Another much delayed tour finally called at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall as Yes marked the fiftieth anniversary of Close to the Edge, their landmark 1972 album often regarded as their best. This tour was originally slated to celebrate the Relayer album but the postponements over the last couple of years prompted a change of plan by Steve Howe & Co. Howe has stated that the current line-up are ready and willing to present all eras of Yes music and tonight’s show was no exception as aside from all of Close… the set spanned songs from 1970’s Time and A Word through 2021’s well received The Quest.
The evening began with a short chat and slideshow presentation from artist Roger Dean discussing his long career and some of those wonderful album covers and logos he has created through the years. There was then a moving and heartfelt tribute to the late Alan White who sadly passed last month after having spent fifty years behind the drum kit. Keeping with tradition, The Firebird Suite welcomed the band to the stage with Steve Howe joined by Geoff Downes, Billy Sherwood, Jon Davison and drummer Jay Schellen, no stranger to Yes audiences as he has regularly deputised for White over the last few years. ‘On the Silent Wings of Freedom’ was a surprise opening number as one of the bands lesser played songs and they quickly moved into more familiar territory with ‘Yours is No Disgrace’, Davison’s voice ringing out loud and clear and the intricacies of each individual musicians’ instrument being discernible courtesy of Symphony Hall’s wonderful acoustics.
For the rest of the first half they dipped in and out of the Yes songbook including Howe’s trademark solo performance of ‘Clap’ when we could only marvel at his dexterity and the jaunty ‘Does it Really Happen?’ from 1980’s Drama that was highlighted by Sherwood’s insistent bass riff. A glorious ‘Heart of the Sunrise’ then closed out the first set. Ambient sounds welcomed the band back on stage for the second half that ushered in the epic ‘Close to the Edge’; Sherwood’s ascending bass being a particular highlight before the shuffling time changes and poetic lyrics lead into the “I get up, I get down” section that set the scene for the triumphant finale. A song that for many bands would be impossible to follow and yet Yes have got more than one prog masterpiece up their sleeves as the next two songs proved. ‘And You And I’ was, as always, simply wonderful before the powerful ‘Siberian Khatru’ highlighted the delicate interplay between Howes, Downes and Sherwood and saw the band depart to a raucous standing ovation.
Summoned back for more, Yes closed out the evening with long time live favourites ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Starship Trooper’. Purists may point to the fact that with White’s passing Howe is now the last man standing from their classic era, but tonight’s show proved that this current line-up can do justice to the bands legacy and, with more new music on the horizon, continue to delight Yes audiences around the globe.
On the Silent Wings of Freedom
Yours Is No Disgrace
No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed
Does It Really Happen?
The Ice Bridge
Dare to Know
Heart of the Sunrise
Close to the Edge
And You and I
I saw the York gig and agree, Yes will go on and should. I loved every moment and got Roger Dean’s autograph too!
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