Westbury, New York
July 14, 2012
By Joe Lalaina
Yours Is No Disgrace | Tempus Fugit | I’ve Seen All Good People | America Sketches In the Sun |The Clap | Fly From Here | Wondrous Stories | Into the Storm | Heart of the Sunrise | Awaken | Roundabout
Some bands you never grow tired of seeing in concert, and Yes’s performance at the NYCB Theatre in Westbury, New York, was no exception. Even though original vocalist Jon Anderson and the group’s renowned keyboardist Rick Wakeman are not currently in the band, the group—longtime members guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White, performing with singer Jon Davison and keyboardist Geoff Downes—put on an outstanding show.
From the opening song, “Yours Is No Disgrace,” to the encore, “Roundabout,” this two-hour concert was one of the finest Yes performances I’ve seen in many moons. Although each member of the band is a virtuoso in his own right—I mean, these guys are such pros that they can play these intricate songs in their sleep—much of the show’s excellence was attributable to current vocalist Jon Davison, who recently replaced Benoit David, who reportedly left the band due to illness. Davison’s vocals are remarkably identical to Jon Anderson’s angelic voice, and he was able to gracefully hit Anderson’s high notes with ease. Overall, Davison’s breath control and sopranic range were effortless, as compared to David’s, who at times seemed to strain when attempting to hit Anderson’s high notes.
Davison’s vocals were especially dazzling during the crowd-pleasing prog-rock juggernaut “Heart of the Sunrise.” When I closed my eyes and listened to his voice, it sounded like Anderson was onstage with the group. It would be unlikely to find another singer who could fill Anderson’s shoes more proficiently than Davison. With each song Yes played, the crowd applauded thunderously, at times shaking the venue to its very foundation. The 2,800-seat-capacity NYCB Theatre at Westbury was packed to the brink for this show. With its circular, rotating stage and crystal-clear sound system, the venue’s in-the-round seating literally put the band directly in front of you at any angle.
Yes is one the greatest and probably most influential progressive rock bands, and its distinctive dynamics has improved with age. Steve Howe is undoubtedly one of rock’s most incredible and imaginative guitarists. Whether playing electric, acoustic or pedal-steel guitar, he produces a kaleidoscopic array of sounds. But the group’s heart and soul is Chris Squire—his bass playing is both a rhythm and lead instrument, and his vocal harmonies have always been integral to the band’s sound. Alan White, meanwhile, plays with utmost finesse, his in-the-pocket drumming a perfect counterpoint to Squire’s thick, trebly bass. Geoff Downes’ keyboard work is not as flashy as Rick Wakeman’s, but his multi-textured playing complements the band perfectly. Downes’ keyboard chops were in top form on the 23-minute-long opus “Fly From Here,” and the crowd gave him a well-deserved standing ovation. And while it would be great to hear the legendary Wakeman and Anderson back in the band, you really don’t miss them all that much.
It’s been 43 years since Yes’s self-titled 1969 debut, yet, believe it or not, the band is playing better than ever.