CRR archive concert review by Eric Sandberg — Yes - live at the Grove of Anaheim June 17, 2019
Set 1: Close To The Edge /Nine Voices (Longwalker) /Parallels /Mood For A Day /Leaves Of Green /Fly From Here /Sweet Dreams /Heart Of The Sunrise /Set 2: Perpetual Change /Does It Really Happen? /Soon /Awaken
Encore (Featuring Tony Kaye):
Yours Is No Disgrace /Roundabout /Starship Trooper
Jon Davison: lead vocals, acoustic guitar, assorted percussion
Steve Howe: guitar & vocals
Geoff Downes: keyboards & vocals
Billy Sherwood: bass & vocals
Jay Schellen: drums
Alan White: drums
With Spcial Guest Tony Kaye: organ
Let's face it. For all intents and purposes, Yes is done. Yes has been done since 2008, when Jon Anderson nearly died of respiratory failure and was replaced with a Canadian boat upholsterer whose voice cracked more often than a dominatrix' whip.
There are two bands out on the concert circuit this summer celebrating 50 years since Yes formed. Both are calling themselves Yes, but neither of them are Yes. Yes is no longer a thing. Both of these bands are a hodgepodge of former members of Yes, supported by professional sidemen, expertly performing the eternal music of a band that is a thing of the past.
This is a good thing.
On Father's Day, at an intimate dinner theater, twenty minutes from my home, Steve Howe and friends put on a stellar review of songs from Yes' extensive catalog. I had not seen "Yes" since 2010 at a show fronted by the dancing, tunic-wearing boat upholsterer at the Greek Theater, which could not be redeemed even by a surprise appearance by Trevor Rabin during the encore.
But I could not stay away from a 50th anniversary celebration, with a far superior Jon Anderson stand-in and a special appearance by founding keysman Tony Kaye and I'm very glad I went.
The evening began, however, with a reminder of the joys of standing in line with a horde of typical Yes Fans; 50-60ish white men, bellies bulging out from under their Yes t-shirts they paid way too much for on the last tour. Grown men who have seen Yes more times than their own penises over the last twenty years, trying to out-boast each other about how many shows they've attended.
"Yes" opened the show, guns ablazin' with a fiery performance of "Close To The Edge" a reminder that nobody can play guitar like Mr. Steve Howe. Jon Davison, however, makes a pretty good case that at least one person can sing like Jon Anderson. Don't get me wrong, the tonal quality of his voice and his phrasing are no match for the original, but his pitch and power are more than equal to the material. His stunning delivery of the "I Get Up I Get Down" segment of CTTE was a statement that got people on their feet, cheering him.
After several years of touring Davison has matured into a solid frontman capable of working and holding a crowd. Gone are his hippie dungarees, replaced by some sharp rock and roll threads and his scraggly mane has succumbed to some expensive conditioner. His voice has only gotten stronger with his years on the road.
When Steve Howe strapped on his vachalia, I was sure we were about to hear Yes' first hit "Your Move/All Good People". Instead we were treated with "Nine Voices (Longwalker)" the closing track from The Ladder (1999), a song that, to my knowledge, has never been played live before.
As a tribute to the late founding bassist Chris Squire, the band played "Parallels" before Steve donned his classical guitar to play "Mood For A Day" and Jon and Billy joined in singing "Leaves Of Green". The band then put relative newcomer Jay Schellen through his paces, closing the first set with a spot on rendition of "Heart Of The Sunrise", another Squire composition that allowed Billy Sherwood to shine.
During the first interval I found myself in a very long line for the men's room. In a reversal of the natural order, the ladies had no wait. Everyone seemed puzzled by this until I pointed out that the audience for this show was 90% men.
"Oh yeah", one guy said. "That's a lot of testosterone!"
"look around", I corrected. There are a lot of men here, but there isn't a whole lot of testosterone here unless it was brought in a tube."
Set 2 opened with "Perpetual Change" and still no sign of Alan White. "Does It Really Happen" from the first Anderson free Yes album Drama (1980) was followed by Jon Davison's voice soaring over Steve Howe's plaintive pedal steel on "Soon" the beautiful closing section of the epic "The Gates Of Delirium."
Finally, a very frail looking Alan White walked unsteadily out from between the drum and keyboard risers to wave to the fans and then took several minutes to be helped up to the drum stool while Steve Howe vamped. Once behind the kit, Alan looked strong and in command as the band launched into what I think is the quintessential Yes song, the epic, 18 minute "Awaken". White reminded me of Yoda, stooped and hobbled, suddenly whipping out his lightsaber and kicking ass.
As an aside, the band's policy prohibiting photography and video recording mostly made the evening more enjoyable except for the wanker in my row who kept trying to record and was constantly having a flashlight shone on him and being yelled at by an usher, who I am sure is Barney Fife's grandson. This same usher failed to do anything about the woman behind me who loudly complained to her husband in Spanish that she wanted to go home through the entire second set and encore. I would stare at her, she would keep talking, and her husband just looked at the floor.
The moment I had been waiting for all night appeared to be happening as the roadies brought out a Roland keyboard and set it up at the front of the stage and the band returned for a lengthy encore featuring their special guest, founding keysman Tony Kaye.
Kaye. who was too ill to attend Yes' induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, appeared to be the picture of health as he bounded onto the stage looking every bit the silver Rock 'n Roll fox. The spry septuagenarian displayed his fifty years of experience as a showman, attacking the keys with his trademark arm swoops and distinctive organ fills.
While "Yours Is No Disgrace" remains a Steve Howe showcase, "Roundabout and Starship Trooper" were given over to Tony's legendary organ prowess, putting a very satisfactory cap on an already enthralling evening.
Even if you are one of those "No Jon, No Yes" party poopers I highly recommend you check out this show. No, it's not Yes, but yes, it's worth your money.
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.