Vancouverites were blessed this past March 20th when the band YES arrived in town for a special performance of three of their prog rock masterpieces in their entirety. The evening was broken into two sessions with 1971’s The Yes Album taking the first set and the second set focusing on both 1972’s Close to the Edge and 1977’s Going for the One albums.
The band’s current line-up consists of Jon Davison on vocals (he joined Yes in 2012 was referred to the band by Taylor Hawkins, drummer of Foo Fighters), Chris Squire on bass (a co-founder of Yes, has performed on every release since the beginning of the group in the late ’60′s), Steve Howe on Guitar (arguably one of the finest guitarists of the 20th century, joined the band in 1971, has performed on all but 5 of the band’s studio albums – 15 albums), Alan White on percussion (has performed with many bands including the Plastic Ono Band, joined Yes in 1972, has performed on all but four of the band’s studio albums – 17 albums), and Geoff Downes on keyboards (formerly of the Buggles and ASIA, joined Yes in 1980 for the Drama album and left a year later. Rejoined Yes in 2011)
Coming out of the fertile experimentation of the mid to late 1960’s, when many artists (and even the labels) were willing to take risks for the name of creativity, bands such as Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues were aiming in different directions with their music grafting elements of space and classical to their respective pop rock roots and coming up with entirely new hybrids all of which served to foster a fertile environment for newly evolving bands to experiment with crossing genres to varying degrees of success.
Yes is a prime example of this then new type of band, those progressive rockers: both willing and able to fuse elements of jazz, blues, traditional, country, classical, folk, and even ragtime into their music, frequently in the same song. The band formed in the late 1960’s in part, as a platform for each musician to perform to their peak ability, and through the decades and line-up changes, Yes has maintained a level of consistent excellence rarely seen in modern music, be it their earlier progressive masterpieces of The Yes Album or on later material such as the more conventional 90120 all the way through to their most recent releases.
Although I haven’t read it from the band directly, I believe that YES has always prided itself on the nimble execution of the music by each member, and this evening’s performance was no exception; from the ripping bass lines of Chris Squire, to the precision of drummer Alan White, and on to the highly articulate and crafty guitars of Steve Howe, all augmented with a skillful performance of keyboardist Geoff Downes and perfectly suited vocals of Jon Davison. This evening’s performance was an excellent example of what makes YES such a successful band.
Close to the Edge ** 1
And You and I ** 1
Siberian Khatru ** 1,2
Going for the One ***
Turn of the Century ***
Wonderous Stories ***
Yours is no Disgrace * 1,2
Starship Trooper * 1,2
All Good People * 1,2
A Venture *
Perpetual Change * 1
Roundabout ** 1,2
* The Yes Album (Deluxe Version) – 1971
** Close to the Edge (Deluxe Version) – 1972
*** Going for the One (Deluxe Version) – 1977
1 Yessongs – 1973 (live album)
2 In the Present – Live from Lyon – 2011 (live album)
I counted perhaps only 24 bars for guitarist Steve Howe’s hands to warm up on the frets. From that point onward, not a single note was misplaced as Steve switched off from one guitar to the next, managing the lead licks on one guitar and reverting to the other for rhythm or for a different tonal inflections. With so little distortion and for the versatile nature of his style (which are truly a multitude of styles) there is little room for any error.
Chris Squire anchored the right side of the stage, ripping through his base lines with slippery accuracy, finding match after match after match to each passing note, and placing an occasional vibrato in the exactly the place where one would think.
The drumming of Alan White may never be mistaken for an attempt at showmanship. Thankfully, Alan keeps much of his kit below his shoulders. Rather, what the listener discover is the sound of each skin being hit with the exact measure, on precisely the right spot, all the while keeping time for the rest of the band.
Geoff Downes stood tall as the white haired alchemist, mixing and merging the notes from over a half dozen keyboards and MOOG pedals to the left, right, and behind- sometimes working in unison with Steve Howe to drive a melody, and frequently pushing to the forefront to lead the band.
In the hands of less skillful musicians, the music of Yes might very easily fall apart. And, on this evening, all of the talents of the band were on full display.
Yes has taken many directions over the years, perhaps a result of the occasional shifts in the line-ups, but one truth that has held fast over the years is that the music of YES has always been less about the reaching the climactic end, and more about the pleasure of the journey. With their individual expertise combined, the vision of the band is both encapsulated and fully realized on LP with many of their songs considered to be standards of the progressive rock sound.
For those of you who are interested, Yes has a new album scheduled for release July 7th of 2014 and the band are going back on tour again very soon. To find out more about Yes, you may wish to visit their official website: www.yesworld.com
Photographs and words © Gerry Toews / anditrocks.com All Rights Reserved