Gig review: Yes, Usher Hall
PURVEYORS of prog for over three decades, YES took to the stage at the Usher Hall last night and gave the crowd a fine selection of their extensive back catalogue.
This band has had more line-up changes than The Sugababes have had so, while this was not what might be considered the classic YES formation with Steve Howe on guitar and Chris Squire and Alan White providing the rhythm it was, as far as the audience were concerned, YES enough.
There was even a Wakeman in the line-up with Rick's son Oliver taking keyboard duties and proving to be a fine tickler of the plastic ivories with, fortunately, none of his father's dress sense. And completing the line-up, vocals came courtesy of Montreal native Benoit David. David, formerly the singer with a tribute band, clearly had the vocal chops to carry off the performance but his stage presence was a different matter.
Dressed in velvet waistcoat, pirate shirt and white trousers he looked like a cross between an early 1980s holiday camp entertainer and, when dancing with Squire, a slightly fey leprechaun trying to entertain an ogre. Add the fact that someone had clearly misled him as to the tambourine's place in rock and it was obvious his music god status still needs work.
Musically the band were as tight as could be expected and when in full flow on songs such as the soundscapey Onward or the progtastic Metal Messiah there was an almost hypnotic power to the tunes. It would have been even better if the first 30 seconds of vocals on each song hadn't been lost in the mix.
There were songs from the early days and more recent material as well, which went to show just how much of a musical journey this band had gone on. Owner of a Lonely Heart, the band's big singalong hit from the 1980s was brought out in the second half but amongst the 12-15 minute musical behemoths from the early days it seemed a piece of insubstantial fluff. The enthusiastic crowd clearly had their favourites, but each number received a passionate response from their legion of fans and when Heart of The Sunrise was played shortly before the end it got a well deserved standing ovation.
A highlight of the evening was Steve Howe's two acoustic numbers. He played beautiful and intricate patterns on the instruments with a laid back skill that makes players a third of his age want to smash their machines with jealousy.
No matter which line-up of YES takes to the stage the real star is the music. Powerful, driving, wonderfully complex and full of the, occasionally ludicrous, self importance that modern bands are too knowing or cynical to put into their tunes. This may not have been a perfect show, the mix was often poor and there were some technical problems but if proof were ever needed that prog rock is alive and healthy as ever this was it.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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