Yes at Artpark-Concert Review

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Sad preacher nailed upon the coloured door of time;
Insane teacher be there reminded of the rhyme.
There’ll be no mutant enemy we shall certify;
Political ends, as sad remains, will die.
Reach out as forward tastes begin to enter you.

That’s one of my favorite Yes lyrics, from And You and I.  Cryptic, maybe veering towards the hippy dippy, but more mysterious than anything else.  My friend Andrew, who we just lost last month, had a great line that I’ve used more times than I can count over the years.  We had this funny little Popeye Pool set as a joke in our Night Owl Club and he said. “proficiency at pool is a sign of an ill-spent youth”.  That’s classic Andrew.  Let me steal that line now and say that knowing all of the obscure lyrics to Yes songs is surely the sign of an ill-spent youth(and I wouldn’t have it any other way).

Andrew liked music but wasn’t obsessed with it.  Unlike me, who schlepped around four crates of albums with me wherever I moved to, Andrew only had a handful of albums.  One of them was Drama, by Yes, and we listened to it often.

Drama was always a controversial album among Yes fans.  The band had fractured and Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman departed.  In came Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn, from the Buggles of all bands.  The result was Drama, which was a stark departure from earlier efforts.  It was slightly futuristic in theme and it grooved, in a New Wave meets Prog kind of way.  Old guard fans mostly hated it.  Not me.  I thought it was brilliant and I still do.

Last night at Artpark, Yes opened up with Machine Messiah and then proceeded to play the entire Drama album.  Fourteen year old me was in heaven!  I don’t remember every concert I’ve ever been to with clarity but seeing Yes on the original Drama tour in 1980 is a very clear memory for me.  That the current incarnation of the band would play the whole album in concert 36 years later was a special gift.

After that, they ended the first set with All Good People and Siberian Khatru. If they ended the show there, I would have gone home happy.  Instead, they took a break and came back with And You and I and then two sides of Topographic.  They then came back for an encore of Roundabout and Starship Trooper.  Game over.

Steve Howe was the undisputed star of the show and at 69 years old, is still a stone cold guitar god. His playing was superb.  Alan White was out with a back problem and they had a substitute drummer.  He was adequate but this music is challenging.  White was missed.  As was Chris Squire, one of my favorite bass players.  Billy Sherwood handled the bass lines admirably but could not provide those fantastic backing vocals that Squire gave us.  If Howe was the star, Downes was close behind.  I kept wishing the cameras would focus more on his keyboard pyrotechnics.  I’ve always loved his playing.  Very tasty and creative.  Which brings us to the singer, Jon Davison.  He sounds an awful lot like Jon Anderson, which I’m sure is how he got this gig.  He’s very talented, playing a number of different instruments throughout the night.  His voice though, while very similar, lacked the fullness and the richness that Anderson brings.

I’d estimate there were between 5 and 6 thousand people there.  Most of the crowd was not familiar with Drama or Topographic and only reacted to the “hits”.  In that respect, I think Yes would have been better served to play only one “obscure” album per concert to keep the casual audient’s attention.  This kind of outdoor venue is where people mostly want to drink and talk, sadly.

The Missus was a trooper(starship?).  I knew she would not care for this show.  I warned her but she wanted to go and at one point, as I’m going crazy singing along, I looked over at her and I believe she was checking her Pinterest.  The best thing she could say about the show was, “it was a great night to be outside”.  Ha!

Anderson, Wakeman, and Rabin are coming to UB in November so I’d like to complete my Yes shows for the year by seeing them.  I’m guessing the lovely Missus will be staying home that night.

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