NYCB Theatre At Westbury
July 12, 2014
When Yes announced that it would be touring in the summer of 2014, it also stated that it would be playing its classic albums Fragile
(Atlantic Records, 1971) and Close To The Edge
(Atlantic Records, 1972) in their entirety, as well as excerpts from Heaven And Earth
(Frontier Records, 2014) and some greatest hits selections. Quite a daunting proposition, especially considering that original lead vocalist Jon Anderson
hasn't been a part of the band since 2008. In May 2008, Anderson (who was not particularly interested in recording new material with Yes) suffered an asthma attack and was diagnosed with acute respiratory failure. He was replaced as the band's lead singer by Benoît David, who toured and recorded with the band through February 2012. After contracting a respiratory illness himself, David was replaced by Glass Hammer's Jon Davison.
In the midst of its 35-city tour, the group's current lineupDavison, alongside guitarist Steve Howe
, drummer Alan White, keyboardist Geoff Downes and bassist Chris Squireplayed its third New York area performance (the others being New York City, Wallingford, CT and Westbury, Long Island) in a four-night span to an audience comprised of longtime fans and, in some cases, the children of those fans. The mid-sized hall with the revolving stage was packed for this recital of Yes' two smash albums from the '70s.
One look around the arena told the fans all that they needed to know. This night would be all about the music. The stage located at dead center in the venue was set up with Downes' keyboards, White's drums, microphone stands, a single bass for Squire and Howe's guitars. Though there were a number of monitors to project pictures, album covers and ambient scenes while the music played, they were small, located above the stage and attached to the lighting rigs. The only gimmick was the rotating stage.
Yes' music is complex. Many of its songs feature complex time signatures, rhythms, syncopation and movements within extended musical passages. It can best be described as symphonic progressive rock. Though there are solos within songs and each member's playing can be classified as that of a virtuoso, the music of Yes is much more than progressive, symphonic or rock 'n' roll. It is thinking man's rock and every bit as intricate as a classical piece.
Shortly after 8pm, classical music filled with pomp and circumstance blared from the loud speakers while the small video monitors sprang to life showing a montage of video and pictures detailing the band's forty-plus year career. As the recorded music and the montage wound down, the band was led down one of the center aisles and onto the stage. Prior to the playing a single note, the group already had its first standing ovation.
The Close To The Edge
album has only three songs, though the title track and "And You And I" have four and five movements, respectively. On this evening, for reasons unknown, Yes decided to play the album in reverse order, opening with a ten-plus minute version "Siberian Khatru." At its end, the crowd cheered and then erupted for "And You And I" which was followed by a twenty-minute version of "Close To The Edge." The performance of the album featured understated video montages augmented by colored and bright lights bathing the stage as musical movements twisted and turned through instrumental and vocal hills and valleys. As the stage rotated, all corners of the arena were afforded a great view of Squire's nimble fingers picking and plucking his bass lines. Guitar aficionados were treated to a birds-eye view of Howe's skillful fretwork, resulting in dazzling passages and tasty riffs.
Approximately 45 minutes into the performance, it was time for the band to address the crowd. Squire, the only remaining original member of the band, stepped forward and, with his announcement of the soon-to-come release of Heaven and Earth
, the band eased its way into the new offering with "Believe Again." Davison's vocals sounded eerily how Anderson's might have and the song fit nicely into the Yes canon, with the expected multifaceted time changes, bright guitar and keys, dignified bass and drum rhythms, and an arrangement that featured both grandeur and majesty. Fragile
is credited as being the band's American breakthrough recording, reaching #4 on the Billboard
charts and certified double platinum by the RIAA. Featuring the hit single "Roundabout," as well as "Long Distance Runaround" and "Heart of the Sunrise," the album has sold over two million copies in the U.S. alone.