Carry On at the NJPAC
A Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

The progressive rock band Yes has always been about perpetual change. Their compositions are full of complex transitions paired with numerous personal changes in their four plus decade career. Perhaps it was not surprising that in May of 2015 when bassist/founder Chris Squire was diagnosed with leukemia he reached out to former Yes member Billy Sherwood to step in. Thus, the scheduled Yes/Toto tour could continue. Prior to Mr. Squire's death (June 2015) he had contacted drummer Alan White asking him to keep everything going. For Chris it was important that Yes carry on and that is what the group did on August 8, 2015 at the prestigious New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, New Jersey.

Jon Davison of YES at the NJPAC - August 2015.

Grammy award winning Toto has sold millions of records. Toto's music is a broad blend of blues, funk, jazz, pop, rock and soul. Toto enjoyed its biggest success in the 1970's and 1980's with such hits as "Africa", "Hold the Line" and "Rosanna". Toto has seen their fair share of changes, too. Yet, they are carrying on strong in 2015 many years after their formation in 1977. Both bands played approximately an hour and a half at the NJPAC.

On this co-headlining tour Yes took the stage second. Their set started with a touching tribute to Chris Squire. A spotlight shined down on a bass as clips of Chris and his gear were shown on the screen above the stage. The Yes song "Onward" was an appropriate soundtrack to the footage. Then as is the band's custom classical music was piped in as the prog legends emerged from the darkness. Fans were on their feet to enthusiastically greet them.

Billy Sherwood of YES at the NJPAC - August 2015.

Singer Jon Davison was armed with an acoustic to add accents to "Don't Kill the Whale". Images of whales and water floated across the screen enhancing the meaning of the song and perhaps conveying a bigger message of infinity. "Tempus Fugit" was paired with pictures of numbers with the word "Yes" flashing giving the up-tempo song more energy. "We love you Chris Squire, you will not be forgotten," declared Jon. Life along with death are journeys and Simon & Garfunkel's "America" was an expansive jam across the United States with Yes as our musical tour guides. A spirited "Going for the One" keep the mood up. "Time and a Word" was another up-lifting song with footage and lights adding to the overall presentation.

Steve Howe of YES at the NJPAC - August 2015.

Yes was in good form on Saturday but Chris was clearly missed. Billy Sherwood maintained a strong bottom while keeping a low key presence on stage. It was up to legacy member Steve Howe to shine. His guitar solo on "Clap" was colorful with the crowd happily clapping along to this cheerful acoustic number. Howe as usual played an array of guitars adding more sounds to multifaceted numbers such as "I've Seen All Good People" and "Siberian Khatru" featuring a spacey slide guitar. Howe put his own spin on the 80's hit "Owner of A Lonely Heart". Of course it was his signature guitars that opened a rousing "Roundabout". The encore was the classic "Starship Trooper". Keyboardist Geoff Downes took center stage playing a keytar which was his major solo of the night.

Since their set was shorter Yes did not perform any 20 minute epics such as "Gates of Delirium" instead they presented more popular, up-beat songs from their lengthy catalog. Yet, there was a subtle perhaps spiritual element behind the tracks chosen conveying a message that life is precious and finite. Perpetual change is inevitable. But, it appears that this version of Yes can carry on moving forward if they so choose. They played a fine show on Saturday in honor of founder Chris Squire.

Geoff Downes of YES at the NJPAC - August 2015.

Opened in 1997, the NJPAC is one of the largest performing arts centers in the US. This beautiful theater is paneled in wood for optimum acoustics. In addition to hosting concerts such as Yes/Toto the NJPAC supports dance, music, poetry, theater and more within the community. The NJPAC is part of the on-going revitalization that is taking place in the city of Newark.

SETLIST: Onward ("Tormato" recording, with Chris Squire tribute) | Intro / Firebird Suite | Don't Kill the Whale | Tempus Fugit | America (Simon & Garfunkel cover) | Going for the One | Time and a Word | Clap | I've Seen All Good People | Siberian Khatru | Owner of a Lonely Heart | Roundabout | Encore | Starship Trooper

Alan White of YES at the NJPAC - August 2015.

Related Links: For more information on YES and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- YES | TOTO | NJPAC | TOTO at the NJPAC

(Originally Published on August 10, 2015)




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