Review by Dean Pedley, Images by Rich Ward.
Twelve months on from their long overdue induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, 2018 finds Yes marking their fiftieth anniversary with a tour of the UK that then moves to mainland Europe before a return to North America scheduled for later in the year. Appearing at Symphony Hall for the first time in two years, the current line-up of guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, keyboardist Geoff Downes, singer Jon Davison and bassist Billy Sherwood gave a performance that was drawn entirely from their 60’s and 70’s output with a particular focus on 1973’s Tales from Topographic Oceans, the sprawling double album which at the time of its original release was the catalyst for much inter-band consternation. Of course band members leaving, joining and leaving again is very much part of the complex Yes story and in recent years audiences around the globe have also been able to enjoy the music as presented by Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman.
The band are welcomed on stage by the customary Firebird Suite introduction before Howe leads them into ‘Yours is No Disgrace’. With the passing of Chris Squire, Howe has very much taken up the mantle of band leader and elder statesman of the group and he remains a pleasure to watch with his seamless playing as he serves up a masterclass of guitar wizardry for any aspiring young guitarists in the crowd. With Alan White unable to join the band until the final half an hour for health reasons his place behind the kit is taken by Jay Schellen who links up well with Sherwood as they punch through ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ and ‘South Side of the Sky’. And whilst Jon Davison will never be the voice of Yes he does show a deep understanding and appreciation of the bands history and his performance is nothing less than heartfelt, most evident during the passionate renditions of ‘Wonderous Stories’ and ‘Leaves of Green’ where he duets beautifully with Howe.
The second half of the set is devoted to sides one and four of Tales and the audience is taken back to 1973 and the bands concept album based around ancient Hindu texts. Whilst unquestionably a weighty subject matter, all of the traditional Yes hallmarks are present and correct, with Geoff Downes putting his own take on Wakeman’s epic keyboard passages, and there is an overwhelming feeling of joy and spirituality that shines through. Whether a flawed gem or a masterpiece Tales has its place in the Yes catalogue and the current band does it justice and, with White joining them behind his kit for the closing section of ‘Ritual’, they are rewarded with a tumultuous standing ovation.
With the inevitable crowd pleasing encore of the jaunty ‘Roundabout’ and a truly majestic ‘Starship Trooper’ another Yes show draws to a close leaving the generation-spanning audience with some more wonderful memories. Fifty years on from their debut Yes have a body of work that is equal parts innovative, challenging, creative and rewarding and with the band now edging closer to the end of the road their musical legacy will continue to endure and inspire.
Intro – The Firebird Suite
Yours Is No Disgrace
I’ve Seen All Good People
South Side of the Sky
And You and I
The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)
Leaves of Green
Ritual (Nous sommes du soleil)