Yes Sage Gateshead 18th March 2018

yes prog fWhen is Yes not Yes? (or is it No?). Having lost founder member, some would say leader, and unique bass player Chris Squire; Yes have now no original members in the band. I realise, of course, that guitarist Steve Howe has been in the band since the early 70s and that he was a member of the classic lineup of Yes. However, when I first saw the band in 1969, the guitarist was Peter Banks. And of course keyboard player Geoff Downes was a member of the band at the time of the Drama album when he and Buggles colleague, Trevor Horn joined the band in quite a strange incarnation of Yes. And drummer Alan White remains in the band and was a member of the classic line-up. But the fact remains that, since the sad passing of Chris Squire, the current line up of Yes contains no original members. Now there are many classic rock bands with one original member including Deep Purple (drummer Ian Paice), the Moody Blues (drummer Graeme Edge), Uriah Heep (guitarist Mick Box) and Status Quo (singer/guitarist Francis Rossi). But I can think of no other well-known rock band with no original members. In the case of Deep Purple and the Moody Blues it was the second incarnation of the band who are recognised as the classic lineup and the same is somewhat true of Yes. There are a few 60s bands with no original members including The Fortunes and Marmalade.

yes tix 2Anyway back to my conundrum: when is Yes not Yes? I have written elsewhere (Smith, 2016) about how the soul and spirit of a band can transcend the members, using The Who as an example; and I think only in performance can this truly be judged. So I went along with great interest to see if the current lineup maintained the spirit, soul and ethos of what I recognise to be Yes. A few weeks later I was due to see Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin play “Quintessential Yes: The 50th Anniversary Tour” at Newcastle City Hall. So I was bound to make comparisons between the two incarnations of the Yes band.

The publicity for the tour said: “The year 2018 marks half a century since the formation of the legendary group YES, one of the biggest bands in prog-rock history and true pioneers of the genre. To celebrate this remarkable milestone, YES will embark on a 10-date UK Tour in March 2018 – #YES50. On this not-to-be-missed tour, YES [Steve Howe, Alan White, Geoff Downes, Jon Davison (vocals) and Billy Sherwood (bass)] will feature not only many of the band’s classic hits, but performances of Sides 1 and 4 and an excerpt from Side 3 of their 1973 album, Tales From Topographic Oceans, which was the first YES album to top the UK Album Charts.”

“Much has changed since I joined Yes in 1970, but the core elements of the band have remained consistent,” shares guitarist Steve Howe. “We want to mark this anniversary with a tour that encompasses some of our best-loved work and revisit a few classic pieces that have been lost for a while. We look forward to sharing the 50th anniversary with the fanbase, playing classic songs that celebrate the broad musical style of Yes.”

So back to my conundrum again; when is Yes not Yes, or rather is Yes still Yes? As I say, the answer lies somewhere in the performance. Now this time, the tour was publicised as a set of greatest hits and excerpts from Tales from Topographic Oceans. Now, Tales from Topographic Oceans was never my favourite Yes album. I saw the tour and was somewhat bored that evening. I do possess a vinyl copy of the album (which I have played once or twice). yes prog b

So I went along to the concert, with my carer Hannah, with some trepidation. As it happened the concert was much better than I expected. There were two sets, the first comprising well-known Yes classics and the second comprising excerpts from Tales from Topographic Oceans. So we took our seats in a box close to the stage and soon the concert started with a familiar opening song: “Yours Is No Disgrace” performed just as it should be and just as I remembered it. Excellent. This was followed by another Yes classic, again performed well: “I’ve Seen All Good People.” Then we were right back to the start, with “Sweet Dreams”, a song written and recorded before any of the current members were in the band and bringing back so many happy memories to me. The next song “South Side of the Sky” was less familiar to me but we were soon back on familiar territory with Steve Howe performing his guitar solo extravaganza “Mood for a Day”, which I spent many an hour trying to learn how to play on my old 1962 Fender Stratocaster (why did I ever sell that? 😦 ) Then we were treated to the truly wondrous “Wondrous Stories”, followed by another unfamiliar song “Parallels” and then a song which has grown on me over the years and is now one of my favourites “And You and I”, which closed the first set. After a short interval, and a lovely butterscotch ice cream, the second set featured excerpts from the aforementioned Tales from Topographic Oceans. I must say I enjoyed it much more than I expected. The encores were a wonderful, swirling, version of “Roundabout” and an uplifting “Starship Trooper.” My verdict? This was a powerful performance by Yes that was true to the jazzy, progressive rock roots of the band. So yes, Yes remain Yes and to my mind, deserve the title. Wonderful, uplifting, soaring and classic, bringing back memories of so many happy, happy days. Next up an evening of “Quintessential Yes.” So more to follow: yes yet more musings of Yes for another blogging soon.

 

Setlist: The Firebird Suite (intro). Set 1: Yours Is No Disgrace; I’ve Seen All Good People; Sweet Dreams; South Side of the Sky; Mood for a Day; Wonderous Stories; Parallels; And You and I. Set 2: The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn); Leaves of Green; Ritual (Nous sommes du soleil). Encore: Roundabout; Starship Trooper

Smith, P. (2016). An analysis of The Who in concert: 1971 to 2014, in Gennaro, R & Harrison, C. The Who and philosophy, Lexington, pp 209 – 222

 

4 responses to this post.

  1. As always, a nice review. On, ‘ I can think of no other well-known rock band with no original members’, can I recommend checking out the Blood Sweat and Tears, wikipedia page that lists all memebrs, past and present, and heir years of service. They fit the bill and must have one of (if not the) most significant rotating doors of any band! 🙂

    PS. Enjoyed your Darlington Public Library tale. I did most of my learning in there as a kid and certainly much of my reading came from there, and when I was an undergraduate elsewhere, I did most of the research for my honours dissertation in there as well! (I also used to go and watch films like Nicholas Nicoleby) in there at special showings.) A lovely place and a lovely building that holds many happy memories.

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on April 27, 2020 at 11:52 am

      I saw Blood Sweat and Tears once many years ago; you will find a review on my site. Best wishes Peter

      Reply

  2. Posted by John Johnstone on April 26, 2020 at 11:08 pm

    Great review, sounds like a cool gig. One group that I never saw live but enjoy a lot of their music

    Reply

  3. Pete – I had no idea that you were an Emeritus Professor at Sunderland! I think that’s the first time I’ve seen you mention your work. You must have been there when I did my HND in Applied Biology in the early 1980s. Lots of other stuff is sort of clicking into place – by an odd coincidence, Mark Hindmarch is one of my closest friends, we were at school together. He doesn’t know about your blog so I’ve sent him the URL.

    Reply

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