The grand-daddys of Progressive Rock, YES, were at the historic Pantages Playhouse (which was built in 1914) Wednesday night where they performed three albums in their entirety.
You could feel the anticipation in the room. The audience was hyped about seeing YES, who hasn’t played Winnipeg since the Tormato tour in 1979 with their revolving stage. I didn’t have the good fortune to see that tour but I remember the buzz at school the next day about what an amazing show it was.
The first opportunity to see the band was in Vancouver in July 1997 and then again for their 35th anniversary tour in Toronto in 2004. That was back when they were still filling large arenas. I last saw them in April 2013 at Toronto’s Massey Hall where they were playing their 25th show of the three album tour (although at some venues they only played two albums).
The lights went down, and as Stavinsky’s ‘Firebird Suite’ started playing, YES album covers were shown on the video screen, to which an audience member affectionately yelled out, “Bruford,” (who played drums on both the Yes album and Going For The One, plus three other albums before he quit and joined King Crimson).
The band then came on the stage to thunderous applause and launched into the 18-minute ‘Close To The Edge’ (title track from the 1972 album). The band was cooking as vocalist Jon Davison hit Jon Anderson’s high notes dead on. If you closed your eyes you would almost think Jon Anderson was singing.
Close to the Edge was released after Fragile and for this outing the band started writing longer, more complex pieces. Jon picked up the acoustic guitar for the beautiful piece ‘And You and I’ before the band ended this part of the journey with ‘Siberian Khatru.’
At this point, Chris Squire (bass, harmonica, bg vocals) chatted with the audience about how it was great to be back in Winnipeg before handing the mic over to Steve Howe (guitars, pedal steel guitar, Portuguese Vachalia and bg vocals) who said they’re going to play “some bigger pieces, smaller pieces, and some straight ahead rock’n’roll.”
Straight ahead rock’n’roll it was with 1977’s ‘Going For The One’ that was recorded in Switzerland once YES had taken a break after the 1976 tour in order for the band members to record solo projects. The album also marked the return of Rick Wakeman on keyboards. Geoff Downes (present keyboard player), who joined YES in 1980 for the Drama album, replacing Wakeman, and Trevor Horn taking over vocal duties for Jon Anderson.
YES disbanded in 1981 and Steve Howe and Downes created the band Asia. Even though Downes didn’t play on any of the three albums, he was in fine form and played some amazing keyboards amidst his bank of seven keyboards. Drummer Alan White (who played on the album) was smoking.
The first two albums took about one and a half hours, after which there was a 20-minute intermission.
After the intermission, 1971’s phenomenal The Yes Album was performed starting off with ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’. The crowd loved it.
Track two was Steve Howe’s solo acoustic piece, ‘The Clap’, which on the original album was recorded live at the Lyceum Theater in London on July 17, 1970. Always a favourite with the fans.
Nearly every song from this masterpiece album received a standing ovation from the Winnipeg audience. There was certainly a great vibe in the building, even more so than when I saw the show in Toronto last year. I guess that’s what happens when a band stays away for so long.
They seemed to have slowed down ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ slightly but it still sounded brilliant. Geoff Downes did some nice keyboard work on ‘A Venture’ before they played the last cut from the album, ‘Perpetual Change’, where it started snowing inside when a whole bunch of large confetti was shot out into the audience. Like we haven’t had enough snow in Winnipeg this year.
The band took a bow, left the stage, then came back for an encore where they played ‘Roundabout’. Chris Squire’s bass playing has never sounded better. Such brilliance, such confidence. That’s what you get when you put a group of very talented and accomplished musicians together on stage.
YES were the masters of the concept album and whether it’s live or on record, they always take you with them ‘close to the edge down by the river’ with their tales of ‘wondrous stories’. ‘All good people’ and ‘you and I’ who ‘ventured’ to the Playhouse Theatre that night found that with YES ‘yours is no disgrace’ and all the ‘starship troopers’ left the venue with smiles on their faces as satisfied ‘life seekers’. Two and a half hours of sheer brilliance.
CLOSE TO THE EDGE (1972)
1. Close To The Edge: I- The Solid Time Of Change;
II- Total Mass; III- I Get Up; IV- Seasons Of Man;
2. And You And I: I- Cord Of Life; II- Eclipse;
III- The Preacher And The Teacher; IV- Apocalypse
3. Siberian Khatru
GOING FOR THE ONE (1977)
4. Going For The One
5. Turn Of The Century
7. Wondrous Stories
20 Minute INTERMISSION
THE YES ALBUM ((1971)
9. Yours Is No Disgrace
11. Starship Trooper: I- Life Seeker;
II- Disillusion; III- Würm
12. I’ve Seen All Good People:
I- Your Move; II- All Good People
13. A Venture
14. Perpetual Change