Words by Andrew Falk
My friends give me a hard time when I go to see old bands. When I mentioned I was going to see Yes, I got the same response from them as when I went to see Steely Dan, the Zombies, Cheap Trick, and Rush in the last few years: “How old are those guys?” I think that question is kind of irrelevant – I belong to the school of thought that gives aging artists the benefit of the doubt. A once-great band always has the potential to be great again. At the very least, seeing them perform their great material with fervor can be just as satisfying as if they were a young band.
That said, I was still a little nervous that I would hate this show.
I haven’t heard any Yes albums that were recorded in the last thirty years (full disclosure: Close to the Edge is the only album of theirs that I’ve given my full attention.) To add to my apprehension, this tour is not your standard Yes tour because it’s their first tour since 1981 without original vocalist Jon Anderson – and they hired a guy from a Canadian Yes cover band to take his place, Rock Star-style. So, with trepidation, I took my seat at the Riverside and waited for the lights to dim.
Yes took the stage to a grandiose symphonic backing track and launched into the memorable opening riff from “Siberian Khatru,” and my disquiet began to subside. The new singer, Benoît David, sounded startlingly like Jon Anderson circa ’72 and clearly loved and respected the band’s canon. Guitarist Steve Howe killed it all night, playing real pretty when he needed to and tearing a hole in the sky when the songs called for something with sharper edges. They also played the other two multi-part suites from Close to the Edge album, which was great for me since I was worried I wouldn’t recognize any of their material. But even the songs I hadn’t heard from albums like Drama and Time and a Word sounded great and kept my attention.
The near-capacity crowd predictably skewed older than most concerts I attend and they were seated for the majority of the two-hour show. However, during particularly righteous or epic passages, many fans leapt from their seats and cheered with uncontrollable enthusiasm. The band was spirited, the fans were spirited, and the Cinemascope soundscapes floated grandly through the Riverside.