Yes, “Heart of the Sunrise” from Like It Is (2015): One Track Mind

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Most of the focus, fair or not, with Yes’ upcoming live project will be on Jon Davison. The band’s current frontman, he played a major role in their most recent studio effort, but is only just now being included on Yes’ live recordings. And so, long-time fans will likely be studying Davison, more than the rest, as he works his way through a legendary moment from Yes’ vast discography like “Heart of the Sunrise,” originally the epic closing track from 1971’s Fragile.

There is, however, a lot more to Like It Is: Yes at the Mesa Arts Center, as the bracing news of bassist Chris Squire’s serious illness continues to reverberate. The project, to be released as a 2CD/DVD in July 2015 via Frontiers, gives us another chance to fully explore Squire’s genius at the bass.

It’s easy to take for granted, if only because of his stalwart constancy. Chris Squire, quite simply, has remained — through all of Yes’ many, many incarnations. (There have been no fewer than seven keyboardists, for instance, since 1968.) Of its current legacy members, only Alan White has had a similar fealty. He arrived in 1972, and never left. On the other hand, Geoff Downes and Billy Sherwood (who will spell Squire on their forthcoming tour) are in their second stints, Steve Howe in his fourth.

“Heart of the Sunrise,” a dazzling theme populated with these classically inspired recapitulations, marked the beginning of Yes’ journey outward from the basic Hammond and acoustic keyboard sounds of their initial recordings, as Tony Kaye was replaced by Rick Wakeman. Meanwhile, the sadly departed Jon Anderson’s lyrics, meditative and hieroglyphically gorgeous, frame everything. But for me, on the Like It Is: Yes at the Mesa Arts Center version as ever, Chris Squire steals the show — beginning with the boiling initial riff he shares with Steve Howe.

Squire moves with a still-striking deftness into a lead role for his Rickenbacker, playing with a cutting aggression that helped redefine the instrument. A wonder of syncopation, drive and wit, Chris Squire proceeds through a shifty performance that, at one point, feints from 6/8 to 3/4 and then dives head-long into a greasy 4/4 that would rattle any juke joint to its foundation. Then, as before, Chris Squire returns for a thrilling doubled journey with Howe through a second, more keyboard-oriented section — completing a larger picture of influences (Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, John Entwistle, James Jamerson) even as he makes his own case for standing in that pantheon of bass greats. Along the way, his performance makes everybody better here.

As such, arguments may continue about Yes’ choice in lead singers, but not in what Chris Squire has always meant to this group. He’s the roaring heart of Yes.

‘Like It Is: Yes at the Mesa Arts Center,’ which includes Yes’ full-album live recitations of ‘Fragile’ as well as 1972’s ‘Close to the Edge,’ follows the similarly titled ‘Like It Is: Yes at the Bristol Hippodrome’ — a January 2015 release which focused on 1971’s ‘The Yes Album’ and 1977’s ‘Going for the One.’

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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  • klaatu

    The singer approaches Jon’s abilities but doesn’t quite make it. I doubt if I would want a refund for my ticket.

  • avlisk

    That Jon Davison sure must have nerves of steel to replace the original Jon. Much respect, sir!

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