The stage located at the center of the venue was set up with microphone stands, Geoff Downes’ keyboards, Alan White’s drums, a single bass for Chris Squire and Steve Howe’s guitars. Though there were a number of projectors displaying group photos, album covers and ambient scenes while the music played, they were small, located above the stage and attached to the lighting rigs. No gimmicks here. (Except maybe the rotating stage.) Without even playing a single note, the group already had received its first standing ovation.
For whatever reason, Yes played Close to the Edge in reverse order, opening with an extended version of “Siberian Khatru.” As the stage rotated, all corners of the arena were afforded a great view of Squire’s nimble fingers picking and plucking the bass. Guitar aficionados were treated to a birds-eye-view of Howe’s skillful fretwork resulting in dazzling passages and tasty riffs. Squire, the longest tenured member of the band stepped forward announcing, “It’s great to be here. You have just heard the Close to the Edge album in its entirety. We have a new album coming out called Heaven and Earth. This is one of the tracks from it. It’s called, ‘Believe Again.'” The song fit nicely into the Yes canon, with the expected multifaceted time changes, bright guitar and keys, dignified bass and drum rhythms and an arrangement that featured both grandeur and majesty. Davison’s vocals sounded eerily like Jon Anderson’s, the original lead singer.
Fragile is credited with being the band’s U.S. breakthrough LP. It reached #4 on the U.S. Billboard charts and has been certified as double platinum by the RIAA. Playing the album in the original order of its song cycle, “Roundabout,” with its signature opening chords, sent the enthusiastic audience into a frenzy. Davison spent most of the performance of Fragile singing and gyrating while standing on a small platform in the center of the stage.
The “greatest hits” selections, though few, were choice. “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Owner of a Lonely Heart” (on which Howe looked bored, possibly because he did not play on the original recording of the song), and “Starship Trooper,” brought the crowd to their feet and into the aisles as they danced and cheered on the band.
At the end of the performance, the audience exploded in a chorus of whistles and rapturous applause as the five band members joined hands taking a collective bow. The three long-time members, Howe, Squire and White, have each spent forty or more years as part of Yes. As they approach seventy years of age, their performance on this warm summer night was a revelation as they expertly and seamlessly played off of each other while performing these dynamic musical landscapes.
– Mike Perciaccante