Other Players

Yes to release live album

1

Yes is releasing "The Royal Affair Tour: Live from Las Vegas" on Oct.30th. It was recorded in July 2019. Will include both hits and covers.

2

Dang wasn't their first live album like a 3 record scene, around 1974

3

They are calling it Yes but to me it’s Steve Howe backed by a tribute band with a singer that sorta sounds like Jon Anderson. Without Jon, it ain’t Yes. I’ve heard this show on AXS tv and (again, to me) they don’t have the old spark.

ARW, however, (Jon’s, Wakeman’s and Rabin’s band of a couple of years ago) had the Yes magic in spades.

4

Some members of Yes seem really integral to their sound. Squire's passing really left a void. He contributed so much to the band's sound and identity.

I've seen Yes live, and it was by far a peak concert. It was their '78 'Tourmato' tour, so it was in-the-round. Rotating stage with Anderson in the center. Great light show, sound, not a bad seat in the venue.

The '78 Yes performance I saw still had all the dynamic energy of those '72 Rainbow Theater shows, and the 'Yessongs' triple live LP. They were in top form and tore the roof off.

If you check out different live performances of 'Your Move/All Good People' or 'Yours Is No Disgrace' you won't find a more lush and energetic version than the ones on 'Yessongs'. That entire release is still my favorite Yes album, it captures their energy and how big and symphonic they can sound.

I've watched videos of live Yes shows since then and they are hit and miss. Either the sound mix is off, or the same energy isn't there.

Evidently Yes' 'Union' tour was such a negative experience for Rick Wakeman, he called it the 'Onion' tour. Always the card, Rick.

5

My first yes concert was Close to the Edge. I was looking forward to seeing my favorite drummer, Bill Bruford, but he had already bailed and Alan White was in. Even so, in was a magical experience.

Next was Relayer, mind expanding, even without Wakeman.

Then Going for the One. Energetic, then ethereal, introducing the song Awaken, an elegant marvel.

Fourth time was Tormato, it was, as I remember OK.

Then 90125, introducing Trevor Rabin. Fun.

Then Union, a debacle, as the electricity went out in the middle of the show. At least I finally got to see Bruford live.

I didn’t see them again til 2004, when I flew to Denver just to see the (almost) classic line up for the 35th anniversary tour at Red Rocks (Red Rocks looks like a Roger Dean painting). lt was a great show.

The last show I saw was the AWR show two years ago. It was close to the best one ever. Jon’s vocals are as powerful and lovely as ever. Rick Wakeman tears it up as usual. Trevor Rabin covers Steve’s parts admirably and his own parts brilliantly. Bassist Lee Pomeroy channels the late Chris Squire in a loving and humorous way and drummer Lou Molino III gave a jazzy confidence and elegance to the songs that they haven’t had since the Bill Bruford days. No offense to Alan White. He could play the parts and fill the stadium but lacked a certain delIcate sophistication that I prefer.

6

I saw the same tour a couple years back, Bob.

I felt that without Howe, it was like Yes, but with a Metal-ish guitarist.

7

The rift between Anderson and Howe is lamentable. Yes was at its best when they were writing together through the 70s. Howe is important to me as a guitarist, of course - but pretty much only in the context of Yes. When I hear him in other contexts (including solo), I hear all his characteristic techniques and note choices, but I don't hear anything very compelling musically. He needed that particular Yes brew to bring out of him the unique contributions that not only were integral to the band, but represent the best of his art.

None of us on the outside have any standing or call to judge the more human factors - either the individual members' characters and personalities nor their interactions. Bad blood was apparently roiled in 1978 after the dreadful Tormato album (an almost complete Worst of Yes collection redeemed only by the sublime Squire composition "Onward") during the attempt to record a followup, and pursuant to economic and band finance developments at the time.

I don't think things between Jon and Steve have been the same since. Steve did participate in various Yes projects afterward - I think recognizing his considerable artistic and creative investment in the classic Yes repertoire, his public identification with it, and the reality that it's the first basis of his status and reputation. He may appreciate that material is his lasting legacy, and seeks not only to profit by touring with it, but to preserve it into the future. That is, as they say, what it is.

I'm not aware of any similar personal rift between Anderson and Squire, who were truly the twin guiding lights from the inception of the band, and a unique and supple vocal partnership.

But it's hard for me to imagine what interpersonal conditions in the band must have been for Howe, Squire, White, and the Keyboardist of the Year to decide, in the wake of Jon's health meltdown circa 2008, to take Yes out on tour without him. That is, I can appreciate that the healthy inveterate road dogs in the band wanted to get back on the road, and even their seeking out an Anderson surrogate (there is no replacement). But that Jon learned about it in the press, rather than from the band? That seems inconceivable. The bad blood must have run very deep.

There are indications that behind and beneath Jon's peacenlove fully-ascended mystic-hippie persona (which I enjoy, and which I think represents the best of who he is), there's the harder-headed, ambitious organizer and opportunist I recall the band used to call "Little Napoleon." Without that element of his personality, I doubt Yes would either have been as successful as they were, or have produced their best and most characteristic material. But I think in the latter-day dissolution of the core of the band, we've seen some of the toll it took. Jon had to have been "hurt" when his band abandoned him - as there must have been deep hurt, perhaps hardened into indifference, in the hearts of those we must now consider his ex-confederates. By 2016, Jon was saying "there's no point in pretending we're mates."

All that said, if there are sides to be taken in the current state of Yes politics (which, given attrition, at this point comes down to Jon vs Steve), I probably come down on Jon's side. No doubt both are irreplaceable keepers of what's left of the band's original flame, and it's a loss to those who care that they seem unlikely ever to work together again. Time is short.

But the Yes albums attempted without Jon ... well, they don't seem truly Yes. While the first non-Jon Yes album Drama had its charms, poor Trevor Horn's vocals aren't among them. Given his skills as a producer and musician, that's a shame. And given his willingness to step into that spotlight, making too much of his vocal shortfall seems unfair and ungenerous. Trying to replace the Jon vocal range shouldn't have been forced on him, and all he can be accused of is not being Jon. Still, the results are preserved for all to hear in the record itself. It all goes to the simple formula: both artistically and commercially, given appropriate musicianship on the part of the band, Jon = Yes.

That obvious truth had to have been brought home to everyone involved when the Squire-White-Rabin project, to be called Cinema, became Yes when Jon contributed the vocals. 90125 unexpectedly (and with high unlikeliness) recreated Yes for the 80s, gave them their biggest hit, and propelled them through the mid-90s. And, in evaluation of the Jon vs Steve dichotomy, Trevor Rabin had everything to do with that musical and production transformation. I don't think the 80s Yes - which, despite having come to Yes in the classic era, I approve of completely - would have happened with Howe on guitar. He tried valiantly to evolve with changing approaches to the guitar and its tone, but he remained a 70s guitarist lost in the 80s. Stylistically and tonally, Rabin owned the era.

Then there was that strange period in the early 90s when Anderson teamed up with original classic-era bandmates in Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe in order to get away from the Yes West contingent of Squire, Rabin, White, and Tony Kaye. The album sounds like Yes...kinda. But even with the monster Tony Levin on bass, Squire proved irreplaceable - not only in terms of his tone and inimitable note choice (right or wrong), but his compositional input. So while the first ABWH album was reasonably well received, the record company wasn't impressed with material for a second one.

Meanwhile Yes West was laboring away in California - and the record company wasn't impressed with that either. The obvious solution was Union (an album not nearly as bad as its reviews and reputation suggest, and doubly interesting for its insights into the musical personalities of the two contingents of the band) - whose main goals were to get Jon's voice onto the possible hit material Rabin had written, and not to divide Yes's fanbase/customers. Proof again, if more was needed, that it ain't Yes without Jon.

Of the two latter-day Yes albums, produced with Jonalikes after his illness, I give Fly From Here a pass. I like the material, the band seemed to be hitting on all cylinders, there's an adequate level of creativity, and Benoit David doesn't try to be Jon. His voice is fine in the material. I pretty much accept it as a Yes album (in the same way I recognize ABWH as a Yes album, despite missing Chris).

The last Yes album (and, short a Jon-Steve reunion, I hope it remains the last Yes album), Heaven and Earth, is a pretty embarrassing state of affairs. The material is prog-lite at best, reaching to incorporate at least the lower rungs of the prog trope ladder, the usually powerhouse Alan White sounds very very tired, and other than a few grinnable flashes, Chris seems to be phoning it in.

The problem with non-Jon Yes is, as ever, the lack of Jon. But this time it's not the vocals which are the problem (Jon Davison sounds pretty dead-on like Jon, and live in concert captures something of Anderson's presence without in any way pretending to be him)...it's the lyrics. All involved seem to have tried to produce lyrics of Jon-like garbled spiritual insight and faux-profundity set in striking and seemingly incompatible word combinations - but the result is sadly sophomoric at best. (And considering Jon's own lyrics, that's saying something. Heaven and Earth just proves that, with all the verbal wackiness - and occasional clumsiness - there's an authentic and inimitable core of something original and vital in Jon's scribblings.)

In a way I feel bad for Davison, who had a major hand in the lyrics: he has obviously loved Yes for decades, was blessed with a voice which could be coaxed to Anderson, and sings Jon material with obvious respect, humility, even reverence. Anderson has to have been a lifelong hero-idol-icon for him, and to have inspired his songwriting. He gets the ultimate plum for a singer in a tribute band of being asked to perform with the real band - and it turns out they need him not only for his voice and more than a ghost of Jon's performing spirit, but must lean on him for material. Ideas. Lyrics. He's not strong enough to carry them. The band sounds tired and pro forma, and for all the effort of composing and recording an album, the results underwhelm. And in all of it, after no doubt giving his best, the worst that can be said of Jon Davison...is the obvious. He's not Jon Anderson.

And so, near the end, we came down to two touring entities, the battling Yesses. The Howe-Squire-White-Downes contingent "owned" the name. Anderson-Wakeman-Rabin have The Voice, The Cape, and The Shredder. I've seen both bands.

With Squire on bass and Davison doing Jon, the band billed as Yes just managed to bring enough life to the material to satisfy. I'm incapable of parsing whether I feel that way simply because there were Steve, Chris and Alan together for the last time - with Jon D something of a hologram of Jon A - or whether they were really good enough.

Howe played ... it's hard to put. Certainly competently, and cleanly, accurately, and by all means professionally. Over the years he's boiled some of the busiest song parts down to their essences, seemingly without losing much, no doubt making them easier to play - but also giving them more focus. He did his modeling-enabled best to give us those parts, sounding as close as he could get them to the albums.But there was something cold, clinical, and kinda merely professional about the performance.

Geoff Downes? I respect him for his Downesness, perfectly happy with the original parts he's contributed through the years, from Drama to Fly From Here. But the killing floor for a performing Yes keyboardist is the ferocious pyrotechnique of Wakeman's parts - not only their velocity and relentlessness, but, at their best, their bold and daunting musical audacity. In the same way Trevor Horn wasn't up to emulating Jon's voice, Downes is just physically no Wakeman. He gets the job done and needn't be embarrassed, but at best it's a tribute. (Original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye, who also sat on the keyboard throne through the 80s also can't do Rick. But he has his own organ/piano approach, and doesn't even try to do Rick. I never had the sense he even wanted to.)

On the other hand, Anderson-Wakeman-Rabin have had the good sense to bring in consummate virtuosos, not to take the place of Squire and White - but to cover their parts so well that musically, you don't miss them. If Lee Pomeroy on bass wasn't religiously playing Squire parts every moment, he had channeled Chrisness to such a degree that it hardly mattered. (And the tone was there, despite the lack of a Rick bass.) Lou Molina on drums is a force of nature. All of White's power was there, and - if anything - more shade, more finesse and rhythmic complexity. They were a complete joy.

Wakeman was all you'd expect from Wakeman - the (now somewhat tongue-in-cheek) drama, the technical ferocity, the huge orchestrations. He neither duplicated the recorded material exactly nor strayed far enough from it to jar, which kept it more interesting, as a vital musical intelligence was still at work within that music. (In contrast to the HoweYes approach, which is much more static.)

Rabin. Much as I love him on record, and revere his best work with Yes (Talk!)...the less said about his live Yessing, the better. To my ear, his tonal choices - much crunchier than Steve's - paradoxically sound smaller. Live, they just don't sound classically Yes. But apparently Jon's instruction to both Rick and Trevor, who hadn't worked together before the tour - was to play the material from each other's tenures according to their own musical instincts. Not to duplicate the parts created and recorded by different musicians, but to play the parts they might have come up with themselves had they been members at the time. Accordingly, while Trevor played certain song parts that have to be there, as they're integral to the composition, he not only played them with a very different tone, but threw in his own stuff. (If you can imagine a Roundabout intro with the chimes and classical licks done not on a nylon-string guitar - or, sadly, if you're Steve Howe in the Modern Era, on a Line 6 modeling guitar - but on a slinky Strat well into the crunch zone, you get a sense of it.)

Still, because the members of the band were communicating so joyfully across the stage, Trevor couldn't spoil the stew. The genuine regard, respect, camaraderie, and shared humour between Jon and Rick was palpable. The music lived and breathed.

And I guess it must be said that in 2017, Jon Anderson was also not quite Jon Anderson. That is, the voice shows some ravages of the years. It's weakened. The high end is still there, and if anything it's sweeter and more expressive, because it's more fragile. (For as ethereal as Jon could sound at full strength, he was a belter.) Considered purely as a physical instrument, you might observe that it had weakened. But as an artistic instrument, it was as good as ever. Better, maybe. More soulful, more emotional. And Jon's presentation, his "charisma," the spirit of the guy, was all of a natural piece with his history. He doesn't pretend not to be older. He inhabits who and what he is. He carries all that history, but he lives and sings in the moment. There wasn't a trace of nostalgia.

In all, I felt like I was seeing Yes.

And then Chris died. (Well, that's a little out of order, as he had died before the Anderson-Wakeman-Rabin tour. But to remind us of that sad fact at this point in this ramble seems more appropriate.)

Where does that leave either of the Yesses? It's almost like a religion at this point: wheresoever two or more are gathered in the name, there am Yes. Both bands strainingly claim authenticity based on guys-who-were-with-the-band-for-some-period-in-the-past, filling the missing seats with the likeliest candidates they can find.

Without Chris and Jon, nothing can be truly Yes - or, rather, there can never be new Yes music (which is frankly the only new "Yes" release I could get excited about at this point). Could any group of the survivors produce music with that spirit? Not if you can't get a solid quorum of original members in one place at the same time.

But if, in some latter-day dispensation of interpersonal grace Jon, Steve, and Rick reconciled and found inspiration to write and arrange together, they might use other guys as suits them for a rhythm section and still conjure Yes.

On his deathbed, Chris reportedly anointed his friend Billy Sherwood as Yes bassist of inheritance, blessed his continuing in that capacity, and encouraging the band to keep the flame alive. One of my favorite obscure Yes tunes is "The More You Live/Let Go" from Union, a Sherwood-Squire project, and Sherwood contributed to Yes otherwise through the 90s and maybe thereafter. But I'm left unmoved by Sherwood's own recordings, and I have no experience of him as a bassist. He might do the job. If not, Pomeroy certainly could. And, in this fantasy Yes revival, I'd be happy to have either Bill Bruford or Alan White. I have enormous respect and admiration for both. But I believe Bill remains seriously retired (and I'm not sure he's physically up to it) - and, on the evidence of Heaven and Earth, I don't know how much Alan White has left in the tank.

If Howe declined to participate, would Trevor Rabin work? I liked his collaborations with Anderson; he'd work for me. And what about no Rick? How would Tony Kaye be? Geoff Downes? It starts to get diluted.

This is surely entirely academic. Jon (Anderson) is on record as saying Yes died with Chris Squire. Barring a miracle between Jon and Steve, I'm inclined to agree with that assessment.

All of which is why I won't be putting in a breathless pre-order for a live Yes tribute album by the Steve Howe Band.

WIth Jon, yes (and Yes). Without Jon, no.


you won't find a more lush and energetic version than the ones on 'Yessongs'.

Well, pretty true. The band was cranking on that tour. And if you like Yessongs - and you're willing to invest the time - are you aware of Progeny? It's a 14-CD box set of seven every-note-complete concerts from the tour that produced Yessongs.

You have to be in the frame of mind for it, but if you can listen to it straight through (with breaks, of course), loud enough and paying attention, you'll be stunned not only by the consistent excellence of the performances - but how different the band is from gig to gig. The arrangements remain more or less the same (in a relative way, it's hard to explain) - but the details of what each member does change dramatically. Howe and Wakeman in particular revoice and extend themes and hooks on the fly, improvising and restacking internal harmonies while retaining the shapes of melodic figures, laying in impromptu fills, playing off each other dynamically. (Not to mention the spontaneous vagaries of 70s-tech guitar and analog keyboard settings and tones which change audibly from gig to gig.) Likewise Squire, interacting both with the top end of the band and closely with White, who had had only two weeks to learn the material before the tour started, and was developing into the music throughout.

Highly recommended if you care to get inside the deep details of that music. Read all about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wi....

I don't own it - won't spend that much on it - but it's available through Amazon's streaming service (and surely others).

8

I've seen Yes live, and it was by far a peak concert. It was their '78 'Tourmato' tour, so it was in-the-round. Rotating stage with Anderson in the center. Great light show, sound, not a bad seat in the venue. Edison

I saw this tour too, at the Capital Center in Washington DC. It was an amazing show!

9

RE: Yes' 'Progeny'; YES! Although I didn't invest the $$ I did avail myself to some of what's online.
The mixes were dodgy in places, but those recordings are a treasure trove of their best live performances.

I found it especially interesting listening to the integration of Alan White, who deftly stepped into that role during their height. As much as Bill Bruford contributed to the bands' sound, White was a great fit for them. Bruford cast the die and White brought a fresh shine of his own from there.

One of the challenges of prog rock that's often overlooked is capturing some essence of 'live' playing on record. It's an obvious ethic with more straightforward rock music, but seems to be an elusive (in some cases abandoned?) element in prog studio recording. The mix sometimes sounds dry, especially the drums. You get no real sense of space in the music. Compared to a live performance, it seems sterile.

In terms of bottling that lush live prog sound, the band Genesis had been struggling through their own earlier studio efforts, ultimately striking (what they felt) was that happy medium on 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway'. I tend to agree with their take.

To my ears, Yes has always sounded better live.

10

Nice write up, Tim. One thing I would like to say about both Jon D. vs. Jon A. and Steve vs. Trevor musings. I have always most respected and enjoyed the work of an artist being themselves. I think Jon Davidson never had a chance to be himself in the Yes world. He had to try to be Jon.

Trevor Rabin has to play many Steve parts but he Never tried to be Steve. He did it in a very Trevor way, like it or not. I didn’t expect to hear a Steve clone so I was not disappointed.

...and as for the battling Yes contingencies, the AWR version was everything I want to hear in a Yes show, exciting, ethereal and so on and re-seeing it on TV has even raised my opinion of the show.

I didn’t see the Steve Howe band live but I have seen them on TV and they seemed (to me, mind you) tired and barely up to the material. I hope my opinion isn’t tainted by the fact the Steve band has added an air of geriatrics to the mix by taking the band’s show to a Cruise ship calling it Cruise to the Edge (gag).

11

The rift between Anderson and Howe is lamentable. Yes was at its best when they were writing together through the 70s. Howe is important to me as a guitarist, of course - but pretty much only in the context of Yes. When I hear him in other contexts (including solo), I hear all his characteristic techniques and note choices, but I don't hear anything very compelling musically. He needed that particular Yes brew to bring out of him the unique contributions that not only were integral to the band, but represent the best of his art.

None of us on the outside have any standing or call to judge the more human factors - either the individual members' characters and personalities nor their interactions. Bad blood was apparently roiled in 1978 after the dreadful Tormato album (an almost complete Worst of Yes collection redeemed only by the sublime Squire composition "Onward") during the attempt to record a followup, and pursuant to economic and band finance developments at the time.

I don't think things between Jon and Steve have been the same since. Steve did participate in various Yes projects afterward - I think recognizing his considerable artistic and creative investment in the classic Yes repertoire, his public identification with it, and the reality that it's the first basis of his status and reputation. He may appreciate that material is his lasting legacy, and seeks not only to profit by touring with it, but to preserve it into the future. That is, as they say, what it is.

I'm not aware of any similar personal rift between Anderson and Squire, who were truly the twin guiding lights from the inception of the band, and a unique and supple vocal partnership.

But it's hard for me to imagine what interpersonal conditions in the band must have been for Howe, Squire, White, and the Keyboardist of the Year to decide, in the wake of Jon's health meltdown circa 2008, to take Yes out on tour without him. That is, I can appreciate that the healthy inveterate road dogs in the band wanted to get back on the road, and even their seeking out an Anderson surrogate (there is no replacement). But that Jon learned about it in the press, rather than from the band? That seems inconceivable. The bad blood must have run very deep.

There are indications that behind and beneath Jon's peacenlove fully-ascended mystic-hippie persona (which I enjoy, and which I think represents the best of who he is), there's the harder-headed, ambitious organizer and opportunist I recall the band used to call "Little Napoleon." Without that element of his personality, I doubt Yes would either have been as successful as they were, or have produced their best and most characteristic material. But I think in the latter-day dissolution of the core of the band, we've seen some of the toll it took. Jon had to have been "hurt" when his band abandoned him - as there must have been deep hurt, perhaps hardened into indifference, in the hearts of those we must now consider his ex-confederates. By 2016, Jon was saying "there's no point in pretending we're mates."

All that said, if there are sides to be taken in the current state of Yes politics (which, given attrition, at this point comes down to Jon vs Steve), I probably come down on Jon's side. No doubt both are irreplaceable keepers of what's left of the band's original flame, and it's a loss to those who care that they seem unlikely ever to work together again. Time is short.

But the Yes albums attempted without Jon ... well, they don't seem truly Yes. While the first non-Jon Yes album Drama had its charms, poor Trevor Horn's vocals aren't among them. Given his skills as a producer and musician, that's a shame. And given his willingness to step into that spotlight, making too much of his vocal shortfall seems unfair and ungenerous. Trying to replace the Jon vocal range shouldn't have been forced on him, and all he can be accused of is not being Jon. Still, the results are preserved for all to hear in the record itself. It all goes to the simple formula: both artistically and commercially, given appropriate musicianship on the part of the band, Jon = Yes.

That obvious truth had to have been brought home to everyone involved when the Squire-White-Rabin project, to be called Cinema, became Yes when Jon contributed the vocals. 90125 unexpectedly (and with high unlikeliness) recreated Yes for the 80s, gave them their biggest hit, and propelled them through the mid-90s. And, in evaluation of the Jon vs Steve dichotomy, Trevor Rabin had everything to do with that musical and production transformation. I don't think the 80s Yes - which, despite having come to Yes in the classic era, I approve of completely - would have happened with Howe on guitar. He tried valiantly to evolve with changing approaches to the guitar and its tone, but he remained a 70s guitarist lost in the 80s. Stylistically and tonally, Rabin owned the era.

Then there was that strange period in the early 90s when Anderson teamed up with original classic-era bandmates in Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe in order to get away from the Yes West contingent of Squire, Rabin, White, and Tony Kaye. The album sounds like Yes...kinda. But even with the monster Tony Levin on bass, Squire proved irreplaceable - not only in terms of his tone and inimitable note choice (right or wrong), but his compositional input. So while the first ABWH album was reasonably well received, the record company wasn't impressed with material for a second one.

Meanwhile Yes West was laboring away in California - and the record company wasn't impressed with that either. The obvious solution was Union (an album not nearly as bad as its reviews and reputation suggest, and doubly interesting for its insights into the musical personalities of the two contingents of the band) - whose main goals were to get Jon's voice onto the possible hit material Rabin had written, and not to divide Yes's fanbase/customers. Proof again, if more was needed, that it ain't Yes without Jon.

Of the two latter-day Yes albums, produced with Jonalikes after his illness, I give Fly From Here a pass. I like the material, the band seemed to be hitting on all cylinders, there's an adequate level of creativity, and Benoit David doesn't try to be Jon. His voice is fine in the material. I pretty much accept it as a Yes album (in the same way I recognize ABWH as a Yes album, despite missing Chris).

The last Yes album (and, short a Jon-Steve reunion, I hope it remains the last Yes album), Heaven and Earth, is a pretty embarrassing state of affairs. The material is prog-lite at best, reaching to incorporate at least the lower rungs of the prog trope ladder, the usually powerhouse Alan White sounds very very tired, and other than a few grinnable flashes, Chris seems to be phoning it in.

The problem with non-Jon Yes is, as ever, the lack of Jon. But this time it's not the vocals which are the problem (Jon Davison sounds pretty dead-on like Jon, and live in concert captures something of Anderson's presence without in any way pretending to be him)...it's the lyrics. All involved seem to have tried to produce lyrics of Jon-like garbled spiritual insight and faux-profundity set in striking and seemingly incompatible word combinations - but the result is sadly sophomoric at best. (And considering Jon's own lyrics, that's saying something. Heaven and Earth just proves that, with all the verbal wackiness - and occasional clumsiness - there's an authentic and inimitable core of something original and vital in Jon's scribblings.)

In a way I feel bad for Davison, who had a major hand in the lyrics: he has obviously loved Yes for decades, was blessed with a voice which could be coaxed to Anderson, and sings Jon material with obvious respect, humility, even reverence. Anderson has to have been a lifelong hero-idol-icon for him, and to have inspired his songwriting. He gets the ultimate plum for a singer in a tribute band of being asked to perform with the real band - and it turns out they need him not only for his voice and more than a ghost of Jon's performing spirit, but must lean on him for material. Ideas. Lyrics. He's not strong enough to carry them. The band sounds tired and pro forma, and for all the effort of composing and recording an album, the results underwhelm. And in all of it, after no doubt giving his best, the worst that can be said of Jon Davison...is the obvious. He's not Jon Anderson.

And so, near the end, we came down to two touring entities, the battling Yesses. The Howe-Squire-White-Downes contingent "owned" the name. Anderson-Wakeman-Rabin have The Voice, The Cape, and The Shredder. I've seen both bands.

With Squire on bass and Davison doing Jon, the band billed as Yes just managed to bring enough life to the material to satisfy. I'm incapable of parsing whether I feel that way simply because there were Steve, Chris and Alan together for the last time - with Jon D something of a hologram of Jon A - or whether they were really good enough.

Howe played ... it's hard to put. Certainly competently, and cleanly, accurately, and by all means professionally. Over the years he's boiled some of the busiest song parts down to their essences, seemingly without losing much, no doubt making them easier to play - but also giving them more focus. He did his modeling-enabled best to give us those parts, sounding as close as he could get them to the albums.But there was something cold, clinical, and kinda merely professional about the performance.

Geoff Downes? I respect him for his Downesness, perfectly happy with the original parts he's contributed through the years, from Drama to Fly From Here. But the killing floor for a performing Yes keyboardist is the ferocious pyrotechnique of Wakeman's parts - not only their velocity and relentlessness, but, at their best, their bold and daunting musical audacity. In the same way Trevor Horn wasn't up to emulating Jon's voice, Downes is just physically no Wakeman. He gets the job done and needn't be embarrassed, but at best it's a tribute. (Original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye, who also sat on the keyboard throne through the 80s also can't do Rick. But he has his own organ/piano approach, and doesn't even try to do Rick. I never had the sense he even wanted to.)

On the other hand, Anderson-Wakeman-Rabin have had the good sense to bring in consummate virtuosos, not to take the place of Squire and White - but to cover their parts so well that musically, you don't miss them. If Lee Pomeroy on bass wasn't religiously playing Squire parts every moment, he had channeled Chrisness to such a degree that it hardly mattered. (And the tone was there, despite the lack of a Rick bass.) Lou Molina on drums is a force of nature. All of White's power was there, and - if anything - more shade, more finesse and rhythmic complexity. They were a complete joy.

Wakeman was all you'd expect from Wakeman - the (now somewhat tongue-in-cheek) drama, the technical ferocity, the huge orchestrations. He neither duplicated the recorded material exactly nor strayed far enough from it to jar, which kept it more interesting, as a vital musical intelligence was still at work within that music. (In contrast to the HoweYes approach, which is much more static.)

Rabin. Much as I love him on record, and revere his best work with Yes (Talk!)...the less said about his live Yessing, the better. To my ear, his tonal choices - much crunchier than Steve's - paradoxically sound smaller. Live, they just don't sound classically Yes. But apparently Jon's instruction to both Rick and Trevor, who hadn't worked together before the tour - was to play the material from each other's tenures according to their own musical instincts. Not to duplicate the parts created and recorded by different musicians, but to play the parts they might have come up with themselves had they been members at the time. Accordingly, while Trevor played certain song parts that have to be there, as they're integral to the composition, he not only played them with a very different tone, but threw in his own stuff. (If you can imagine a Roundabout intro with the chimes and classical licks done not on a nylon-string guitar - or, sadly, if you're Steve Howe in the Modern Era, on a Line 6 modeling guitar - but on a slinky Strat well into the crunch zone, you get a sense of it.)

Still, because the members of the band were communicating so joyfully across the stage, Trevor couldn't spoil the stew. The genuine regard, respect, camaraderie, and shared humour between Jon and Rick was palpable. The music lived and breathed.

And I guess it must be said that in 2017, Jon Anderson was also not quite Jon Anderson. That is, the voice shows some ravages of the years. It's weakened. The high end is still there, and if anything it's sweeter and more expressive, because it's more fragile. (For as ethereal as Jon could sound at full strength, he was a belter.) Considered purely as a physical instrument, you might observe that it had weakened. But as an artistic instrument, it was as good as ever. Better, maybe. More soulful, more emotional. And Jon's presentation, his "charisma," the spirit of the guy, was all of a natural piece with his history. He doesn't pretend not to be older. He inhabits who and what he is. He carries all that history, but he lives and sings in the moment. There wasn't a trace of nostalgia.

In all, I felt like I was seeing Yes.

And then Chris died. (Well, that's a little out of order, as he had died before the Anderson-Wakeman-Rabin tour. But to remind us of that sad fact at this point in this ramble seems more appropriate.)

Where does that leave either of the Yesses? It's almost like a religion at this point: wheresoever two or more are gathered in the name, there am Yes. Both bands strainingly claim authenticity based on guys-who-were-with-the-band-for-some-period-in-the-past, filling the missing seats with the likeliest candidates they can find.

Without Chris and Jon, nothing can be truly Yes - or, rather, there can never be new Yes music (which is frankly the only new "Yes" release I could get excited about at this point). Could any group of the survivors produce music with that spirit? Not if you can't get a solid quorum of original members in one place at the same time.

But if, in some latter-day dispensation of interpersonal grace Jon, Steve, and Rick reconciled and found inspiration to write and arrange together, they might use other guys as suits them for a rhythm section and still conjure Yes.

On his deathbed, Chris reportedly anointed his friend Billy Sherwood as Yes bassist of inheritance, blessed his continuing in that capacity, and encouraging the band to keep the flame alive. One of my favorite obscure Yes tunes is "The More You Live/Let Go" from Union, a Sherwood-Squire project, and Sherwood contributed to Yes otherwise through the 90s and maybe thereafter. But I'm left unmoved by Sherwood's own recordings, and I have no experience of him as a bassist. He might do the job. If not, Pomeroy certainly could. And, in this fantasy Yes revival, I'd be happy to have either Bill Bruford or Alan White. I have enormous respect and admiration for both. But I believe Bill remains seriously retired (and I'm not sure he's physically up to it) - and, on the evidence of Heaven and Earth, I don't know how much Alan White has left in the tank.

If Howe declined to participate, would Trevor Rabin work? I liked his collaborations with Anderson; he'd work for me. And what about no Rick? How would Tony Kaye be? Geoff Downes? It starts to get diluted.

This is surely entirely academic. Jon (Anderson) is on record as saying Yes died with Chris Squire. Barring a miracle between Jon and Steve, I'm inclined to agree with that assessment.

All of which is why I won't be putting in a breathless pre-order for a live Yes tribute album by the Steve Howe Band.

WIth Jon, yes (and Yes). Without Jon, no.


you won't find a more lush and energetic version than the ones on 'Yessongs'.

Well, pretty true. The band was cranking on that tour. And if you like Yessongs - and you're willing to invest the time - are you aware of Progeny? It's a 14-CD box set of seven every-note-complete concerts from the tour that produced Yessongs.

You have to be in the frame of mind for it, but if you can listen to it straight through (with breaks, of course), loud enough and paying attention, you'll be stunned not only by the consistent excellence of the performances - but how different the band is from gig to gig. The arrangements remain more or less the same (in a relative way, it's hard to explain) - but the details of what each member does change dramatically. Howe and Wakeman in particular revoice and extend themes and hooks on the fly, improvising and restacking internal harmonies while retaining the shapes of melodic figures, laying in impromptu fills, playing off each other dynamically. (Not to mention the spontaneous vagaries of 70s-tech guitar and analog keyboard settings and tones which change audibly from gig to gig.) Likewise Squire, interacting both with the top end of the band and closely with White, who had had only two weeks to learn the material before the tour started, and was developing into the music throughout.

Highly recommended if you care to get inside the deep details of that music. Read all about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wi....

I don't own it - won't spend that much on it - but it's available through Amazon's streaming service (and surely others).

– Proteus

I was just writing this, word for word!

Kidding, you paint a great picture, nice.

The Yes I love died a long time ago.

12

I flat wore out the 9021Live VHS.
Yes came through San Antonio a couple of times in the early 70s and saw them both times then later during the Rabin years in Dallas. Dan Rather has a Big Interview with Jon A that is really entertaining and informative.

13

Just recently(well, last year almost) seen Wakeman solo, for a night of stories and music, he addressed Yes members with a usually wide brush, and rarely going after anyone specifically, but rather making fun of their vegetarian leanings and backstage antics of taking everything so seriously, where he was, according to him, much more loose, which caused friction.

To hear him tell the tales of Yes and some of their "Spinal Tap" moments was hilarious, though, splicing them with some incredible piano playing from his massive repertoire in between made for a spectacular evening.

When I saw the Anderson, Wakeman, & Rabin version of Yes a couple years back, they were onstage for the encore, all waiting on Rabin. There was about a 5 minute wait before Wakeman came up to Anderson's microphone and announced that "Trevor's taking a sh*t" The audience roared. Anderson was roaring, and when Trevor finally got back on stage, he got a standing ovation, much to his confusion. It was the most "human" I'd ever seen these guys...really enjoyable...and then Trevor did "Roundabout" on a pointy guitar...

14

As the thread set me to thinking about the 6 or 7 times I've seen the band, I wanted to check my recollections of when and where against the historical record, and found this evidently authoritative rabbit hole of a site.

I hadn't realized just how relentlessly and even reasonably consistently the band toured, particularly in a couple of decades. 3,172 Yes gigs (including ABWH and AWR) are documented by date, most with setlists, some with reviews and/or pics and/or linked recordings. The lists are interspersed with critical membership information and dates (like who left when, was arrested, came back, was ill or injured, or had a fight with another band member).

3,172 gigs: even spread over 50 years, that comes to an average of 63 a year. (And there are a very few years with no touring.)

Probably no surprise that the most crowded calendars are from the 70s, with 916 shows. Which means that Yes had a gig (on average) on nearly 30% of those 3,650 days.

Surprising work ethic for a cosmic hippie band.


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