Yes | October 11, 2022 | Ryman Auditorium | Nashville, TN – Concert Review


Review by Shawn Perry

Yes, in whatever form you choose, has always been vigilant about putting the music above everything else, including its members. That’s become only too obvious in the past few years with various members of the Yes family sharing their own interpretations of Yes music. As a band, as well as a brand, Yes is squarely curated by Steve Howe, the group’s on and off and back on guitarist since 1970. The fact that three original surviving members are not part of this version of Yes has become less important. Singer Jon Anderson has been extremely prolific since departing the band in 2008 and came brazenly close to challenging the brand when he teamed up with Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman for a second version of Yes. It doubled the fun for some and confused others. A few purists boycotted both.

There was little confusion when Yes landed in Nashville to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Close To The Edge, as well as pay tribute to Alan White, the band’s drummer since 1972 who passed away in May. Howe was out in front, stage right and clearly in charge of a lineup that includes keyboardist Geoff Downes, whose own lineage to Yes goes back to 1980, plus three younger Americans: singer Jon Davison, bassist Billy Sherwood and drummer Jay Schellen. This is the first Yes tour with Schellen in the driver’s seat as the only drummer (he’s backed up White during the last few years), and the veteran musician was definitely up to the task.

Aside from the standard backdrop screens, and separate platforms for the keyboards and drums, there was little embellishment to the stage. Gone are the days of Roger Dean’s sci-fi props. If you wanted to see anything of significance from Dean, lithographs of his artwork were on sale in the lobby at the merchandise booth. White received a tasteful video tribute before the band showed up to the fading strings of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite.”

Opening with “On the Silent Wings Of Freedom” served as a solid nod to late bassist Chris Squire, while the inclusion of Richie Havens’ “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” from A Time And A Word, says more about the history of Yes than the players on stage, none of whom appeared on the studio recording. Some would argue that Howe has become curiously selective about which Yes songs he wasn’t part of are added to the setlist. For the record, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” the band’s most successful single written by and featuring guitarist Trevor Rabin, didn’t make the cut for this outing.

“Yours is No Disgrace” was steady, jazzy at times, and “Wonderous Stories” found Howe spinning out a “Seen All Good People” tease on his 12-string valachia and singing a few lines, before stopping and breaking into hysterics. A rarity indeed. At this point, he was definitely loosened up and ready for anything. Slipping in “The Ice Bridge” and “Dare To Know” from the band’s 2022 studio release, The Quest, definitely gave Downes his due, though the pre-recorded orchestral parts didn’t quite mesh with the live action. Still, there wasn’t a mad rush for the bar when the new music was introduced.

Howe noted that Roger Dean first became known as a part of the Yes family when Fragile came out (same goes for Rick Wakeman, by the way) before the ensemble played the final song from the record, “Heart Of The Sunrise,” to end the first set.

The second set was all about Close To The Edge and its three songs, which have all been regulars on the Yes setlist. Even though Alan White didn’t play on the album, he came aboard right after it came out, replacing Bill Bruford and learning the group’s repertoire just days before a major tour. Schellen’s approach to these songs, as it had been for most of the night, was much closer to White’s style than Bruford’s. Both Howe and Sherwood stayed on course, filling in the spaces, while Downes did his best to replicate Wakeman’s intricate keyboard work on the extended title track.

The band wasn’t about to leave the building without doing “Roundabout,” plus a turn at “Starship Trooper” as the cherry on top. Davison has gracefully accepted his place as the singer of Yes, though Jon Anderson’s unique alto tenor is at the heart of every classic song. It can’t be easy occupying the spot, especially when Anderson himself is out on the road with a surrogate band performing many of the same songs. Love ‘em or leave ‘em, this is Yes in 2022. They have plans to play Relayer live in 2023. Hardcore Yes fans are rejoicing at the idea — once again putting the music above everything else.

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