Sunday night's show at Town Hall marked the return of Yes as a working, recording band. Throughout his band's history, founder and bassist Chris Squire has always done what was necessary to keep Yes going. And in this case, the injection of fresh blood into their lineup may ensure that music lovers will be hearing Yessongs for another four decades.
The revamped band features new lead singer Benoît David and new keyboardist Oliver Wakeman. Anchored by the powerhouse trio of veteran members Alan White, (drums) Chris Squire, (bass) and Steve Howe, (guitar) this band has all the flexibility, power and majesty of the classic lineup. The two and a half hour show included the rarely performed "Astral Traveller" and even featured two songs from the 'lost' Yes record Drama, songs which Jon Anderson refused to sing live since he was replaced for that 1980 record by Buggles vocalist Trevor Horn.
Benoît David has no drama issues. His voice is ideal for the material, a high, pleasing countertenor that is comparable to Anderson sounded about twenty years ago. It's a sharper instrument, more laser-like but with a pleasing tonal quality. Anyway, he sounded great on the dizzying high notes on "Heart of the Sunrise", and the quiet parts of "Yours is No Disgrace." David even strapped on an acoustic to provide support for Steve Howe on "South Side of the Sky" and "Machine Messiah." The Québécois singer (whose last gig was in the tribute band Close to the Edge) is a welcome addition to the band, providing a much-needed spark of energy to their brand of classic progressive rock.
Oliver Wakeman proves equal to his father's legacy. Surrounded by a bank of keyboards, he added textures and body to the Yes songs, producing a delicate touch on "Onward" and a blazing guitar-keyboard duel with Steve Howe on the extended "South Side of the Sky." The show climaxed with an epic one-two punch of "Roundabout" and "Starship Trooper", as the band stretched out the material and made the venerable walls of Town Hall shake.
Here's the set-list:
Intro: Firebird Suite
Siberian Khatru (from Close to the Edge)
I've Seen All Good People (from The Yes Album)
Tempus Fugit (from Drama)
Onward (from Tormato)
Astral Traveller (with drum solo) (from Time and a Word)
Yours Is No Disgrace (from The Yes Album)
And You And I (from Close to the Edge)
Steve Howe solo: Masquerade/Second Initial ("Masquerade" appears on Union)
Owner of a Lonely Heart (from 90125)
South Side of the Sky (from Fragile)
Machine Messiah (from Drama)
Heart of the Sunrise (from Fragile)
Roundabout (from Fragile)
Encore: Starship Trooper (from The Yes Album)