10 May 2016
Tonight initially felt like it was going to be a strange experience. As a Yes fan for many years and seeing them play live quite a few times (oddly, the first time was on the Drama tour) this would be their first London outing without founder member and bassist Chris Squire, who passed away last year. So in a strange way, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Sure, the band has had several key members leave before (Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman beingthe two most famous), but Chris had always been there throughout all those different line-up changes. His presence onstage will always be missed by fans, so there was a bit of anticipation in the air about how the band was going to pull it all off without the giant of prog rock.First off though, we have a support slot from Moon Safari. They are not a band that peak up on my particular (prog) radar so, it should be interesting to see one of the newer bands do their thing (saying that, this Swedish group has been around since 2003; so not really that new, but compared to Yes…). First off, their musicianship is quite amazing, intricate and tuneful and tips its hat towards the first wave of bands of the Sixties and Seventies.
Simon Akesson and Petter Sandstrom’s joint lead vocals are beautiful, singing their angelic harmonies together. Johan Westerlund’s drumming has a touch of the early Phil Collins about it, while Sebastian Akesson’s keyboards touch slightly towards Geoff Downes. The sound of the songs remind me of a mixture between Star Castle and early Kansas at times, and of course originators like Genesis. The last song they perform is a beautiful acapella number dedicated to Squire that the whole group sing around a single microphone. A sublimely wonderful way to end their short set.one of the heaviest songs they have ever recorded. Steve Howe’s guitar playing is on fire, while Geoff Downes seems to be all over his vast arsenal of keyboards. It’s a fantastic opener and today still sounds like the soundtrack to some type of dystopian sci-fi film.
Tonight, Yes play two of their classic albums, Drama and Fragile in their entirety live for the first time ever. So as the band finish the first track they move quickly into track two on the album, the short (and Buggles-) sounding “White Car”, and this is where Downes comes into his own as he takes centre stage with his multitude of synthesizers. Then they leapfrog into “Does It Really Happen” and it’s here that I have to give a massive thumbs up to Billy Sherwood’s bass work. He manages to capture the essence of Squire’s playing but adds in a few little twists of his own. Throughout the whole show, Sherwood is in top form and any doubts about him filling the big fish’s shoes are certainly forgotten at this point.he dances and plays his instruments like he is on some inner spiritual quest. For “Tempus Fugit” they are joined onstage by Trevor Horn, the original vocalist for the Drama era, who gets a standing ovation as he stands at the mic. He gives an outstanding performance of the song and the only disappointment is that he doesn’t sing another number from the album. Howe’s choppy, sublime guitar fugues. But the real joy of this segment is the inclusion of the final section of “The Gates of Delirium”, “Soon”, which Howe informs us was specially added to the set for tonight’s performance.
It’s at this point that Howe announces that the band will be playing in the UK again next year, but will perform their entire concept album Tales From Topographic Oceans. This causes much conversation after the gig among audience members, some predicting that Jon Anderson will return to sing his magnum opus and even that Wakeman would be back to play too. Both of these I doubt very much, especially Wakeman, who has gone on record many times as saying that he’s not enamoured with the suite of songs and even ate a curry onstage during one of its performances.
Downes does justice to Wakeman’s “Cans and Brahms”, while Sherwood performs a fantastic bass solo during Squire’s “The Fish”. Howe sits down and gives a great rendition of “Mood For A Day”, but the real star of the show is the band’s performance of “Heart of the Sunrise” — with its menacing battery of sound and wild keyboard parts, it really is a tour de force in Yes’ canon. The band leave the stage to rapturous applause, but return to play a corking rendition of “Starship Trooper” to finish off the evening.they were all going to do their damnedest to enjoy the moment. That love of their music and legacy somehow soaked into every member of the audience, it just proves that high vibrations do work.
-Words: Gary Parsons-
-Pictures: Dave Pettit–