Yes, Aug. 12, 2015: Shows I’ll Never Forget

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Pier 6 Amphitheater, Baltimore: Yes is a band which has overcome adversity and seemingly become stronger for it. The loss of a founding member, however, typically is too much for any group to endure. Yes has, of course, witnessed the departure of all its original members – with the exception of bassist Chris Squire. So, it was unclear if they could survive Squire’s sudden death on the eve of a co-headlining tour with Toto.

Fortunately for Yes fans, the band called on former Yes member Billy Sherwood to replace his friend, Squire. Sherwood’s contributions to Yes’ live show in the past included second guitar and vocals on the tours for Open Your Eyes and The Ladder; he also served as keyboardist, guitarist and second bassist on the Talk tour. More significantly, Billy Sherwood has made memorable production, mixing and writing contributions on many other Yes projects.

Filling in for Chris Squire on bass, at first, would seem to be a heady task for anyone, but Sherwood has played Squire-style bass parts before: Check out his Circa project. Perhaps equally challenging, however, is to sing Chris Squire parts. But Yes’ Baltimore stop found Sherwood firmly engrained, as the band honored the memory of Chris Squire and moved the legacy of the world’s greatest progressive rock band onward.

In fact, “Onward” served as the show’s opening tribute to Chris Squire, and it was touchingly appropriate. The track, originally recorded for the Tormato album, is a great celebration of the life and work of the bassist. The prerecorded new version accompanied a touching video tribute, along with a sole white spot light on Squire’s signature Rickenbacker bass.

The concert then kicked into high gear with another Tormato track, “Don’t Kill the Whale.” Billy Sherwood was clear and deep in the pocket with drummer Alan White, while Steve Howe blasted through the song with renewed vigor. I dare say this version eclipsed the original.

“Tempus Fugit” was up next. Steve Howe delivered once of his most blistering guitar leads in perfect step with Sherwood and White. Geoff Downes’ keyboard sound and vocoder (on the chorus “Yes, Yes”) perfectly replicated the original sound of the Drama recording. Vocalist Jon Davidson showed his versatility, spitting out the syncopated vocals with precision and power. The song is a high-powered treat. “America,” originally recorded by the Yes’ best-known, Close to the Edge-era lineup, was given a confident workout. Downes employed authentic ’70s-era synth sounds, while Davidson breezed through Paul Simon’s lyrics. “America” was strong, but I’d trade a more recent song of two from Heaven and Earth or even a Billy Sherwood-era song for it.

“Going for the One” followed and was perfect. Alan White held the band to the original tempo of the song, and allowed Steve Howe space to fly on his pedal steel songs. Billy Sherwood played perhaps one of the more challenging Chris Squire parts on his eight-string bass, and handled the harmony vocals in lock step with Jon Davidson’s lead vocal with precision and passion. The Maestro must have been smiling from above.

“Time and A Word” followed with grace and elegance. Interestingly, the song is the only one no member of the current band played on the original recording, but it seemed a natural fit. Concert staples “Clap” and I’ve Seen All Good People” both generated a favorable audience reaction, which intensifies with the Close to the Edge classic “Siberian Khatru.” “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and the show-closer “Roundabout” had the enthusiastic audience on their feet.

Yes returned to the stage for a powerful encore version of “Starship Trooper.” Steve Howe ripped off vicious solos from his hollow-bodied Gibson guitar, and Billy Sherwood had a big smile on his face as he made the stage shake with his bass pedals then took a short bass interlude.

The evening was truly a great homage to Chris Squire, and an intriguing preview of things to come from Yes.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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