Concert: Yes 2015 Tour with Toto

Venue: Ruth Eckard Hall Clearwater, FL. August 23rd, 2015

by Jeremy Lechner

“Yes, Yes….. Yes, Yes”

The Yes Summer Tour rolled into Clearwater, FL this past Sunday. I have seen Yes numerous times throughout the years, all with different lineups. They never disappointed me but things changed drastically with the passing of the band’s founder and leader, Chris Squire. I feared as most did that his passing meant the end of this wonderful band, thankfully that didn’t happen.

Had Chris been any other rock superstar he could have easily said “Without me there is no Yes”. Instead he told the band to continue so the legacy of Yes would live on. He loved his fans that much. He even handpicked his replacement, Billy Sherwood. If that name sounds familiar it should. His career has been intertwined with Yes since the 1990’s. He has served as a member of the band, songwriter and even producer. Chris and Billy even put out 2 albums together under the name Conspiracy. Billy has also played with numerous Yes members in other projects like Circa and Yoso. So it was only fitting that he be the one to carry on the torch. The only question now left in everyone’s mind was can he fill such enormous shoes?? Stay Tuned…..

If there was any question whether Yes should be touring all you had to do was look at this show at the Ruth Eckard Hall in Clearwater. The show was Sold Out!! There was not an empty seat in the building. Shocking right?? After an amazing opening set by Toto, everyone was excited for what was to come. You could feel it in the air. You could hear people discussing Yes and reviews they had read. Everyone was eager to see what this new version of the band would be like.

As the show starts and the lights go down a single point of interest is illuminated on the stage…… Chris’ Rickenbacker Bass. It is positioned right where he would have been. A video retrospective slideshow on the big screen ensued which was accompanied by the song ‘Onward’ off of the Tormato album. It was very emotional for most people in there. At the conclusion he received something I had never seen before in a video tribute, a standing ovation. It was quite touching.

With everyone was still on their feet Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird Suite’ starts blaring over the PA and the band takes the stage; Steve Howe (guitar), Alan White (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Jon Davison (vocals) and Billy Sherwood (bass). The band then jumps right in with ‘Don’t Kill the Whale’, the funky groovy progressive track from the Tormato album. The band sounds great, they are like a well-oiled machine. Steve’s guitar sound just like the record and Billy’s bass sounds and playing are also spot on. For a minute you forget Chris isn’t there. Any apprehension about how the band will sound is gone…..All is good in the world (of Yes).

Next up is my favorite song from the Drama album, ‘Tempus Fugit’. A fun driving upbeat song with lots of cool changes, a signature C.S. bass line and of course lots of, “Yes Yes…Yes Yes”. This is the song I think proved to everyone that Billy can handle his role as both bass player and singer in this band. I know I was sold.

‘America’, the Simon and Garfunkle cover, if you can really call it that, followed next. Yes has really made this song their own and reworked it as only Yes could. After that Steve Howe starts off the next song ‘Going for the One’ with his signature steel guitar sound and the band was off to the races. Geoff Downes ‘ nailed the keyboard sounds and parts as well. That is such a fun and rhythmically challenging song with lots of breaks and changes. It was great to see them pull it off seamlessly live.

The band then slowed things down a little when they played ‘Time and a Word’. This song really is a great song for singer Jon Davison. He really has come into his own as the front-man and singer of this band. He sang this song with such emotion that you could actually feel how much that song resonates with him. Up next was the classic ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’. The band hit all the right notes with this one, from the vocal intro all the way till the song kicks in halfway through. This song was a definite crowdpleaser.

The progressive masterpiece ‘Siberian Khatru’ was up next. Even with all of its complexities the band played it perfectly. Billy again showing off his talents both as a bass player and singer. On this night you could see he was truly channeling Chris, from his playing to singing to even how he moved around the stage. It was great to see. The band then went right into the 80’s crowd pleasing hit ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’, which got everyone up dancing. That was followed by their 70’s hit ‘Roundabout’ which everyone sang along to. The band nailed this song and they got a standing ovation for it. This was a perfect way to leave the stage….with the crowd wanting more.

Yes returned to the stage for their encore, ‘Starship Trooper’. This is such a fun and trippy song with so many different part. It is one of those songs you just love to see played live. Especially when the band goes off and jams at the end of the song. Geoff Downes even comes out from his keyboard stage with his Keytar for a solo in front of the crowd. This was the perfect song to show with.

If there was ever any question whether the band could or should continue, this sold out crowd answered it: They loved it! They wanted more! The same went for whether Billy Sherwood was the right guy to fill in Chris’ vacancy. He showed all of us that he was more than capable, truly loved Yes music, and channeled Chris better than anyone else could have. Most importantly he is a breath of fresh air for this band who needed it now more than ever.

I am happy to say that ‘YES’ is still very much alive!!!

 

Setlist:

Don’t Kill the Whale
Tempus Fugit
America (Simon & Garfunkel cover)
Going for the One
Time and a Word
I’ve Seen All Good People
Siberian Khatru
Owner of a Lonely Heart
Roundabout
Encore:
Starship Trooper