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For those not quite in the know, things have got a little confusing in the camp of Prog Rock legends Yes lately. Didn`t they just complete a tour celebrating their 50th anniversary a matter of weeks ago? They did indeed but those with gleaming Prog credentials will have known that was the version headed by long time guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White and keyboardist Geoff Downes.
Tonight however, the wonderful The Barbican in York played host to what many believe to be the definitive version of Yes which includes original singer Jon Anderson and uber legendary keyboard player Rick Wakeman along with guitar genius Trevor Rabin from the more streamlined 90125 era of Yes. A second 50th anniversary celebration from a slightly different angle was therefore the order of the day.
With a foot in both the classic era of 70`s Yes and the more modern 80`s version meant that the setlist had a much broader wealth of material to draw from and that indeed was one of the big plus points from tonight`s show.
Instrumental Cinema from 90125 gave Rabin and Wakeman an early opportunity to flex their musical muscles before Anderson joined them for Hold On from the same album.
With Perpetual Change dipping back into vintage Yes territory, Wakeman`s jabbing keyboards heralded the first of the evenings epic tracks that saw the level of musicianship go off the scale.
It wasn`t all about the epics though. Unknown to many, Yes have a few shorter, sharper cuts in their arsenal with All Good People even bringing a few ladies to their feet dancing.
And You And I with its bright sparkling acoustic sections mixed with layers of Wakeman`s synths delivered from a Jodrell Bank sized rack of keyboards twisted and turned on its musical journey with the choir boy vocals of Jon Anderson sounding pure and clear, made all the more astonishing by the fact that he is 73 years old.
After a burst of rampant fretwork, Rabin stepped up to the microphone for a delicious take on Changes, seeing Yes at their most direct and potent. A seriously killer moment in the set before Rhythm of Love featuring some tight harmonising from Anderson, Rabin and bassist Iain Hornall brought the first set to a close as Anderson headed off for “a nice cuppa and a lie down.”
While Rabin`s era of Yes was characterised by a more streamlined musical approach, they weren`t averse to an epic or two and I Am Waiting was jaw dropping with its beautiful Rabin guitar refrain and huge, bombastic crescendo driven chorus. Spine tingling stuff.
Heart of Sunrise with its sinister, foreboding atmosphere, bubbling bass line and staccato drumming from Lou Molino III, set the bed rock for Anderson to again prove his worth as one of Prog rocks finest vocalists with a truly stunning performance.
A flurry of piano from the cape wearing Wakeman heralded one of Prog Rock`s most fabled tunes, Awaken, a monstrous epic from Going For The One that has been known to make grown men weep in adulation particular during Wakeman`s grandiose church organ overlain with choral effects during the song`s mid-section. This was Prog Rock at its absolute pinnacle.
How do you match that? Well you can`t really so perhaps a Number 1 single and arguably their best-known tune, Owner of A Lonely Heart would do the trick bringing the whole hall to their feet with Rabin and a keytar wielding Wakeman heading out into the audience for a musical meet and greet. Who said Prog Rock can`t be fun?
As the evergreen Roundabout brought the two hour show to a rousing finale, there can`t have been a single person in the hall that left disappointed.
For a 50th anniversary show this was pretty much unbeatable. A thrilling mix of vintage Yes mixed with Rabin`s modern era worked perfectly to create a fitting tribute to half a century of music from Prog Rock royalty.
Review and Photos By Mick Burgess