Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman

The night before, the band played the Whisky on Sunset, a tiny and storied venue for a legacy band. It was the launch of the US leg of a lengthy world tour, and the band charged $2 for tickets, the same price when they first played there in 1971. The next evening at Humphrey’s the current touring incarnation of Yes delivered a setlist that ambitiously veered away from relying on their massive early catalog. Instead, the quintet alternated between chestnuts like “All Good People” and newer compositions that only stalwarts recognized. The former remains inscrutable lyrics-wise (which is the case for just about all the Yes canon), but the melody and harmonic structure is ageless.

Likewise, “And You And I” was well-received. Rick Wakeman wore his sparkled red cape with as much as aplomb as his long locks, often stretching his arms across several keyboards for full effect. Jon Anderson had a riser center stage, perhaps to prevent him diminishing among the players. His voice was never commanding, and he has lost a bit of the top end. Like many singers of his era, several key changes have addressed the vocal range issue. Still, his delivery remains evocative. J-Burg native Trevor Rabin replicated well the guitar parts of the songs which made the band monumental before his mid-80s tenue. By the time of his “Owner of a Lonely Heart” mid-set, Rabin was shredding admirably. As the band’s only #1 hit, Rabin and Wakeman decided to do a walkabout through the Humphrey’s crowd, the latter sporting a keytar strapped around his cape. That move was never an option when the band toured stadiums in the mid 70s with gloriously overblown stage sets.

Anderson

Rabin

Wakeman

The current tour is touted as the ‘Quintessential Line Up,’ which is certainly open for debate; guitarist Steve Howe has assembled his version of Yes. Last month I saw Queen + Adam Lambert at Wembley and next month I will see Eagles. The latter has only one original member and the former has two of four original members. That 50% mark is what we have come to accept with The Who, but all these gigs are the reality when it comes to legacy artists. It is apparent we have entered the era of the authorized tribute band. I give heartfelt kudos for the artists that created a memorable amount of music which can still be toured.

In the case of Yes, unlike many other bands hitting their half-century mark, the band has also developed a signature graphic brand. The audience was filled with shirts sporting the colorful iterations of their iconic logo. Two songs were performed from Fragile, the 1971 album that exploded for the band: the album opener “Roundabout” was the inevitable encore and the album closer “Heart of the Sunrise” appeared toward the end of the set.

I agree with Billy Joel on very little musically, but I do agree with his recent statement that after Tales From Topographic Oceans he fell away from Yes. Although nothing from that album was performed, most of what was performed from earlier albums was pretty great. That which came after was less compelling. But kudos to the band for not relying only on the familiar to build their setlist, an ambitious strategy not usually followed by bands touring more than 50 years after starting.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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  • Phil

    I agree with Brad Auerbach on very little musically, but apparently we left Yes at the same time.
    Billy Joel

  • soulquest7

    Yes has performed over half of Tales from Topographic Oceans on four recent tours in 2016, 2017, and 2018 (two in the US, one in Japan, and one in the UK/Europe. It’s a masterful work and still a joy to hear live in concert! The album represents the peak of artistic freedom in the progressive rock genre, and artistic freedom is what the genre is all about! KEEP ON PROGGIN’ YES!
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0c0dd514c98880c12d5af1a2b6e19009f8ff5c7962fd4a461ae0dd352e1ee498.jpg

    • 575sanmario

      Yes, I approve.

      Brad Auerbach

  • BRAD AUERBACH

    When my girlfriend brought me an English pressing of Tales From Topographic Oceans, I devoured it for months. Along came Relayer a year later, and it LOOKED like we could expect the same, but I believe the band lost the thread. Billy Joel and I agreed.