So who was that younger guy in the red trousers amid the sea of flowing white hair?
He was a constant reminder that the three members of the best-known lineup of Yes are well into their 60s now. And singer Jon Davison, merely in his early 40s, also was a reality check that bands which want to go on forever do so by making compromises.
The British progressive rock legends held their ground with a faithful audience on Friday, filling about the same two-thirds(ish) of the Pearl at the Palms as the band did with the same sparse stage production last summer, when
Davison was first introduced to local audiences.
Oddly enough, better familiarity with Davison didn’t make us miss original singer Jon Anderson (who is in poor health) any less. Last summer, he brought at least an album suite’s worth of new material that Anderson didn’t sing on, while the calling card this time was the prospect of hearing three 1970s albums in their entirety and in sequence.
Fans pre-dating the band’s 1980s flirtation with MTV fame also were hardcore enough to know that, in reality, the concept boils down to only two or three genuine rarities left out of live sets over the years.
“A Venture” from “The Yes Album” paid off with a jazzy piano solo from Geoff Downes, who played with Yes for one album back in 1980 before forming Asia with Yes guitarist Steve Howe.
“Parallels,” from “Going for the One” was less successful, suggesting the reason it wasn’t played more is if you don’t have Rick Wakeman blasting away on a giant church organ in Switzerland, why bother?
“Going for the One” was the last great album of the glory days, though it took some years for this to sink in after its arrival in 1977, the dawn of the punk era. It was also an album that heavily featured Anderson and Wakeman, so their absence was most noticed on the dramatic “Turn of the Century” and epic “Awaken.”
The earnest Davison may not have Anderson’s, buoyant, angelic stage presence. But he does have the same celestial choirboy voice (on some lines he sounds exactly like Anderson) and an earnest enthusiasm that endeared him as he sang the first part of “Century” with Howe playing acoustic guitar.
Oddly enough, even though the opening “Close to the Edge” (all three songs of it!) is the band’s finest single album, it got the show off to a so-so start, with both the band and the crowd’s energy seeming to lag.
The divinely epic “Awaken” — which requires bass virtuoso Chris Squire to play a triple-necked(!) instrument — rightly reminded us why Yes is a singular band worth preserving.
But something happened during the 20-minute intermission that followed. Was it perhaps as simple as aging bladders emptied on both sides of the stage? Who knows, but the band was suddenly on fire for “The Yes Album” and the audience responded.
The classics “Yours is No Disgrace” and “Starship Trooper” brought out the jazzy space-rock interplay of Howe, Squire and drummer Alan White at their best.
It made you realize that as long as these three are involved, Yes will still be viable for the faithful. Just as long as, after a particularly challenging run, Squire keeps looking out to the front rows with that same satisfied smile on his face and a nod of his shaggy white head.