said those words every gig-goer loves to hear: “Here’s a song from our new album.” But here’s the thing, because I really don’t know their catalogue, the new song sounded fine to my ears. Then there was another song and it was intermission time.
I bought a t-shirt, because of *that* logo.
Post-intermission and it was time for the Close To The Edge album, an album I was about the hear for the second time. Throughout the whole thing I had a big smile on my face at the whole spectacle. Is it technically marvellous? Is it ridiculous? Is it transcendant? Does it rock? I don’t know. Am I enjoying this? Yes. Are the crowd enjoying this? Definitely – by the second half it was a standing ovation for each song.
I really have to give it up for the crowd themselves. Post-covid gigs seem to have had audiences who have forgotten what it means to watch a show – I have found them distracted & chatty. This crowd were (a) delighted to be there, (b) paid attention when it was time to pay attention and (c) whooped and hollered when it was time to whoop and holler.
When Close to the Edge was over we got Roundabout and I knew enough about Yes to know it would be very, very unlikely to get Owner Of A Lonely Heart, so we ended with Starship Trooper. It is a lot of fun to see people going nuts for a song you’ve never heard before.
And then it was over. The roadies packed the drums away into a flight case marked “Alan White” – It’s a tough business.
The queue for the toilets was in the gents for a change.
It made me think..
I don’t know if I will start listening to Yes, but I would 100% go and see them again.
Concert Review: Yes – Close To The Edge 50th Anniversary Tour, Dublin – June 28th, 2022
Yes – Dublin – June 28th 2022 Close To The Edge 50th Anniversary Tour by Geoff Bailie The Prog Report
A lot of things have happened since I bought the ticket for this show originally scheduled for 2020… a global pandemic, obviously, a new Yes album and, sadly, the death of long standing member and drummer, Alan White. In addition, the band decided that for their return to live performance, they would celebrate 50 years of the Close To The Edge album, rather than tackle the previously announced Relayer (and I’ll admit it now, that disappointed me). In spite of all this and, not forgetting the ongoing unknown factor that this virus can halt touring overnight, Yes came on stage in Dublin tonight, following a video tribute to Alan White which was a nice acknowledgment of the drummer’s career and family.
“The Firebird Suite” naturally got things underway and the opening track, a 2022 rearrangement of Tormato’s “On The Silent Wings of Freedom,” was a rousing and confident start – not played since the 1979 tour, it’s a powerful track, immediately showing that the band you see on stage can confidently tackle certainly any 1970s Yes Music.
This is the 6th time I’ve seen Yes live, my first being on The Ladder tour, and yet the setlist contained 5 songs I’d never heard the band play live before. In addition to OTSWOF, Drama’s “Does It Really Happen” was included which gave Billy Sherwood the opportunity to demonstrate his bass guitar skills. Confidently playing this complex piece, his self-confessed Squire influenced style has developed greatly, allowing him to own the bass parts rather than just replicate his hero.
For a band with a massive back catalogue, playing two tracks from their most recent album, The Quest, could be a bit risky. But the tracks including the album opener “The Ice Bridge” were performed and received with the same enthusiasm and gusto as the classics. The “up” tempos and live feel particularly benefitted “Dare To Know” and instilled energy that the studio cut lacked.
The other “new to me” track was “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” from the band’s second album. A creative cover version of a Richie Havens song, something the early band was particularly good at. It was preceded with a tribute to guitarist Peter Banks from Steve Howe. As with the very new tracks, you could come up with a valid reason why the band shouldn’t play this and go with something more familiar, but this version rocked with Sherwood and Jon Davison’s vocals being on point. Who could argue with “Heart of the Sunrise” as the Set 1 closer? I’ve read some critique in previous reviews of how Geoff Downes’ interpretation of some of the parts in this song strays from Rick Wakeman’s originals. Personally I’ve no issue with that – each band member brings their own steer to the back catalogue, and has done since the first line up changes. But tonight Geoff Downes’ performance combined accuracy and energy, as drummer Jay Schellen lifted the tempos to an extent from how some of these classic pieces had been played in the past. Geoff’s 11 years in the band line up since rejoining are well and truly hard earned and he does a great job.
I mentioned at the start I was really disappointed to learn the band wouldn’t be playing the Relayer album this tour and instead would celebrate 50 years of Close to the Edge. Pretty much every Yes show I’ve ever seen has contained at least 2 of the 3 songs on CTTE, and I’ve seen the album played in full on the 2014 tour featuring Squire and White. So I was skeptical as to what this could add to my Yes experience. Well, I’m glad to say that the performance exceeded all of my expectations. Of course, vocalist Jon Davison carried the weight of performing the lead vocals laid down by a 27 year old Jon Anderson – but every song was executed with great emotion and all the high notes were hit! The band followed suit with drummer Jay Schellen’s style reflecting a hybrid of the studio original played by Bill Bruford, and the live renditions owned by Alan White since he joined the band. All of the familiar parts were there but you can see how Schellen enjoyed playing off the band members, particularly Sherwood, with swing and panache.
Every song from CTTE received a well deserved standing ovation from the close to full house in Vicar Street. Certainly I left the venue, as did many others, feeling they had had a “full fat” Yes experience, rather than a “skimmed milk” tribute band.
“Roundabout” and “Starship Trooper” remained the standard set closers, with lots of moments that featured each band member at their finest, as opposed to seeing a band simply completing their obligatory encores.
Howe, Downes, Davison, Sherwood and Schellen are Yes. Tonight they proved again to me they have earned the right to bear that name. I hope they return to Ireland next year with the Relayer album in tow, and judging from the enthusiasm tonight that would seem like a no brainer
1. On The Silent Wings Of Freedom 2. Yours Is No Disgrace 3. No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed 4. Does It Really Happen 5. The Clap 6. Wondrous Stories 7. The Ice Bridge 8. Dare To Know 9. Heart Of The Sunrise 10. Close To The Edge album in full 11. Roundabout 12. Starship Trooper