Concert Review: Yes, April 11, Massey Hall

yes

Progressive rock. Prog rock. The term alone conjures up a lot of dodgy images amongst music fans of a certain ilk – old British dudes wearing capes, rows and rows of synthesizers, extended bass solos, concept albums about post-apocalyptic societies, Phil Collins … I could go on and on. In fact, to illustrate the perceived negative connotations of prog rock, I’ll tell you a story. Late one evening a few years back, I found myself in a club where there was a band playing cover tunes. Instead of a bass player, this band had a dude playing a Chapman Stick. After they finished their first set, I approached Mr. Chapman Stick – “Hey, I demand you play a King Crimson song.” “Yeah, that’d go over really great,” said Chapman Stick sarcastically, “I might as well play some Yes.” “That’d be ever better!” I replied earnestly. He thought I was taking the piss, but I wasn’t.  I just love Yes.

The British prog rock legends are currently on a tour focusing on three of their classic albums from their heyday – The Yes Album (1971), Close To The Edge (1972), and Going For The One (1977).  In other words, this was a bit of a nostalgia trip.  The fact that they were performing these albums live in their entirety for the very first time definitely made this a draw for the hardcore fans.

The band took to the stage and got right down to business immediately, launching  into “Close To The Edge.” It actually took me a minute or two to realize that they weren’t actually playing the albums in chronological order. I guess I got lost in the moment or something.  The songs on this album are easily among my favourite Yes songs. Broken up into movements and full of all kinds of changes, they highlight the band’s virtuosity to great effect. “And You And I” (which inspired Joss Whedon to name his production company “Mutant Enemy”) was one of the highlights of the set, though the harmonica played by Chris Squire at one point did seem a bit incongruous. It wasn’t until they finished the first album cycle that bassist Squire addressed the audience, noting that this was the first time they’d played that album in its entirety in Toronto. He then passed it off to Steve Howe, who told a story which as far as I could tell was about how they got into skiing while recording the next album to be performed, Going For The One. Who knew?

I will admit to not being as familiar with this one as the other two albums; I may be a fan but I am by no means a Yes completist. That said, tracks like “Parallels” and the title track (with it’s memorable steel guitar opening riff) sounded great and certainly give me reasons to delve further into the band’s back catalogue.

And then there was a 20 minute intermission before the band returned to finish off this trilogy of sorts with The Yes Album. Because really, after an hour and a half of Yes spanning two full albums, both band and audience could use a bit of a break.

yes-intermission

Overall, while this show might not have changed the mind of anyone who wasn’t already a fan, for those who already were, we were treated to a solid set from a band that’s kept going throughout multiple lineup changes throughout their career. Of those lineup changes, one significant difference in recent years is the addition of singer Jon Davison after the departure of Jon Anderson. Though, if you closed your eyes you might not even notice the difference as Davison is vocally a dead ringer for Anderson, hitting those high notes while clearly having the time of his life up there with a band that he likely grew up on.

After roughly two and a half hours of music, I doubt anyone would have felt cheated had it ended there, but the band did indulge the audience with an encore of “Roundabout” off of 1971’s Fragile. It was a good choice to go out on, as it had pretty much the whole crowd on their feet. Though speaking of being on your feet, I did notice a certain contingent in the audience who gave the band a standing ovation after every single song. That seemed a little excessive to me. I understand that the band is impressive and a little bit exciting, but show some restraint folks. Then again, Yes aren’t exactly restraining themselves, so why should the audience?

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Posted on by Paul in Concerts

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