Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Concert review: Yes at Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre

There are plenty of classic rock bands still touring past their primes, with lineups bolstered by new members without connection to the biggest hits.

Happily, that description doesn’t apply to Yes. The definitive prog-rock practitioners showed that their complex material has aged well in an entertaining and musically precise two hours on Sunday at Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre.

And, yes, the band has had its share of personnel changes over nearly 50 years, with more than a dozen musicians on the ex-member roster. The lead singer in the band’s current incarnation, Jon Davison, joined in 2012 and has contributed only to the band’s new “Heaven & Earth” album.

Yet the core – the durable threesome of bassist (and lone original member) Chris Squire, guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White – remains unchanged. On Sunday, that foundation – augmented by the keyboards of Geoff Downes – was a bridge that carried the band’s sound from past to present.

Although Yes is promoting the newly released “Heaven & Earth,” the band offered only a two-song sample on Sunday: The soaring “Believe Again” and a breezier, keyboard-drenched “The Game.”

Instead, Yes devoted most of the concert to a crowd-pleasing run through two definitive releases, “Close to the Edge” (1972) and “Fragile” (1971). The former was showcased in the opening moments, demonstrating immediately that Yes can still execute turn-on-a-dime instrumental riffs, breathtaking harmonies and unexpected mood swings.

All of those elements coalesced in “And You and I,” which built from Howe’s solitary guitar arpeggios into a synthesizer-driven anthem that somehow turned into a lilting harmonica-tinged country ditty. A marathon “Close to the Edge” again turned the spotlight on the instrumentalists, as well as the group’s pinpoint harmonies.

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