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Yes at the Fox Theatre, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmeda.com, @GraffonMusic on Twit

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Yes has been playing it, er, close to the edge for 50 years now, making ambitious, adventurous music and defining the sub-genre of Progressive Rock since its 1968 formation in London.

Over that time the group has produced 21 albums and scored the occasional hit -- “Roundabout,” “Owner of a Lonely Heart” -- and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. It’s also been through more than 20 members, with some acrimonious partings and even some spin-offs that actively compete with Yes for fans’ hearts.

This year the group is celebrating its golden anniversary with a tour that unearths plenty of rarely played gems alongside the favorites, with original keyboardist Tony Kaye traveling alongside as a special guest. And Steve Howe, Yes’ guitarist since 1970, tells us that the group has no intention to rest on its laurels, either...

• Howe, 71, says by phone that “diversity” has been the key to yes’ longevity. “We’re not a singles band. We haven’t had 10 hit singles like Aerosmith or something. We basically came about music from a different way, and I guess that interest in music...When I meet people they say something like ‘I’ve been with you since ‘72’ or something. I look at them and think, and often say, ‘You’ve got the right ears for Yes’ or “Thank you for listening the way you do,” because I think there’s a certain way you’ve got to listen to us. There’s something about it that connects with certain people, and with certain other people it won’t.”

• After bassist Chris Squire’s death in 2015, Howe inherited the job of putting Yes’ concert set list together. “I make a set list generally with two considerations. There’s gotta be some challenges; There’s got to be some things we haven’t been playing in the last two years or so. So you’ve got to go do some homework at home. But the other thing is we’ve got to make it possible. We don’t have set lists (of songs) which are completely unknown, all lost tunes we’ve completely revitalized. So our set list is generally a mix of challenging new things -- or new in the context of what we’ve been playing recently -- and then some really familiar stuff, but not the same-old, same-old -- although we can’t do a show without ‘Roundabout.’ But I’m really proud of the kind of sets we do.”

• Having Tony Kaye, who played on Yes’ first three albums and returned from 1984-94, back helps link the tour the band’s formation. “This idea came along last year and we offered him to do the (Cruise to the Edge), which he did. We’re doing a similar thing with him now -- he comes on at the encores. For him to give me that Hammond organ again is such a terrific backdrop; I think the guitar and Hammond organ are made in heaven to be together. That’s what Tony specializes in. It’s a guest thing; We don’t have any firm commitments after that, but people understand why he’s there, and he’s very welcome.”

• The tour also finds Alan White, Yes’ drummer since 1972, playing a smaller role while Jay Schellen fills in as the group’s primary drummer. “Helping Alan is a very important thing. Alan’s strong; He’s got the way to do the back end of the show no problem, but we’re making the load a bit easier for him. Jay’s come in and he’s very disciplined and he’s got a lot of control and he really does get a kick out of doing this.”

• Howe predicts that some new Yes music, the follow-up to 2014’s “Heaven & Earth.” “Later in the year there may be an opportunity that comes about where we can be creative. But we haven’t rushed out and accepted a huge advance from a record label because we don’t want to do it like that. We want to have our music lined up a little bit. then we’ll look to how we’ll release it and how we’ll do it if we get that far. But there’s no promises, and we haven’t made a commitment to our public or any business concerns that we need to make a record. We love the support we may get, but basically until there’s music to play there’s nothing more to talk about. Individually we’re gathering momentum but that’s about as much as I can say.”

If You Go

• Yes

• 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 30.

• Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit.

• Tickets start at $49.50.

• Call 313-471-6611 or visit 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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