Wikipedia takes over 12,000 words to describe the term progressive rock. Yet, all you need to know about progressive rock can be summed up in one word. Yes. Yes was the exemplification of progressive rock as they performed three of their classic albums, “Close to the Edge,” “Going for the One,” and “The Yes Album,” in their entirety at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, on Tuesday night, July 9, 2013.
If Yes is the prototypical progressive rock group, then “Close to the Edge,” Yes’ 1972 album, is the prototypical progressive rock album. It logs in at just under 38 minutes long yet contains only three songs. It was this album that Yes chose to tackle first. Guitarist Steve Howe and bassist Chris Squire wasted no time in their discordant duet that marks the opening of the song “Close to the Edge” and for the next twenty minutes a flawless rendition of that song was delivered. It set the tone for the entire evening.
Yes purists may argue that because only two members of Yes’ current lineup (Howe and Squire) appeared on the albums “Close to the Edge” and “The Yes Album,” that any live performance of those albums in full would be tainted. Given that Yes’ drummer, Alan White, joined Yes in 1972 (he did play on “Going For the One”) and was the drummer on Yes’ first tour supporting “Close to the Edge,” he easily qualifies as a contributor to the live version of those albums. Watching him effortlessly control the ever changing time signatures that Yes songs require is a lesson in how subtle drumming can add more to a song than pounding away.
Likewise, Yes has gone through so many keyboard players over the years that having Geoff Downes as their current keyboard player (he also did a stint with Yes in from 1980 to 1981) is a coup. While Downes may lack the flamboyancy of a Rick Wakeman found in the 1970’s, you need talent, not flash to pull off the keyboard work of a Yes composition. Downes made transitioning among the nine keyboards he had on stage look easy. Listening to what he was accomplishing, you knew it was not.
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