. . . Theirs is No Disgrace indeed. I first saw Yes at the Hollywood Bowl in 1975, and if you’d asked me then if I ever thought I’d see them nearly 40 years later out in the middle of the oaks and wine grapevines of Paso Robles, I’d have said it was more likely the Soviet Union would collapse in a heap and America would elect a radical black president. I turned up last night at the brand new Vino Robles venue with the lowest of expectations, supposing that Yes after all this time would be more like Spinal Tap attempting free-form fusion jazz at some obscure county fairground (if you know the scene from the classic). After all, with famous frontman Jon Anderson missing, it wouldn’t be the same, just as Little Feat has never been able to fill the void left by Lowell George. At best, I expected this to be a “Maybe” concert rather than a Yes concert.
Three of the original members were there, bassist Chris Squire, lead guitar Steve Howe, and drummer Alan White. Squire and White have put on a bit of weight; Howe has lost most of his hair, but none of his chops. But the real surprise was Anderson’s replacement on vocals: Jon Davison–an American amazingly enough who wasn’t even born when I took in Yes back when Gerald Ford was still president. Davison has a stronger, clearer high tenor than Anderson, and none of Anderson’s reedy and slightly raspy edge. (You can sample him in the opening of the video below.) If anything, they played better than any show or live recording from the 1970s that I know of. Count me im-pressed.
This tour is unique in that they are playing three complete albums: Close to the Edge, Going for the One (not one of my favorites, to be sure), and The Yes Album (1970), which I always thought was among the best-produced studio albums of the era. The clip below features three minutes I put together as a medley, taped with my new GoPro Hero3 camera, featuring the soft interlude of “Edge,” the opening of “Yours,” and about half of Howe’s acoustic “Clap.”
Meanwhile, the Hayward Summer 2013 Lecture Tour continues on the road. Ohio last week; this week, the Reagan Library, where I’m performing my live album “Gipper 101” for the Gilder-Lehrman Institute. So posts here will be sporadic this week.
And yeah, I’m thinking of borrowing “If the summer changed to winter. . .” lyric for some climate change posts. Heh.