YES - O2 City Hall, Newcastle 26.06.2022
When I first started listening to albums an essential part of that process for me was pouring over the cover artwork as it played taking it all in learning the lyrics if they were printed on it etc. So to have the legend that is Roger Dean open up the proceedings tonight with a chat and a slideshow talking about his art and specifically the 50 years it’s been since he designed the 'Close To The Edge' it was an absolute treat!
The lights dim and a back projection begins paying tribute to the late great Alan White while 'Turn of the Century' plays and already there’s a lump in my throat and there’s no one on stage yet. The crowd are absolutely silent during this and I imagine many are sharing my feelings. This was always going to be an emotional one not only celebrating the life of Alan but also the 50th anniversary of 'Close to the Edge' (but more of that later).
The familiar intro of 'Firebird Suite' heralds the arrival of the band who go straight into 'Tormatos’ On The Silent Wings Of Freedom' one of my favourite Yes songs of that era. Billy Sherwood handles the bass parts in style resplendent in a long flowing over shirt channelling Mr Squire throughout but also making his own mark on each song.
Going back to The Yes Album for 'Yours Is No Disgrace' and the band are in top form Jon Davison has an incredible voice and range and performs these Yes classics with ease hitting every note and nuance just right. Next we are treated to the Richie Havens cover 'No Opportunity Necessary No Experience Needed' from 'Time & A Word' I don’t think I’ve ever seen them do this in the times I’ve seen them so it was an added bonus. Especially as Steve Howe played the intro of the Big Country theme with a big grin across his face to match those beaming back at him from the seats.
Billy gets another chance to shine as he pounds out that bass line to 'Does It Really Happen' from 'Drama' an album that some still think of as newer Yes but is 42 years old this year. Steve's solo spot has the audience participation piece of 'The Clap' and the UK top ten 'Wonderous Stories' bring us up to the really new songs from 'The Quest'. I’ll hold my hands up and state I’m not as familiar with that album as I should be BUT after hearing 'The Ice Bridge' and 'Dare To Know' tonight I’ll be delving into it more thoroughly.
The first set ends with 'Heart Of The Sunrise' and whilst Jay Schellen and Geoff Downes have been prominent in each song up to now I felt this was where they excelled as the songs frantic time changes were met with ease and once again Jon Davison absolutely flawless!
After a quick 30 minute interval which saw me a bit star struck meeting Roger Dean in the bar area exhibition of his work it’s back for the main course 'Close To Edge' in all of its glory. Three tracks, 38 minutes of pure Prog perfection in my opinion. I'm not gonna claim I’ve loved this album since release as I was only nine at the time BUT it was only a couple of years after when I was introduced to it and since then there’s always been a copy of this album in my possession one format or another. I still love that almost morse code keyboard during those first few verses and I swear if anyone wasn’t moved or close to tears in the 'I Get Up I Get Down' segment they’re not human it was just astonishing! And 'You And I' is a prime example of how Yes can make songs sound so simple and easy to sing along to but in fact it’s an intricate piece of work that has so much going on. I haven’t mentioned much about Steve Howe until now but the opening riff of 'Siberian Khatru' sums him up in one go it’s raw then smooth and dances about layering each part of the song with different tones and rhythms swapping between pedal steel, the guitar round his neck and the one on the static stand throughout the evening.
The ever popular 'Roundabout' and 'Starship Trooper' close the night to a deserved standing ovation and whilst I was at first a little disappointed that the pandemic and rearranged schedule meant we didn’t get to hear (my personal favourite Yes album) 'Relayer' I am still happy that there is still a Yes to go and see.
Photos & Review - G's Gig Shots