Yes Concert Review: 7/20/12
I saw the progressive rock band Yes play at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania on July 20, 2012 during their Fly From Here Tour. You can read more about this show here. Procol Harum was the opening act.
The line-up Yes fielded at this show was:
- Jon Davison: lead vocals, percussion, guitar
- Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals
- Chris Squire: bass guitars, backing vocals
- Alan White: drums, percussion
- Geoff Downes: keyboards
The set Yes played was (the album from which the song comes in parenthesis):
- Intro: Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
- Yours is No Disgrace (The Yes Album)
- Tempus Fugit (Drama)
- I’ve Seen All Good People (The Yes Album)
- America (The New Age of Atlantic)
- Fly From Here (Fly From Here)
- Steve Howe solo: Intersection Blues (he renamed it “Philadelphia Blues”)
- Leaves of Green (Tales of Topographic Oceans)
- Wonderous Stories (Going for the One)
- Heart of the Sunrise (Fragile)
- Awaken (Going for the One)
- Encore: Roundabout (Fragile)
This show was the second American leg of the Fly From Here Tour in support of their then most recent studio album Fly From Here. The first American leg took place during the previous summer (2011) and a show from that tour was the show I saw previous to this one; I reviewed that show here. As I said in my review of that last show, it was the worst Yes show I had ever seen. I left that show thinking that Yes was likely going to slide into retirement as soon as the tour was over; it was that bad. As I also noted in that aforesaid review, by the end of 2011, vocalist Benoit David‘s voice was unable to sustain the rigors of being Yes’ singer and was replaced by Jon Davison.
When David went down the band immediately went to seek out a new vocalist. Chris Squire is friends with Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters and, when discussing Yes’ need for a new singer, Hawkins mentioned his childhood friend, Davison. Evidently, Davison heard more than once over his music career that his voice was an excellent fit for Yes, and Squire was willing to give him a chance to test out that theory.
I was unfamiliar with Davison’s work prior to his joining Yes. Davison was formerly in the progressive rock outfit Glass Hammer, which I saw live at NEARFest in 2003, but that was before Davison joined in 2010. Prior to this show, several reviews and youtube videos appeared which sang Davison’s praises, but, while promising, the proof, for me, is to see him live myself. So, I went to this show mildly optimistic. Needless to say, my reservations were unfounded. Davison was amazing. His voice is perfect for Yes. Moreover, his voice clearly had the strength and training to be a worthy replacement for Jon Anderson. Not only was Davison’s voice a perfect fit for Anderson’s vocal parts, Davison’s on stage demeanor and personality was eerily similar to Anderson’s. Although not an Anderson clone, Davison clearly fit the singing and on stage vibes established by Anderson. This is in marked contrast to David whose on stage demeanor was goofy and sort of amateur that never seemed to fit Yes. In addition to great singing and a stage presence that fits Yes, Davison is an excellent guitar player and could handle his on stage percussion duties. So, based on how great a fit Davison was, Yes clearly treated him more as an equal than as the junior member David clearly was during his tenure. It was clear that Davison was a complete and accomplished musician as opposed to a voice to fill in for Anderson like David was.
The rest of the band really responded to the quality of singing and musicianship Davison brought to the band. The songs were once again played at their appropriate speeds and Downes was now fully integrated into the band. The set list was a good one too. After five straight shows of extremely similar set lists, it was a breath of fresh air to hear songs like “America” (the first time since 2002), “Wonderous Stories” (first time since 2004), “Awaken” (first time since 2004), and, most excitingly for me, the entire “Fly From Here” suite. “Awaken” was intriguing to hear as I was very interested to see how Downes handled a very classic Rick Wakeman piece. I have reviewed Downes’ performance of “Awaken” before and will not repeated here (see here), so suffice it to say here that I was extremely pleasantly surprised. Indeed, the same can be said of “America,” which was only played by Tony Kaye in 1970 and Rick Wakeman (who recorded the official studio version) after that. Downes fit into that song seamlessly as well. Also, as noted in my review of the show immediately prior to this (see here), Downes initially set up on the far right of the stage (from the audience’s point of view), which is where Wakeman always played, however, evidently due to communication issues with the rest of the band during performances, Downes, beginning with this show, was positioned to the left of White and behind Howe on the left side of the stage.
The highlight for me was the new 23 minute suite “Fly From Here” which featured Squire playing a bass with an extended neck on a stand in an upright position during suite’s third movement. That bass also was the only obvious glitch in the show as it was not audible at times, which led to a visibly angry Squire motioning off stage to his bass tech. I really enjoy the Fly From Here album, with the suite obviously as the focal point of the album. The band showed themselves in top form and still clearly able to learn, play, and present new, complex music, even this late into their careers. As if to solidify Davison’s position as lead vocalist, they played the vocal-centric piece “Leaves of Green” and Davison nailed it.
So, to sum up, this show was Yes rising like a phoenix out of the ashes of its worst shows it had ever performed and into what became a renaissance for Yes in terms of the quality of their performances this late into their career with a brand new, vibrant, exciting, and confident line up. This show was the first of a series of excellent shows and revealed Yes as good as ever!
Finally, and very briefly, Procol Harum was enjoyable and played all their standards. There was nothing notable about their show except to say that if one enjoys their music, the show was very satisfying.