YES (Live)

At The Sage, Gateshead, U.K., March 18, 2018

YES (Live at The Sage, Gateshead, U.K., March 18, 2018)
Photo: Mick Burgess

It was never meant to be like this. Wasn’t Punk supposed to have burned brightly but briefly to consign the dinosaurs of Prog Rock to the waste bin of musical history? How wrong those experts were as Prog titans, YES, were back in the region to celebrate an incredible half century in the business.

With no support, this was all about YES and a celebration of 50 years of ground-breaking music across two main sets.

Opening with Yours Is No Disgrace from their 1969 self-titled debut release, YES were straight into the thick of it. This was a classic YES; a multi-faceted epic with Billy Sherwood’s bubbling bass and Steve Howe’s dexterous guitar runs twisting and turning at every possible moment and Geoff Downes adding layer upon layer of atmospheric keyboards over the top.

Close your eyes for a moment and you’d swear original singer Jon Anderson was in the room such was the precision of John Davison’s vocals. Now wonder the Foo Fighter’s Taylor Hawkins, was so keen to recommend his childhood friend to the band at every opportunity and Davison did not disappoint.

I’ve Seen All Good People and Wonderous Stories are probably the closest YES get to commerciality. Howe’s mandolin combined with the exquisite three-part vocal harmonies and atmospheric lighting and three huge video screens created quite a stunning ambience.

One of the biggest cheers of the night was Davison’s tribute to the sadly departed original bassist Chris Squire who was the heartbeat of YES and the one constant member throughout the whole of their history. That Squire personally chose Billy Sherwood as his replacement is testament to his contribution to the band as his pulsating bass along with the layered church organ of Downes created an imposing wall of sound during Parallels.

With Set 1 closing with And You and I, a song that gave Howe the chance to switch between two guitars and his Fender lap steel, an hour or so had flashed by in an instant.

On previous tours YES, have performed albums including Close To the Edge and Drama in their entirety. For Set 2, the rest of the show was built around their Number 1 album Tales From Topographic Oceans, an album that came to symbolise the excess of Prog Rock but this was exactly what the Sage had come to hear.

For such a long piece of music Sides 1 and 4 were played in their entirety with a tasteful snippet of Side 3 giving Howe the chance to fire off some tasteful Flamenco guitar during Leaves Of Green. The Revealing Science of God and Ritual span almost 45 minutes with frequent tempo changes, diverse mood flows and a startling exhibition of intense musicianship. This was hard work but ultimately incredibly rewarding to see musicians of this calibre recreate this music live on stage.

For the bulk of the set Jay Schellen had occupied the drum stool showing off an incredible grasp of some exceptionally tricky time changes learned in a very short space of time but his constant beaming smile showed someone enjoying every minute. During Ritual, there was a seamless changeover with Schellen stepping aside for long-time drummer and local boy, Alan White, who had recently undergone back surgery, to take his rightful place as Schellen contributed percussion for the remainder of the show much to the joy of the crowd.

The 20-minute encore featuring Roundabout and Starship Trooper had the Sage up on their feet dancing and singing along. Quite a remarkable sight for such complex music.

The enthusiastic standing ovation they received at the end of a set that lasted almost 3 hours was quite something to behold but was testament to a band that has been at the top of their game over a 50-year period and the level of appreciation was richly deserved for such an accomplished and impressive performance.

Review and Photos By Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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