August 6, 2014
Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
Grand Prairie, TX USA
Review by John Hunter
Photos by John Hunter
46 Years of YES - The Road Has Been Long And The Traveler Is Weary
Video by Suzanne McElyea
August 6, 2014 was a night to remember as YES took the stage at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas to play two of their landmark albums, Close to the Edge and Fragile, in their entirety along with a couple of songs from their new album, Heaven & Earth. However, this is not the same YES of the 1970s by any stretch of the imagination.
Although Jon Anderson was the vocalist on all the legendary recordings, Jon Davison has been carrying his torch since 2012. While Davison has the same tonal quality, Anderson's signature high notes elude him. Additionally, Davison just seemed tired. In fact, the whole band lacked energy in their performance.
I have seen old rockers who still have the technical skill and passion to perform as they did in their heyday, but Steve Howe, 67, and Chris Squire, 66 have neither. Steve Howe has lost his sense of timing and no longer has the technical skill (or just no longer cares) to perform the songs he wrote as they deserve to be performed. These songs require a finesse and speed that Howe no longer seems to have. Overall, his performance was inarticulate. Chris Squire still has the interesting and unique sound for which he has always been known, but he has lost his speed. Alan White, 65, is still an adequate drummer, but his performance was lackluster. On the other hand, Geoff Downs, the youngest of the old guys at 61 years old, hit all the notes as he should, and his performance of Rick Wakeman's Cans and Brahms was the high point of the evening.
Overall the audience seemed happy with the band's performance, seeing their musical heroes through rose tinted glasses and feeling the nostalgic warmth of their glory days, but it is dangerous to play to younger listeners with a less than immaculate performance, and there were those in the audience who were not even born when these albums were being played on the radio. I do give high marks to the parents who introduce their children to this grand form of music, but I shudder to think of the consequences of these youngsters seeing a live performance that does not live up to the grandeur of the music itself.
I spoke with one long-time fan who had seen YES on many occasions throughout the years. He thought they were great, but when I asked him what he thought of Howe's performance, he responded, "He still plays okay." To play 'okay' is unacceptable. The music of YES from the early to mid-70s is monumental- the stuff of progressive rock legend. It should not be performed with a less than legendary performance. They should have retired years ago and not come forward to tarnish the memory of what once was a great and true progressive rock legend. Do I appreciate the music of YES any less after witnessing this performance? Absolutely not, but walking away from the venue I couldn't help but feel more pity than disdain.
Syd Arthur opened for YES and the style and flavor of this band is well suited to this task. Syd Arthur is interesting, with an enigmatic, eclectic style, a bit like hearing an abstract painting. It would be a shame if the audiences started remembering Syd Arthur's performances as more memorable than their prog rock heroes.
Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie is a wonderful space with good acoustics, but on this night the sound was not engineered for the room. Davison's vocals were often lost in the mix, while Howe and Squire were alternately sometimes out in front and sometimes lost in the mix, although White's drums and Downs' keys were balanced throughout most of the evening. Everyone either lacked the incentive or the skill to make this show what it should have been.