LIVE MUSIC REVIEW: Yes, 50th Anniversary Tour, Sheffield City Hall

Yes

As the opening strains of Stravinski’s Firebird Suite filtered through Sheffield’s City Hall, in March, the years just fell away and transported the predominantly ageing audience back to their youth, back to the classic Yes of the early seventies, the most prolific and most creative period of their long and glorious history.

In celebrating their 50th anniversary, Yes have concentrated on the first ten years and the Firebird Suite intro leads straight into Yours Is No Disgrace and I’ve Seen All Good People, tracks from the classic Yes Album that that kick-started Yes’s career and became the standard by which other prog albums would be measured.

Guitarist and founder member Steve Howe
Guitarist and founder member Steve Howe

Whilst only guitarist Steve Howe remains from that classic line-up, Yes have a long history of integrating other great musicians seamlessly into the band, and the current line-up is no less proficient and polished as one would expect from the Kings of Prog.

Vocalist Jon Davison
Vocalist Jon Davison

Arguably the most challenging role to fill is that of Jon Anderson whose shrill tones became a trademark for the band. Now in his sixth year as Yes front man, Jon Davison’s high-pitched vocals fit the bill perfectly and the joy of performing such great songs clearly shines through.

He pauses for a moment to reflect on the great legacy created by Yes over the past 50 years  and the sad loss of bass guitarist Chris Squire in 2015. “A large part of those 50 years was the late Chris Squire. He told me, himself, how dear this next song (Squire’s composition Onward) was to him.”

Guitarist Billy Sherwood has switched to bass since Squire’s death and he reminds us of just what a huge contribution Squire made to the band, both writing and that extraordinary bass sound. With golden locks and long black coat, Sherwood’s recreation of Squire’s distinctive bass riffs was uncanny, looking for all the world like the great man himself.

Billy Sherwood, bass guitar and backing vocals
Billy Sherwood, bass guitar and backing vocals

Think of a Yes album cover and images of Roger Dean’s artwork spring vividly top life. It also provided the backdrop to the show, displayed across three screens behind the band and adding to the sense of history and occasion.

Steve Howe took centre stage for his beautiful acoustic guitar piece Mood For A Day, crisp, clean and precise as ever before Wondrous Stories, Parallels and And You And I completed a magnificent first set.

There was much reminiscing, during the interval, of Yes shows and tours of days gone by and first Yes gigs still etched into the memory. Many witnessed Yes back in the 70s, some came with sons and daughters who have grown up listening to Yes’s wonderful catalogue of music. It mattered little that the line up has changed and evolved over the years, it was the music that the fans had come to enjoy. All of the current members of Yes have a long history with the band and have stamped their place within that heritage.

Geoff Downes, keyboards
Geoff Downes, keyboards

Tracks from the majestic Tales From Topographic Oceans filled out the second half of the set. Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn), side 1 Yes’s first chart-topping album, is a stunning piece and was performed in it’s entirety. Geoff Downes’ keyboard work was superb all evening, here it soars and swoops holding together the typically intricate and complex web that Yes spin, delicate in detail yet strong in structure.

Howe and Davison joined for a beautiful duet of Leaves Of Green, an extract from side 3, The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun), with Sherwood joining the pair to harmonise on vocals.

Jay Schellen standing in for Alan White on drums
Jay Schellen standing in for Alan White on drums

Ritual (side 4 of TFTO) was also given a full airing. Jay Schellen is standing in, for the bulk of the tour, for drummer Alan White whose health has not been good of late. Following another bass master class from Billy Sherwood, applause filled the hall as Alan White appeared behind the drums for the closing part of Ritual, wonderful to see him able to share the occasion having been part of this great band since 1972. This was a great set closer and Davison’s voice soared into the beautiful ballad from Ritual, Nous Sommes Du Soleil.

With the hall on their feet Yes returned for an encore of all-time favourites from the early years, Roundabout and the magnificent Starship Trooper, great end to a great evening.

Setlist

  1. Introduction – Exert from the Firebird Suite (Stravinsky)
  2. Yours Is No Disgrace
  3. I’ve Seen All Good People
  4. Sweet Dreams
  5. South Side Of The Sky
  6. Mood For A Day
  7. Wondrous Stories
  8. Parallels
  9. And You And I
  10. Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn)
  11. Leaves Of Green
  12. Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Solieil)

Encore

  1. Roundabout
  2. Starship Trooper

4 COMMENTS

  1. Good review, except for a few points. The caption under Steve Howe is incorrect in that he was not a founding member–Peter Banks was the founding guitarist and played on the first two albums (although he had left before artwork was created for the second so Howe’s picture appears). I suppose some might consider Anderson’s voice “shrill” but I find his high registers more melodious, flute-like perhaps. Otherwise, thanks for a good description.

  2. As far as Yes keyboard players go Geoff Downes does not even come close to being in the same league as Rick Wakeman or Patrick Moraz.

    • As far as Yes fans go Randy does not even come close to being in the same league as the rest of us. Stop your whining.

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