Yes Deliver Nearly 3 Hours of Music at The Golden State Theatre
March 11, 2013
The Weekly's Walter Ryce said "yes" to Yes. Below is his account of Sunday's show at the Golden State Theatre (Photo by Kevin Jewell).
On an otherwise calm Sunday evening in Monterey yesterday, nearly 1,000 people politely but eagerly crowded into Golden State Theatre, 68 bodies shy of a third sell-out for the reinvigorated venue. (Comedian George Lopez and blues legend BB King sold out.) The mostly upper-middle-aged concert-goers—dressed in sneakers, jeans, t-shirts, vests and hippie accessories—were there for a heralded show by 1960s (and '70s, and '80s, and '90s, '00s, and beyond) prog-rock band Yes. The boys in the band, in their 60s, were in town on tour, doing three of their beloved early albums—The Yes Album, Close to the Edge and Going for the One.
Jon Davison, the new lead singer brought aboard last year, was introduced as original singer Jon Anderson, which drew appreciative laughs, according to concertgoer "The Dreaded" Kevin. "He sounds just like Jon Anderson," Kevin raved.
According to Setlist.fm, they opened with the intro to Igor Stravinsky's blazing ballet score Firebird Suite, an homage to the contemporary classical music that helped define prog-rock. The famed prog-rock light show was in full effect, shooting beams of colored and piercing white light up to the ceiling and drenching the stage with a kaleidoscope of shifting reds, blues, and deep purples.
A screen in back caught projections of psychedelic imagery, from moving fractals to a slow-tracking shot through the fantastical imaginary landscapes of album covers like Keys to Ascension. But the visuals were only an accessory to the deft musicianship of the British band, who were known and respected for their technical prowess and musical complexity. That was on full display from bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, keyboardist Geoff Downes and Davison.
Howe—voted Best Overall Guitarist by Guitar Player magazine five times in a row starting in 1977—played, alternately, electric, lap steel and acoustic guitar, mandolin, keyboard and laud, including on a couple of solo numbers.
Bass player Chris Squire, the sole original group member (though Howe joined the band in 1970 and White in 1972), sent the bass notes into spacey atmospherics or rumbling, bouncy rhythms. When he emerged from the wings with a three-neck bass, the audience cheered its appearance, knowing they were in for a treat.
White and Downes flanked the band on elevated platforms, surrounded by a gleaming barricade of, respectively, a sprawling drumkit and nine keyboards and at least one laptop. The sound was polished, strong, crisp and present, but modulated enough that it wasn't deafening. It reached with fidelity up to the highest nosebleeds and washed cleanly across the first few rows. Sound mixing was not lost on this band.
The musical dexterity was apparent on the long, drawn out but dynamic songs of Close to the Edge; the sing-a-longs of The Yes Album, including a killer rendition of "Starship Trooper"; and the epic and evocative and sometimes gentle ("Wonderous Stories" has a gauzy line of "something saddens me") songs of Going for the One.
The audience ate it up, though most expressed it by sitting and listening attentively and sometimes nodding their heads, erupting in applause and hoots only at the end of songs. But some enthusiastic souls danced along the wall aisles or stood and swayed for a moment at their seats before conceding to people sitting behind them.
One hazy woman near the front waved her arms wide and languorously about, one time grazing the hair of a man sitting behind her sitting in a pose akin to "The Thinker." He didn't flinch. And she didn't notice. But a younger audience member sitting behind her did, and ducked the flailing arm.
One man up front in a tie-died T-shirt put down his beer (the bar did well, said GST event manager Zeeek Kim) during the end of the band's night when they were cranking out 15-minute chord-changing guitar and organ opus "Awaken" (flanked by projections of the album cover of proto-'80s skyscrapers and a retro '70s The Naked Ape butt-naked man). He sauntered to the lip of the stage while singing, but a security guard standing nearby and looking as droll as Craig Robinson's club security guard in Knocked Up pleaded with him to sit down. Their negotiation was a hilarious volley of exaggerated gesticulations. The tie-died man backed down. But he and another dancing free spirit, a woman, found each other and hugged in spontaneous joy and raised their fists in the air at their good fortune to be hearing Yes, a few feet away, prog-rock their world.
The music went on. People sang along to the obtuse lyrics. The band did "Roundabout" as an encore to everyone standing and hooting and hollering. The police had come to check up on things, but found no offenders among the 50- and 60-somethings, and the whole evening went smoothly. Really smoothly. Like a convergence of a band that practices a lot and tours a lot and fans that appreciate and respect that.