Yes, Aug. 7, 2017: Shows I’ll Never Forget

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Pier Six Concert Pavilion, Baltimore, Maryland: It seems like only yesterday that I saw Yes here in 2015. While that show was one of many experiences seeing the world’s greatest progressive rock band, the date stood out because it marked the first time I saw Yes without guiding light and cofounder Chris Squire.

Now, years and a few tours later the band continues to evolve. While Billy Sherwood is firmly established as bassist, switching from his ’90s duties on guitar, the Yestival tour with Carl Palmer’s ELP Experience and Todd Rundgren marks the return of Alan White. The long-time drummer sat out most of a 2016-17 tour that focused on 1973’s Tales From Topographic Oceans and 1980’s Drama. Additionally, drummer Dylan Howe has been added to the rhythm section for a new tour which covers the band’s history through the first 10 studio albums.

Taking the stage after a high-powered set by Todd Rundgren, Yes looked surprisingly relaxed and self assured. It was surprising because both Sherwood and keyboardist Geoff Downes just finished an extensive tour with Asia less than two weeks before. Then there was the fact that none of the current members played on the original recordings of the first two songs in Baltimore. Indeed, I don’t believe “Survival” – from Yes’ self-titled 1969 debut – has ever been played by most of the band, including Alan White and long-time guitarist Steve Howe.

None of this seemed to matter, as Yes jumped in with both feet. Sherwood’s bass was front in center, followed by Downes’ growling Hammond-like organ sound. Dylan Howe and Alan White provided a jazz back beat, which was quickly accompanied by Howe’s acoustic and electric playing. Opening with a Yes deep track was a shot across the bow.

“Time and A Word,” from the 1970 album of the same name, was rendered with the delicacy and nuance it deserves. Jon Davison made the song his own, and Yes seemed totally at ease with the classic having played it back as recently as 2015. “Yours is No Disgrace” ramps the energy up considerably. Dylan Howe and Alan White pull off the original Bill Bruford drum opening with well-practiced precision, while Steve Howe and Geoff Downes take flight. The vocal blend of the Yes choir is superb, and Sherwood walking bass is reminiscent of the master.

“South Side of the Sky” from 1971’s Fragile presented a pleasant surprise. The opening drum salvo, unique on the original version, was carried out with enthusiasm. After the song’s appearance during the three-album tour, Yes seemed well practiced to handle its nuances. Downes’ piano break was assured, and he made no effort to cover the Rick Wakeman passages note for note. Jon Davison’s lead vocal delivered with passion, as was the drumming of Dylan Howe. The song seemed transformed from the version on the Like It Is concert album.

“And You and I” and “The Leaves of Green” both have been given workouts Yes on prior U.S. tours, and were carried out in workman-like fashion. Howe, Sherwood and Davison all provided fine performances during “Leaves,” as they did during the Tales/Drama tour last year. The double drumming on “And You and I” was the pulse the song needed. “Soon” presented the only slight disappointment of the night. The excerpt 1974’s Relayer is a fine short-form song, but there are so many great elements on from the longer original album treatment that it was a bit of a let down. I suspect an epic like “The Gates of Delirium” will have to wait until a tour presenting the Relayer album.

“Going for the One” and “Don’t Kill the Whale” were both given excellent work outs during the 2015 tour, too. Still, the songs have lost none of their impact. Indeed, with Dylan Howe’s added presence on drums, these two rocked with even more intensity. Steve Howe continues to amaze with his slide guitar work on the former, and his Les Paul leads and solos on the latter. I’ve never heard a more raunchy version of “Whale.”

“Machine Messiah” was an insanely powerful epic closer to the Yes set. Though the song smoked with Jay Shellen providing the back beat on the last tour, Alan White and Dylan Howe combined to give this Drama-era gem a pulse that it has been missing in recent years. The Howe opening lead was totally locked in with Downes’ ’80-era keyboard sound. Davidson and Sherwood’s harmony vocals were sublime, only to be topped by Billy Sherwood’s phenomenal bass runs.

The night could not be topped, even as Yes pulled out two of the more commonly played Yes numbers – forgoing a deep cut played earlier in the tour. Are there other songs from the first 10 albums I wished they had played? Yes! Was the performance at this year’s YEStival epic? The answer is Yes!

Luckily, this tour continues for several more weeks in North America – and there are even bigger plans for Yes’ 50th celebration next year. The 2017 edition of Yes can still deliver, so the promise of 2018 seems even more fascinating.

Can’t get enough Yes? Check out Preston Frazier’s YESterdays, a song-by-song feature that explores the band’s unforgettable musical legacy. This series runs every other Tuesday.

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; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at
Preston Frazier
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