The Greek Theatre
August 24, 2014
It seems to be a trend of late for legendary bands to dust off and perform their legendary albums. Last night, Yes performed two of theirs, Close to the Edge and Fragile. The band's extensive current tour began just a few days before the release of their latest album, Heaven & Earth, but it is not curious why their set only included two songs from the new album, which they played in between the vintage albums. The new album has not been receiving great praise, but perhaps this is because it has been 40 years since the progressive rockers began charting new cosmic territory.
Since that time, the band has seen numerous permutations in its line-up, and it is no surprise that it has never encapsulated so pure a manifestation of vision and virtuosity as it did on those two albums. Nevertheless, all history, drama, and art versus business speculations aside, there was something incredible happening on stage at the Greek Theatre. By taking a potent magical spell and casting it with aplomb, able magicians can easily entrance their legions and adherents.
Indeed, the Greek Theatre was a time capsule last night. Aging hippies and former children of the Age of Aquarius-cum-Middle age yuppies packed the joint, fired up more than a few, and demonstrated that they still remember how they danced during their acid days. Onstage, the band members, principally in their 60's, showed not only that they could still play their old tunes well, but that the material easily stands the test of time. Part of this may be due to the strength of 43-year-old Jon Davison's voice.
Davison has taken the place of founding member Jon Anderson, who wrote and co-wrote most of the material that was performed. Sadly, interviews with Anderson reveal that he yearns to rejoin his band, but he has not been invited back due to health-related issues that limit his performance ability. Regardless, without this background, the only reason why someone who had heard one of these albums (but never seen the band) might suspect that Davison was not, in fact, Anderson is because of the former's age. Their voices are indiscernible.[
The only other original member of the band was innovative bassist Chris Squire, whose performance skills have not diminished. Though guitarist Steve Howe was not there at the beginning, he joined early on and his writing and playing were featured on Close to the Edge and Fragile. His playing is still great. Alan White joined the band as a drummer in 1972 (just after the release of Close to the Edge) and can still play all of original drummer Bill Bruford's rhythms with ease. Finally, in place of legendary keyboardist Rick Wakeman, Geoff Downes stood at the helm of his numerous keyboards, organs, and synthesizers and played wonderfully.
While the music played, the band's signature artwork [logo and album design schemes] flashed across three large viewing screens behind the performers. This provided the final ingredient to the quintessential Yes experience. The fans were in ecstasy, and it is likely that many neophytes were converted. Furthermore, the performance of opening act Syd Arthur enhanced the progressive rock theme and did a terrific job warming up the crowd. They are definitely a band that is worth keeping an eye on.
All in all, the Yes experience was a mixed blessing. The performance of the band was a total triumph, but the aging appearances of most of its musicians stood as a reminder that what the audience was observing was a glimpse at a glorious past. Without a constant line-up of visionary artists and their ability to explore fresh sonic territory, powerful concerts like this are but brief moments to relive a memory. Then again, maybe that's all that's necessary for most people.