Rock Royalty Recapture Their Crown in Morristown
A SoundPress.net Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch
In the midst of the same week that the latest heir to the British throne was born and celebrated the kings of English progressive rock were reclaiming their own crown as powerful purveyors of the genre. Yes fans assembled and rejoiced as the lords of prog played three of their most pivotal albums in their entirety at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, New Jersey on July 25, 2013.
Yes on stage at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown.
Yes is an "art rock" band with a long and storied history. They are ambassadors of the progressive genre and they are one of the most hotly discussed acts on the Internet. In the same way that every move made by the royal family is dissected by the tabloids, so too, is Yes followed by their fan base. And, there's been a lot to talk about since the group made the decision to forge on without founding member and lead singer Jon Anderson back in 2008.
Yes found a new vocalist in French-Canadian cover band specialist Benoit David who fronted the outfit admirably before abdicating with health issues in 2012. Soon after it was announced that Glass Hammer singer Jon Davison would be joining Yes to fill the shoes of the fill-in singer. Many fans considered this new replacement just another pretender to the throne before he even uttered a single note. The very capable Davison, however, quickly won over many with his strong performances during the band's summer tour with Procol Harum.
Then, in early 2013, Yes announced a World Tour to perform not one but three of the most important albums in their catalogue. The lofty decision to play The Yes Album, Close to the Edge and Going for the One in full in concert was a proclamation that really captured the imagination of Yes fans.
Many consider the 1970's one of the group's most prolific periods. The Yes Album (1971) was their third studio album and the first to feature guitarist Steve Howe. On this record they layered and lengthened their songs utilizing what was at the time new musical tools such as the flanger and Moog synthesizers. Close to the Edge (1972) was the ambitious title track for their fifth release. It set a pattern for future records in which an album would be structured around a single epic. "Edge" was epic with its spiritual themes and spectrum of sounds clocking in at over eighteen minutes. Going for the One (1977) was a more "scaled back" record but still had lavish and long tracks. The signature Yes sound was present with the Polymoog enhancing it.
Yes during their triumphant and glorious return to Morristown in 2013.
Classical music was heard as the three album covers flashed on the screen above the stage. Additional clips of past and present Yes moments scrolled by as bird calls became apparent with bold bass lines heralding the fact that Close To The Edge was first.
The opening stanzas of the title track unfolded through intricate interplay with the lights and videos synchronized to the music. Yes was in good form. Steve was already utilizing two guitars backed by Geoff with his multitude of keyboards that at one point sounded like church organs. Rhythms were thick and tight and Jon was in fine voice. As the epic ended, Yes received a standing ovation from their attentive audience and this would be the pattern for the rest of the evening.
"And You and I" was magical and melodic. Davison was expressive visually and vocally as he was often moving to the music, smiling and adding elements of percussion to the mixes. "Siberian Khatru" started off with those super cool chunky base lines as the rest of the band flowed into the fast and fluid blend thus completing the first of three albums on a soaring note.
"Great to be back in Morristown, New Jersey," greeted Chris Squire. Steve Howe asked how everyone was doing and mentioned that it was interesting doing albums rather than just songs. Next up was Going for the One which was engaging and energetic with it's melding of slide guitar and succulent rhythms. "Turn of the Century" meandered through mystical images and interplay. "Parallels" was one of many moments for Geoff Downes to shine as the piece had lavish and layered piano parts.
Steve strummed the opening notes to "Wondrous Stories" before switching to an electric for more textures to back Jon's warm vocal tones on this winsome song. "Awaken" was arousing with its array of effects. Chris was armed with a three neck guitar/bass supported by steady and strong Alan White on drums. As the song progressed one felt as if they were in a cathedral as the keys echoed in the venue. After this stirring piece the band took a twenty minute break.
"It was the psychedelic summer of 1970, and we were holed up in a farmhouse," recalled Chris. "this was the result," declared Squire as the moved into The Yes Album. "Yours Is No Disgrace" was dynamic followed by a delightful "Clap". Fans were clapping along as Howe strummed and tapped the animated acoustic piece. "Starship Trooper" traveled through a wide spectrum of stanzas culminating with the thick thunderous bass parts of the "Wurm".
Yes is Jon Davison - vocals; Geoff Downes - keyboards; Steve Howe - guitars; Chris Squire - bass; Alan White - drums
"I've Seen All Good People" was a pageantry with Steve shining brightly on his solos using various guitars. "A Venture" was vibrant and went into "Perpetual Change". The closer was polished and included a startling surprise. As might be expected the encore and last song of the night was "Roundabout" - a rousing classic and crowd pleaser.
The presentation of three pivotal albums complete with lights and visuals was effective. The show at the MPAC was sold out and had fans roaring repeatedly in ecstasy at what was transpiring on stage. To many, Yes had hit a low point on their final tour with David. But, since then they've been flying and it's possible they're now hitting the highest highs of their career.
As we exited the theater we heard two fans comparing notes.
"I saw the band in 1975," said one. "The other said, me too, in 1976, during their heyday."
"And they were none better than what we saw, tonight?," asked one fan, the other replying, "You're right, they were never better than this!"
The Mayo Performing Arts Center was a great venue for a band like Yes as it has good sound, it is spacious yet intimate. The MPAC is in the heart of Morristown near restaurants and stores. Up-coming concerts at the venue include Happy Together, The Didge Project, Todd Rundgren, Robert Randolph, The Mavericks, Cheap Trick, The Queen Extravaganza, Don Felder, Kenny Loggins, Sharon Jones, Jay Black, Tower of Power with War and The Waterboys.
Yes 2013: Jon Davison - vocals; Geoff Downes - keyboards; Steve Howe - guitars; Chris Squire - bass; Alan White - drums
There were a lot of smiles on stage and in the audience as Yes played their three album show.
(Originally Published on July 26, 2013)
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