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Concert Reviews:
Yes trips through its past at the Fox Theatre
 

By GARY GRAFF
For Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

DETROIT -- Progressive rock has always been a haven for excess, tasteful and otherwise.

So it makes sense that when most bands would play one landmark album in its entirety, prog rock kings Yes would take on three -- as it did to the rhapsodic delight of an attentive, boomer-dominated crowd on Friday night, April 12, at the Fox Theatre.

The concept certainly made sense in the hands of the quintet, whose "The Yes Album" (1971), "Close to the Edge" (1972) and "Going For the One" (1977) were certainly conceived as album pieces, laden with lengthy, suite-like songs, virtuoso musicianship and poetic, high-concept lyricism. That made for an interesting performance on Friday, one that was heavy in nostalgia if short on surprises, making the group's slavish delivery of the songs more of an exposition than a typical kind of rock concert.

The good news was that Yes showed that more than 40 years later it's still capable of playing the material -- even if its members sounded a bit fatigued on the final night of this leg of the tour. Guitarist Steve Howe and bassist Chris Squire in particular remain as deft and nimble as ever on their instruments, while keyboardist Geoff Downes ably covered the parts Rick Wakeman created and singer Jon Davison, who joined Yes last year, proved a more convincing Jon Anderson stand-in than his immediate predecessor, Benoit David, right down to his New Agey stage presence.

Seldom-played material such as "Perpetual Change," "A Venture," "Parallels," "Turn of the Century" and "Going For the One's" twangy title track sounded fresh, especially next to well-worn but still well-loved favorites such as "Yours is No Disgrace," "Starship Trooper," "I've Seen All Good People," the majestic "And You and I" and the "Fragile" album's "Roundabout," thrown in as an encore for good measure. What the night missed, however, was any of the expansive improvisation that's long been part of Yes' sound; the arrangements were kept tight and mostly faithful to the albums, as if the original versions -- in this format, at least -- were too sacred to touch.

Yes also made a misstep in opening the night with "Close to the Edge's" title suite, a side-long (on vinyl) 19-minute epic that isn't particularly suited to usher either band or audience into a show. As a cold start it never really caught fire, and, followed by "And You and I," it wasn't until the third piece, "Siberian Khatru," that the show really caught a head of steam.

Nevertheless, it's an engaging concept, and hopefully Yes is not through mining its past in this way. Albums such as "Fragile," "Relayer" and the mammoth "Tales of Topographic Ocean" have a similar pull on fans' heartstrings, meaning there's plenty of life left to be explored in Yes' past.



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