As I watched Yes on stage at The Louisville Palace Saturday night, my mind wandered back to the first Yes concert I attended 27 years ago. It was at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, and my friends and I had stood in line all night on a frosty February evening for tickets. We were a bunch of high school seniors having a great adventure, and we weren't disappointed three months later when the band took the stage.
Before the show, we met a group of Yes fans at the Sicilian next to the Palace. One of them runs Yesfans.com, with over 10,000 Yes-crazy members. Although the 15 or 20 people we dined with were complete strangers to us, they felt familiar, almost like family that you haven't seen in a while, but still feel comfortable around. We all spent the dinner hour reminiscing about our favorite Yes moments, our first concert experiencing, and debating which Yes song was the best. One of them even brought a collection of cd's which the restaurant played for us. I couldn't have imagined a better way to begin such a great evening.
And that's what a Yes concert is for the fans. A time to relive the good ol' days, through memories and music. This band transcends the boundaries of time, and Saturday's show was no exception.
The group has had a facelift over the years; lead singer Jon Anderson replaced by Yes tribute band member Benoit David, and Oliver Wakeman filling the shoes of his legendary father, Rick Wakeman, on keyboards. But the soul of Yes is still there with Chris Squire (Bass), Steve Howe (Guitar) and Alan White (Drums).
I saw the band at The Palace a couple years ago, and it was an okay show. They played what was expected, and they played it precisely. So my expectations for this show, even though I love this band more than any other, were tentative at best.
And man was I shocked…to see the 2nd best Yes concert of my life!
They played the songs that made the band such a fan favorite over the years….from Yours Is No Disgrace and Close to the Edge, to Soon and Owner of a Lonely Heart. The entire evening was a tribute to 40+ years of rock chords floating in and out of each other, and vocals that wrap around and launch you to another world.
The regular set was a full two hours ("for Yes, that's about three songs" I joked with my friend!) and chocked full of what Yes fanatics look for….solos by Steve Howe which proved he's one of the best guitarist in the business; Chris Squire playing the Bass like it wasn't a bass; and Alan White pounding the skins like a teenager. Oliver Wakeman's fingers danced across the keyboards like a Dorian Gray version of his father's older self.
Most notable, I think, is Benoit David. When he took over for Jon Anderson, the founding member of Yes whose vocals are perhaps the most recognizable in the industry, many felt the band should have just called it quits and retired. The verdict was perhaps still out after the last tour. But, Saturday night, at least in this fan's opinion, David earned his stripes. His voice is close enough to Anderson's to sing the classics dead-on, but just different enough to make them his own. And, I'm not ashamed to say, when he sang "I Get Up, I Get Down" during their 15 minute rendition of Close to the Edge, I got goose bumps.
What made this show a great one was that they were able to take big arena rock songs, and make them fit in a small venue setting. And that's what a great rock band does...plays to the audience.
They began playing Starship Trooper (my favorite), and I knew the show was coming to an end. The crowd was whipped into a finale-frenzy with a song that has one of the most climatic finishes, and then bowed off the stage. After the obligatory clapping and chanting for an encore, they came back out, and blew us away with their most recognizable song, Roundabout. When that piece of wonderful nostalgia was over, all five spent several minutes at the front of the stage, appreciating the love they were receiving from us, pointing to individuals in the audience and waving, bowed one last time, and exited.
As I said before, the second best Yes concert I have ever seen…
Wins and Fails:
Win: Steve Howe and Chris Squire playing with the energy of teenagers.
Fail: The drunk behind me who couldn't shut up for 12 seconds and used the back of my head as a punching bag for his stomach very time he got up.
Win: Being around some of the most knowledgeable music fans around, who had a passion for this band.
Fail: Geriatric ushers doing TJ Hooker-rolls over rows of seats to prevent someone from taking a photo with their phone.
Win: Finding a parking spot right in front of the Palace!
Fail: Snow on the car after the show.
Yes has a new album,"Fly From Here", coming out later this year, and it's something the fans have been craving for a very long time. And if you get a chance to catch them on this tour, I highly recommend it!
Starhip Trooper from 1973