On the 29th April 1975 at the age of sixteen I went to see Yes at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, it was definitely the “prog” rock era because around this time I also remember seeing Pink Floyd and Genesis.
Yes were at the top of their game with a series of hit albums, with art work provided by the legendary Roger Dean.
Close The Edge was the one that hooked me in but I remember being intensely jealous of my cousin who could afford a copy of the double album Tales From Topographic Oceans. The line up that night was original members Chris Squire and Jon Anderson with Steve Howe, Patrick Moraz and Alan White and I remember being pissed off that Rick Wakeman had just left the band so I missed out on seeing a legend!
Tonight 43 years on ,Yes are back with their 50th Anniversary tour, only Steve Howe and Alan White remain from the Palace gig being joined on this tour by John Davison on vocals,Geoff Downes on keyboards and Billy Sherwood on bass.
As they did in 1975 the band saunter on stage to Stravinsky’s Firebird suite before launching into Yours Is No Disgrace followed by I’ve Seen All Good People both from the 1971 Yes Album. The audience, most of who probably bought the album when it was first released, rise to their feet ecstatically and we are instantly transported back to a time when “prog” rock was king. The show is divided into two halves,with the first hour covering the most popular songs from Yes’s twenty one studio albums, and you are reminded how many great songs they wrote. Singer Jon Davison has the hardest job of all having to sing songs that original vocalist Jon Anderson had made his own, but he rises to the challenge (and high notes) admirally and the closing number in the first half, And You And I, is almost as good as the original and for me the highlight of the evening, bringing the audience to its feet once again. There is a brief tribute to recently deceased original bass player Chris Squire and the band play his composition Onward before guitar virtuoso Steve Howe gets to dazzle us on acoustic guitar with Mood For A Day.
After a short break the second half begins, with most of it being devoted to the groundbreaking Tales From Topographic Ocean, a double album from 1973 which gave Yes their first number one. Its a magnificent piece of work and to hear it performed in full is a great experience as the talents of all the band members are brought to the fore.
If you have ever seen a Yes album cover you can’t fail to notice the iconic art work by Roger Dean and tonight the band play in front of large screens displaying his work, all adding to the experience and bringing the early seventies to life in vivid colour.
To round the evening off, the band return to the early years with their hit US single Roundabout and a superb, storming version of Starship Trooper, the perfect ending to what was a great night.
Tonight Yes showed that in the era of “prog” rock they were kings, and even today their music is relevant and still influencing younger bands.