I was so bummed to wake up this morning and hear about the passing of Chris Squire, the legendary bass player and founding member of Yes. The loss of Squire is a big one -- he had a commanding presence visually on stage and musically, there's no doubt that he had the most distinct and recognizable bass tone in rock music -- something that was frequently affirmed by the various musicians that I would interview who counted Squire as an influence.
It had recently been announced that Squire was sick and would be forced to miss the upcoming Yes summer tour (with former Yes member Billy Sherwood filling in). It was the first time that Squire had ever missed a Yes show, but the tone of the announcement at that time gave no indication of a negative prognosis, so it was quite a shock to hear that he was gone.
The first time I saw Yes was in November of 1997 at Music Hall here in Cleveland and as a person who had grown up with the '80s 90125 era of the band, it was something else to see most of the classic lineup of the group -- Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White -- performing together (with Sherwood on additional guitars and vocals, and keyboardist Igor Khoroshev in place of Rick Wakeman).
As a result of that experience, I went to see Yes nearly every year when they came back to Cleveland after that. Seeing the band play a "small hall" gig at the Cleveland Agora in 1999 on the tour for The Ladder was certainly one highlight of those gigs. Eventually seeing Rick Wakeman with the group on a subsequent tour was another. They were one of those bands who never failed to astound me with their live show, even in recent years when Anderson was eventually replaced on vocals, first by vocalist Benoit David and more recently by Jon Davison.
Eventually, I would have the opportunity to interview quite a few Yes members and it was a definite thrill when I got the chance to speak with Squire in early 2013.
Not long after seeing Yes for the first time at that Music Hall show in 1997, I got a call from a Yes fan who was looking for a copy of the band's performance at Richfield Coliseum in 1978, which had been broadcast by WMMS. I didn't have it, but I had something new to look for and I eventually tracked down a bootleg (Madrigal Mystery Tour) that didn't sound great, but Bill was thrilled to get a copy of it.
I kept looking for a better copy of the show and a few years ago, I was finally rewarded with an upgrade. Someone posted a copy of the WMMS broadcast that they had recorded live off the radio the night that it was broadcast, directly to reel to reel tape. I hoped that it would sound as good as the description and indeed, it did. The captured recording is one that even now when you listen it, takes you straight back to the night it all happened. It's a must hear thing if you're a Yes fan, which if you're still reading this far in, chances are pretty good.
If you want even more classic live Yes, you're in luck -- Rhino Records recently released a box set that contains seven complete live shows from 1972, recorded shortly after White had joined the group as their new drummer. One can hope that perhaps they might have plans to share some additional shows from other tours in a similar fashion.
Now as promised, here's that Yes show from Richfield....
broadcast on WMMS
complete zipped download
Steve Howe, guitars
Alan White, drums
Rick Wakeman, keyboards
Chris Squire, basses
Jon Anderson, vocals, harp, other noises
Thanks to eggplant2 for the incredible source!
It seems like some of the very best concerts are the ones that you almost miss. This was certainly the case with the Yes show on Wednesday night at Cain Park.
For me, it came down to time. It had been a long time since the tour was announced, with the first details trickling out in December of last year. At that point, I really wasn''t sure that I needed to see Yes again.
After all, I've seen many a Yes show, starting with the first time that I saw the "classic" Yes lineup in 1997 at Music Hall. That's a story by itself. That was another Yes show that I almost didn't go to. I grew up as a fan of the 90125-era of the band and had little interest in the '70s material. But a friend asked me if I could get free tickets for him to take his girlfriend to the show and I figured that as long as I was making the effort to get tickets, I should try to score some for myself and take a chance on the show.
I went to the show that night at Music Hall and got a huge education on all things Yes. Besides a smattering of tracks from Open Your Eyes, the band's current album at the time with a couple of '80s Yes tracks wedged in for good measure, it was all about the epic '70s stuff, with tracks like "The Revealing Science of God," "Heart of the Sunrise," their famous version of Simon & Garfunkel's "America" and "Starship Trooper" as the closer.
Each year after that, I found my way to a Yes concert at least once per year as long as they were on tour, with the band's lineup shifting slightly (mainly on keyboards) in that time. 2003 would put a wrap on my "classic Yes" experience with a lineup that featured Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White.
The band would take a short hiatus in 2004, returning in 2008 sans Anderson with Canadian vocalist Benoit David at the helm. As much as I was against the idea of a Yes that didn't include Anderson, I gave it a shot and it was an enjoyable evening of music. With David, the band returned to the studio with Trevor Horn producing and in the midst of the recording sessions, Horn's former Buggles bandmate Geoff Downes rejoined the lineup on keyboards as well. Fly From Here was the result of their efforts and against many sets of odds, it was a new album that sounded a lot like classic Yes. Who would have thought?
Sadly, David encountered vocal issues in the midst of the touring for Fly From Here and found himself jettisoned from the group, replaced by another relatively unknown vocalist, Jon Davison.
Here's where my hesitation came in about attending this summer's tour. Do I really need to see Yes performing three classic albums with a new replacement singer, taking over for the previous substitute vocalist not named Jon Anderson? Having seen Yes with a lineup of Anderson, Wakeman, Squire, Howe and White, I wasn't so sure.
But earlier this year, I had the chance to interview both Chris Squire and Steve Howe separately regarding the tour and my interest grew. The jury was still out regarding the new vocalist, but I was willing to spend an evening with Yes and find out.
I was intrigued by the album choices, something which predictably either got a thumbs up or thumbs down reaction from the Yes fanbase, who are always ready for a good debate. You can't argue with Close To The Edge and The Yes Album, but Going For The One was an interesting pick.
When I spoke with Howe, he was a bit perturbed that the band wasn't performing the albums in the order that they were released.
Seeing the concept in play on the night, I can't argue with the path that the remaining members of the Yes brain trust chose. What could be more epic than seeing Yes open the night with the lengthy title track of the Close To The Edge album? The entirety of that segment of the evening was awesome.
The Going For The One portion might have lost some folks, as it felt more like the "deep cuts" section of the show, because of the unfamiliarity of many of the tracks for casual fans.
But by the time they got to the closing portion of the evening, The Yes Album felt like the victory lap that brought it all home for the sold out audience at Cain Park. For nearly three hours, Yes held court with a performance that was vibrant in a way that is still quite unbelievable to witness, when you're talking about a group that is 45 years into their journey. A bit of reduction in overall energy levels would make a lot of sense, but with Yes, that's not the case.
Vocalist Jon Davison, the band's newest addition (he joined in early 2012) is in his early 40s, although he looks deceptively younger than that and there's no doubt that his presence and enthusiasm adds a lot to the group's combined stamina onstage (with stage clothes that were very '70s Anderson-esque). But looking 10 years back, even with Anderson on vocals, the durability of Squire, White and Howe has always been something to behold.
Davison's performance reminded me a lot of the first time that I saw Kelly Hansen on vocals with Foreigner. Like Hansen, Davison had his work cut out for him, stepping in for a legendary vocalist like Anderson. But he handled the material with ease and there wasn't a single rough patch. It sounded like Yes music and Davison sounded like Anderson, without being an emotionless clone. The songs were communicated with the same feeling that Anderson had served up for decades prior.
Geoff Downes is another key addition to the lineup and as a heritage player, he certainly knows his way around the nine keyboards that he brought with him and his performance was both natural and skillfully executed without feeling mechanical.
Once the confetti cannons blew in the closing moments of the show (sorry about that, clean-up crew....), it had been a really incredible evening of music and it's hard to imagine that anybody walked away with disappointment.
While the full album format left some of the favorite "hits" on the sidelines for this particular run, the band has certainly done enough tours in the "greatest hits" vein that it was a very welcome change and one can hope that they will continue to explore further albums in the years to come.
Hopefully they will also find a way to document this tour with a live release (audio and video) of some sort. Yes fans will be aware that the band has released more than a few live albums and videos over the years, so this seems like a relatively safe bet. Let's hope.
For now, there's word that plans for a new album, the first with Davison, will begin to take shape once touring commitments have wrapped. With what we've heard from Fly From Here, there's plenty of reasons to be optimistic that a new album from Yes will once again be a good thing.
The Firebird Suite
Close to the Edge
Close to the Edge
And You and I
Going For The One
Going for the One
Turn of the Century
The Yes Album
Yours Is No Disgrace
I've Seen All Good People