Prog-rock innovators Yes are about to undertake a tour of the UK – and not only are they celebrating a new live album, but they are also commemorating a very special anniversary.
This year is the band’s 50th anniversary and comes just 12 months after the band was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.
The band, formed by Jon Anderson and the late Chris Squire in 1968, has been responsible for some of the definitive prog-rock albums, such as Close To The Edge, Fragile and Relayer, and for this celebration they are planning something special.
The current line-up is guitarist Steve Howe, who originally joined in 1970, drummer Alan White, who joined in 1972, and keyboard player Geoff Downes, who joined in 1980, alongside bassist Billy Sherwood, who has been with the band for 24 years, and singer Jon Davidson, a relatively newbie at just six years with the group.
Steve says: “We want to mark this anniversary with a tour that encompasses some of our best loved work – we want to play things we enjoy, maybe songs we haven’t done in a while.”
For this tour, the band is being joined by original keyboard player Tony Kaye, who played in the band from 1968 to 1971 and then again in the 80s.
Geoff – who caused a controversy when he joined the band from Buggles – is happy Tony is a part of the celebration.
“Yes, I particularly like a lot of Tony’s stuff – his gritty Hammond Organ sound for instance is superb,” he says.
The latest live album was released back in November and was recorded on last year’s American tour.
The set was made up of the album Drama – the first Yes album Geoff played on – in its entirety and most of the epic Tales From Topographic Oceans, and it is this album that will feature heavily on the tour.
As well as many of the band’s greatest songs, such as And You And I, Roundabout, and Time And A Word, they plan to play sides one and four and excerpts from side three of the Topographic Oceans album.
Geoff says: “We haven’t done Topographic Oceans in Europe before, although we have done it in the States.
“We thought it would be a worthwhile celebration. It’s a Holy Grail album for Yes fans and we have some stunning staging.
“The best of the set is based on Yes history and it’ll be a value-for-money show.
For Geoff, highlights include 1972 single And You and I, from the Close to the Edge album.
“I have to say that And You And I is one of the greatest Yes pieces of all time,” he says. “It’s what YES music is all about.
“Some of it is a real challengem but I always like playing the stuff I was involved with, like Machine Messiah from the ‘Drama’ album.”
Back in the day, Yes tours were quite rare, but they seem to be touring constantly these days.
Geoff says: “I think a lot of it is down to the fact we’re doing albums in their entirety, which makes it more interesting for us and the fans.
“It means we are doing tracks that haven’t been played live before. All this helps perpetuate the touring, there’s always an appetite for it and it’s a lot of fun.”
“Plus we’re very lucky to have Jon Davidson singing – he has such a great voice that we can play all the songs in the original key.
“We’re all very much looking forward to it. It needs to be celebrated – it’s a bit extra-special.”
And further ahead?
“We’re hoping to do some new Yes material,” says Geoff. “We’ve been a bit preoccupied with the 50th anniversary, but there’s time for a new Yes album pretty soon. It’s important we present new music.”
Yes play Sheffield City Hall on Wednesday, March 14. For tickets, see sheffieldcityhall.co.uk
And see The Star on Thursday, March 1, 2018, for the chance to win tickets.
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