Live Review: Yes

18 April 2012 | 9:06 am | Bryget Chrisfield

A magical mystery tour well worth revisiting.

There always seems to be a record amount of lost people requiring usher assistance at this venue, due to the double alphabet – Stalls or Orchestra (better) – seating on the floor. Old-school geekazoids stand in the aisles at the front of the stage and check out the instruments we are gagging to hear played. It's ageing stoner central and a couple of hypercolour t-shirts have even been dug out for the occasion. Opening with Yours Is No Disgrace, the band immediately hit their stop-start stride while chin strokers prove they know their shit by nodding along with every haphazard beat. “Yesterday a morning came/A smile upon your face” – new singer Jon Davison (who also fronts Glass Hammer plus Yes tribute band, Roundabout) looks like the physical embodiment of Yes in his white flares, open, collarless batik-print shirt and centre-parted, shoulder length, coppery locks. Davison's still in his 40s and his senior bandmates/mentors all show prog-rock dedication by clinging to their last remaining wisps of silvery, rockstar-length hair.

Legendary guitarist Steve Howe relies on emphatic facial expressions to play his instrument as much as he does those rapidfire phalanges. Tempus Fugit is an early highlight with its “Yes” visuals emphasising lyrics. Not content to settle for just the one axe, Howe alternates playing his strapped-on instrument with another on a stand before him throughout Life On A Film Set. Bassist Chris Squire advises we'll be hearing a lot more from the band's recent album (Fly From Here) later on tonight and then Howe is left alone on stage for a two-song solo: Solitaire and (fittingly) Australia. All return to the stage for And You & I, another nature-exulting Yes song: “And you and I climb over the sea to the valley.” Before breaking for interval, the band score their first standing ovation of the evening.

The entire theatre empties for smoke-o while the band members probably also indulge backstage. A string of newies (the first six Fly From Here tracks consecutively) kick off part two, accentuated by a short film sequence: Constant shifts in the space/time continuum follow a pilot who apparently killed a Hollywood starlet in her prime due to what is deemed as “pilot error” in a news article (there's repeated close-ups of this pull quote in the clip). Squire indulges in a meandering bass solo to open Heart Of The Sunrise (“How can the wind with its arms all around me”) and Davison's pure vocal tones perfectly suit this classic song. Not so this scribe's favourite, Owner Of A Lonely Heart, however. Davison struggles with the upper register and also overenunciates the 't' in every “heart”, the smash hit saved by keyboardist Geoff Downes' shattering FX. Downes makes a welcome return to Yes and, enclosed by three walls of keys, often attacks two consoles simultaneously – one in front of and one behind him. Bet he could play blindfolded. The keys player breaks out a splendiferous white keytar for main set finale Starship Trooper as Squire gets carried away with a ridiculous, side-travelling slip-step across the front of the stage. The band take their bows. The audience is upstanding once more, applauding madly.

“Excuse me. Excuse me,” a gentleman says as he squeezes past to make his exit. “You'll miss Roundabout!” a neighbour in the crowd cautions. “I don't care,” is the reply. He should care, since Roundabout – together with various animated visuals, one looking like psychedelic turds, float across the screen – could only be described as everyone's favourite, overused prog-rock term: “epic”. “We appreciate your loyalty over the years,” praises Squire. “See you next time.” A magical mystery tour well worth revisiting.

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