Yes Live in Las Vegas

The Joint – Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
August 15, 2014

By Roy Rahl

Set List:
Close To The Edge:
Siberian Khatru | And You And I | Close To The Edge

Heaven And Earth:
Believe Again | The Game

Roundabout | Cans And Brahms | We Have Heaven | South Side Of The Sky | Five Percent For Nothing Long Distance Runaround | The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus) | Mood For A Day | Heart Of The Sunrise

I’ve Seen All Good People (The Yes Album)
Owner Of A Lonely Heart (90125)

Yes is currently on tour promoting their new album Heaven And Earth. The album, released last month, marks the first written contributions of the band’s newest member, lead singer Jon Davison. Yes has toured extensively across the US and will conclude with performances in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand later this year.

One of the interesting things about attending a Yes concert is you never quite know what to expect. The band’s lineup has been in perpetual change throughout its forty-plus years and each tour seemingly presents a new lineup, new personalities, and a new way the group approaches the material. Their concert in Las Vegas fell squarely into this category.

Yes structured the set list in a whole album manner. Rather than play a variety of pieces off numerous albums they played two of their albums, Close To The Edge and Fragile in their entirety. In between these albums they played two songs from Heaven and Earth. It’s an intriguing format that seemed to resonate with the audience.

It was an interesting crowd. As I expected, the seats were filled with a lot of potential AARP members. But it was quite refreshing to also see a substantial number of younger and highly enthusiastic fans as well. They were not only cheering on the new stuff, but seemed to know and really enjoy the older material as well. Clearly, there are a lot of good parents out there who listen to Yes albums enough to influence their children’s taste in music, because I don’t know where they would have heard it anywhere else.

Yes opened the show by playing Close To The Edge in reverse order. They seemed a bit uneasy when performing this album. Although they were playing accurately and tightly, there was a feeling of tentativeness in the performance. Here were great musicians playing intricate stuff; but technical concentration seemed to overtake emotional output. I found myself rooting for them to “succeed” rather than simply enjoying a live performance of one of my very favorite albums.

The band hit its stride when the set list shifted to the songs off Heaven and Earth. There was a fresher, more relaxed feeling present and Davison really came into his own. He is a very talented artist placed in the awkward position of replacing a founding member whose iconic voice and contributions can never truly be replaced. Understandably, Davison appeared to have a much higher comfort level with the new material he helped write. The songs off the new album were beautifully performed.

The band then proceeded to play Fragile, and things really began to heat up. “Roundabout”, one of Yes’ greatest hits, got things going and the band never looked back. This is where the whole album format became very interesting. Songs the audience knew were coming that would never be performed live in any other situation brought on a sense of anticipation. Geoff Downs was given the unenviable task of playing “Cans And Brahms”, a complex Rick Wakeman solo composition. It can’t be easy playing a former band member’s solo piece, especially one as elaborate as this. I’m sure every musician in the audience knowledgeable of the piece was wondering what would happen as he began to play. Downs pulled it off very well, paying proper tribute to both the composer and the composition.

Equally interesting, I know that I never expected to hear “Five Percent For Nothing”, an eclectic, thirty-four second frenetic mix of counter-rhythms and odd staccato melodies, be performed live. This was a bit of a treat. I kind of like this whole album format!

At this point bassist Chris Squire, the band’s founder and only member to play on every Yes album, took the reins. “Long Distance Runaround” and “The Fish” present Squire with an opportunity to crank up the energy level, and he did just that. Squire can be very deferring on stage, especially with the new material.  But he let loose on these two songs and the crowd absolutely loved it!

Steve Howe then performed “Mood For A Day”, a piece I have been unsuccessfully attempting to play accurately for forty years. It was a moment of pleasant nostalgia. The years have not stolen Howe’s dexterity and virtuoso expression. He played it brilliantly, and I still can’t figure out how he plays that riff in the middle!

Yes finished off the set with a powerful performance of “Heart Of The Sunrise”. The crowd at The Joint went berserk. It was great to see longtime veterans of rock and roll get such a warm outburst of appreciation.

As the group left the stage the mystery of what would be played during the encore began to deepen. “I’ve Seen All Good People” was a certainty; they’ve been playing it as an encore for decades. And, true to form, they performed it with high energy and fantastic melodies by Howe. I was a bit surprised, however, to hear “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” performed as the final piece of the night. Of course, it was one of Yes’ most successful hits and I certainly expected to hear it sometime during the concert. But it is a bit fascinating that the final song of the evening was originally recorded when only two of the current members, Squire and Alan White, were in the group. It was a nice display of ego suppression.

It turns out it was a great choice. The audience love it. Yes proved that despite their age and constantly revolving cast they can still get people out of their seats rockin’ to the music. It was an enjoyable evening.

Yes in 2014:
Chris Squire: Bass
Steve Howe: Guitars
Alan White: Drums
Geoff Downs: Keyboards
Jon Davison: Vocals