Live Review: Yes

21 November 2014 | 4:57 pm | Guido Farnell

Yes were on fire at the Palais Theatre.

In the moments before legendary English prog rockers Yes arrive on stage they prolong fan anticipation for just that little bit longer when they screen a video that provides pictorial documentation of their long and illustrious history as a band. 

It is kind of hard to know what to expect from a band that’s been around since the late ‘60s and has featured no less than 19 different members. The promise of seeing this band perform their seminal Close To The Edge and Fragile albums in their entirety has attracted a respectable crowd of aging prog and stoner rock geeks. Many of them are wearing Yes tees from tours past and others are already wearing tees purchased moments ago at the merch stall.

Tonight Yes have sold fans more than just a ticket to a show; they are also offering an opportunity to travel back in time to 1971 when these alums were released. They kick off with a fine version of Close To The Edge that blows us away with its sprawling, psychedelic, prog goodness.

Perhaps these tunes sound a little dated, but as Jon Davison looking resplendent in a paisley shirt and long hair channels the spirit of Jon Anderson it really does feel as though we are back in the ‘70s. It’s amusing that he ended up singing for Yes after spending some years fronting a Yes tribute band. After taking us through Close To The Edge, the band are keen to showcase a couple of tunes from their latest album Heaven & Earth, which was released earlier this year. Believe Again and The Game have a kind of ‘80s pop twang about them. It snaps us out of the spaced-out state of mind that the epic sprawl of Close To The Edge induces and primes us for the poppier delights of Fragile

While Close To The Edge has everyone in the band playing together very tightly, Fragile offers moments where individual band members can shine. Keyboard wizard Geoff Downes (who actually plays his keys without the aid of sequencers) has his moment on Cans And Brahms. Steve Howe looks as if he will rock out on guitar ‘til the day he dies and has an intimate acoustic moment with us on Mood For A Day. One of the band’s originators, Chris Squire, chimes in with bass solos on the driving rhythms of Roundabout, a tune that really got Yes noticed back in the day. Meanwhile, Alan White’s drums keep the trains running on time.

The ornate prog arrangements revel in their complexity. The requisite skill to bring this music to life gives this incarnation of Yes the opportunity to really show off what they can do. Heart Of The Sunrise brings the crowd to their feet and the 20-something dude who has been violently air drumming all night is up and dancing in front of the stage. The crowd demands more and the band return with the joyous I’ve Seen All Good People and a lusciously dreamy, synth-heavy Starship Trooper concludes the night. Yes are on fire tonight and long-time fans agree that this is perhaps the best Yes show they’ve seen to date.