Sharp, Distance….I get up….I get down. Heart of the Sunrise…..down by the corner and close to the edge……How can the wind with its arms all around me…..love comes to you and then after. And you and I reach out for reasons to call……These are words and phrases that project emotion. That was just a tiny example but probably some very familiar sounding words to a person that loves the legendary progressive band YES. And if you are familiar with those words you certainly have a tune to go right along with them.
YES have created a blend and sound unique to only themselves. They are musical artists that are in my mind the Leonardo Davinci or Picasso’s of the musical art world. Yes have always had a vision and the almost supernatural ability to create a canvas of musical colors, images, textures and effects that provoke feelings of wonderment and auditory joy.
The opening act for YES was a band called Syd Arthur. They reminded me of early Yes circa 1969-70 when they were hippyish and fresh on the scene. Syd Arthur was absolutely phenominal. An amazing fresh progressive rock with a slight spin of grunge I guess you could say. The lead singer played guitar. He played “pickless” only using his fingers like a Ritchie Kotzen or a Lindsey Buckingham, which always brings a special tonal quality to the sound of a Fender Strat.
The crowd filed in to The Greek wearing many different variations of styles of the many Yes t-shirts. I felt right at home with several thousand very groovy Yes fans. The lights began to dim as the familiar dramatic symphonic music began to play. On the 3 large hi-tech video screens above the back of the stage were numerous collages of historical Yes band member images and full color Roger Dean inspired album cover artwork moving through and around the screens. Then the complete Yes album covers began to appear and scan up until the current new Heaven and Earth images were on the screen. Suddenly a spot light shined brightly at center of the stage as Steve Howe appeared walking from behind the large drum riser. The crowd rose to their feet and began to applaud loudly screaming and yelling as Steve raised his hands and waved at the crowd on his way towards his guitar area.
The rest of the band Chris Squire, Alan White, Geoff Downes and the newest member and lead singer of the band Jon Davidson also came walking joyfully on to the stage waving to the thousands of screaming, whistling and applauding fans. They bowed and blew double handed kissing gestures and heart holding and love giving gestures to the crowd. The 1st album to be played entirely this night was the 1972 legendary progressive rock all time favorite Yes album Close To The Edge.
I loved the way they mixed up the usual track order of the performance and started out with the track “Siberan Khatru” followed by And You And I with the full side title track Close To The Edge. Following the full album performance of CTTE Chris Squire began to address the crowd. He jokingly said “Welcome to the 2014 MTV Music Awards!!!” The crowd busted out lauhging HARD knowing the awards were actually taking place the very same evening and obviously Yes were not invited to this year or virtually ANY other year.
Yes may not be the most mainstream recognized musical artist in 2014 but they have a worldwide following so massive and so loyal that they can go about their business as they please and they know the Yesworld is right there to buy their records and attend their concerts every single time. Squire announced the new album Heaven and Earth and announced they would play a couple tracks from the album for us and then they would go into performing the classic 1971 album Fragile.
I just bought the new Yes album Heaven and Earth the day prior to the show and was barely familiar with what they played. It is Yes music no doubt. However, Yes has the kind of music that takes listening to it 10 or 12 full times before the music comes into focus and then you cant put it away for month. There was some really interesting lead solos from the new songs. I remember watching Steve Howe playing some really tricky lead solo runs. He would play something tricky and kind of shake the guitar neck at the audience and look right at us as if to say excitedly “Did you see that? Did you hear what I just played? Wasn’t that great man?!!”
Steve Howe in my perception has become very humble about his continuing ability to play guitar as he is gradually heading closer to the edge of old age. He portrayed this humble attitude when he took to the mic to thank each crew member from the stage lighting crew to the roadies and truck drivers. He was very sincere as well. I cannot tell you enough how much I enjoyed watching and listening to the guitar expertise of Steve Howe Sunday night at the Greek. I savored every note he played and felt such deep appreciation for what he has given to us fans with his amazing one of a kind guitar sounds. He would as usual, play one guitar with another hanging from his neck due to the complexity and non repetitive and evolving musical landscapes of Yes’s music.
After hearing and enjoying very much the new album tracks they played, The album Fragile started to what was a night full of repeated standing ovations. The crowd went wild as the popular radio hit and classic rock radio staple “Roundabout” began. One by one. Song after song they moved brilliantly through each amazing track from Fragile. After Roundabout was Cans and Brahms which is a classical piano and keyboard solo and Geoff Downes pulled it of perfectly. I was very curious what these complicated songs from Fragile would come off like live…..”Tell the moon to tell the marcher….Tell the Moon to tell the marcher” began to be sung in round and harmony as they joyfully pranced along with “We Have Heaven”.
Next up was the song that is STILL stuck in my head and I love it! “South Side of the Sky” That song is one of the funnest and most hard rocking tunes Yes has ever written and they played it perfectly. The entire Fragile album sounded so incredible and I am so happy I saw them play the whole thing live. What an amazing experience. I must be honest in saying that the last time I heard Fragile in its entirety was when I had it on 8 track tape. That is no exaggeration.
To have a dusty old memory of hearing it on 8 track and then live 30 years later on such a fantastic sounding full concert stage is very dramatically superior and something I will never want to forget. They left the stage briefly after Fragile as the crowd applauded for an encore. Yes returned to a roaring and happy crowd to play an extended version of another radio hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart” from their very successful 1982 classic album 90125. Upon completion of their encore they had what appeared to be family members either Chris Squires kids or possibly grandkids come out to face the audience for a final bow.
The entire crowd was on their feet applauding with full fury. The band seemed overwhelmed with joy to see such a large Los Angeles crowd going completely over the top with praise and love for this very special band of progressive rock pioneers. Chris Squire seemed to be overcome with joy with the fans and the ovation they were receiving, He threw his hands high in the air and hugged the audience, blowing kisses and moving to every angle of the stage to project his gratitude and love for the fans.
I will close out by adding that new lead vocalist Jon Davison has received some negative comments from people who are die hard Jon Anderson supporters and I must shout out that I absolutely love what Jon Davison has done with this great band. He nailed every single note of these very demanding vocal parts with ease and crystal clear clarity along with ego free attitude and a natural trademark Yes persona and aura. The light show was unmatched in anything I have ever seen. I made myself a personal decision and a firm committment that I will NEVER miss seeing Yes ever again. I passed up some very regrettable opportunities in the past to see them and I am just so glad that I have seen them twice in the past 2 years. My fire for Yes has been reignited and I am hoping and wishing each member of Yes the best of health and longevity. We fans want you back many many more times here in Los Angeles.
Review: Darren Bennion