English prog-rock heroes Yes put on a properly epic show at The Tower Theater

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Yes | Photo By Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com
Yes | Photo By Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com

Epic (adj): heroic or grand in scale or character. It is perhaps one of the most over- and misused words in the English language. Yeah, that grilled cheese may have been tasty, but it wasn’t quite as monumental as Odysseus. But I’ll tell you what was epic: English prog-rock legends Yes’ concert at the Tower Theater. It would have been easy to doubt a group whose 46 years together do not by any means belie them, not to mention that founding singer and frontman Jon Anderson left the group in 2008. I don’t think Yes cared about these things. When you’re the band that played the most attended festival-style show in United States history here in Philly (the “Spirit Of Summer ’76” show at JFK Stadium on June 12, 1976 for 130,000 fans), a few grey hairs (or more precisely, a full head of white ones, but who’s counting?) aren’t going to get in the way of putting on a show of, that’s right, epic proportions.

Yes | Photo By Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com
Yes | Photo By Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com

Yes opened up their extremely sold out Tower Theater show with their 1972 Close To The Edge LP played in reverse. What became immediately clear as they rumbled their way through “Siberian Khatru” was that Yes’ sound is massive, which has a hell of a lot to do with founding bassist Chris Squire’s bold playing (and as it happens, his appearance isn’t much different). And while guitarist Steve Howe may have gained a few wrinkles here and there, his hair is as long as ever, and more importantly, he still knows his way around a guitar like his 5 consecutive “Best Overall Guitarist” victories in Guitar Player magazine would suggest. That, or the 3,000-odd fans bellowing out their love for him during the intricate flamenco guitar solo piece that is “Mood For A Day”. Oh, and Jon Anderson’s replacement, the similarly named Jon Davison, wasn’t half bad. Wait, scratch that. He was, to use appropriately English lexicon, bloody amazing. I can honestly say that I have never seen a frontman gesticulate, prance about and sing more passionately that Davison did. His oriental patterned shirt was pretty cool too.

After playing a couple new songs, both of which were decent enough, Yes made their way through all of the 1971 LP, Fragile. All of it. The thing about that album that I didn’t realize until I saw it live is that each song seems better than the last. Sure, the record’s opener, “Roundabout” was a hit, but “South Side Of The Sky” easily makes my top 10 guitar riffs list, and “The Fish [Schindleria Praematurus]” is probably the second best rock song ever to be written in 7/4 (“Money” by Pink Floyd takes precedence in my book, and so would Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean”, but that song isn’t really in 7/4). They encored with the timeless classic, “I’ve Seen All Good People”, which, come to think of it, includes one of the best 3-part harmonies known to rock & roll. As for the final encore, “Starship Trooper”, I’m going to have to refer you back to the beginning of the review, because no word describes it better than “epic”. Keytar and guitar (or should I say, geetar) solos from Geoff Downes and Steve Howe respectively were unbelievable. I left the room in shock. Yes still rocks.

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16 Responses to “English prog-rock heroes Yes put on a properly epic show at The Tower Theater”

  1. joan

    How was Syd Arthur?

    Reply
  2. ampevents

    Syd Arthur was great, can’t wait to see them do their own thing. They had opened for Sean Lennon a month or two ago at Johnny Brenda’s, I’d expect them back here later this year. Great that they can float between different worlds…Yes and the Prog scene, they represent traditional Canterbury Prog very well…and a newer take on hipster Indie Psych Rock.

    Reply
  3. Jim

    I was there 2nd row right in front of Stev,great show!!!

    Reply
  4. Ken

    The band “left”Jon Anderson didn’t it? Refused to wait when he was seriously ill.

    Reply
    • daledebil

      1.000 yeas after…. somebody will continue telling that story.

      Reply
  5. John

    I wouldn’t say the band left Anderson as much as Chris left Anderson. He’s in charge and that’s the way he likes it.

    Reply
  6. yonkers60

    The Band was tired of Constantly waiting for Jon Anderson to tour.If they wanted to be a more touring type of band they had to move on. After a good start with Benoit David, The discovery of Jon Davison has taken the band to the Highest level in years! The last few years I ‘ve seen them do some amazing shows. I as a YES Fan for forty years was truly amazed Saturday night. that was one fantastic performance of the YES Music.I am sure anyone who was there would agree! I hope they come back to the Area soon!!

    Reply
  7. daledebil

    I hope they didn’t include many songs from their last album, because it’s a complete disaster.

    Reply
    • daledebil

      Now, Jon Davison is the leader of Yes, and this is not a good thing. Davison can contribute to the sound of the band but is a bad idea to get him up to the role of leader. If Howe, Squire and White feels they are too old to continue, please, think about the retirement, but dont put this guy in the front. I have nothing against Jon Davison. It’s a good singer for the Yes repertoire and maybe can bring some new ideas to the group, but Yes is not the group of Jon Davison. The last album is complete desapointing. It sounds like a bad replica of an Asia album with a good replica of Jon Anderson singing

      Reply
      • OmegaPoint

        Jon Davison the leader??? Wake up , this has been Chris Squire’s band since it’s inception!
        The young vocalist is a hired gun , well chosen I see. Can’t wait to see the show in Houston next month.

        Reply
        • Bobby Salvin

          It seems undeniable that Chris Squire is the leader, but I don’t think he is dictating the band’s direction to Steve Howe or Alan White.

          Reply
  8. Bobby Salvin

    I’m surprised to see coverage of Yes in a WXPN related publication. I don’t listen to WXPN precisely because they ignore prog rock. Prog is a unique genre of rock with lots of artistic merit, little mass market commercial appeal, creative and talented bands, and a devoted following. It sounds like the type of music that a non-profit radio station should pay attention to, but as far back as I can remember WXPN ignores it.

    Reply
    • marjorie

      XPN’s Dan Reed and Biff Kennedy give Prog its props with their in depth Prog Rock Marathons – not fully integrated into the regular programming but given its own podium in a way. Not sure when it runs again…

      Reply
  9. Sally

    The band is great. Jon Anderson is not necessary for this band to excel no matter what the reason.

    Reply
  10. Martin Wagner

    I’m glad they can still deliver in concert, but the tepid new album does nothing for me, sadly.

    Reply

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