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Yes at Meadow Brook, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

» See more SOUND CHECK

Yes has no shortage of 50th anniversary celebrations ahead for the next few years.

During 2018 the group commemorated the silver anniversary of its formation -- with a "Yes 50 Live" album from the tour coming Aug. 2 and a new documentary, "Yes 50: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow" now on line. This year, meanwhile, the group is celebrating the 50th for its self-titled debut album, and its put together a Royal Affair Tour that also features Asia, John Lodge of the Moody Blues and Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy, with guest singer Arthur Brown, as well as an exhibition by longtime Yes album artist Roger Dean.

So it's not surprising that guitarist Steve Howe -- the longest-termed member (49 years) in Yes' current lineup -- is in a celebratory mood as he talks about the group's goings on, both then and now, on the phone from Niagara Falls...

• For this year's tour, Howe, 72, put together a special set that starts with Yes' version of Richie Haven's "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed" and blends deep tracks with favorites -- including the epic "The Gates of Delirium" from ??'s "Relayer" album for the first time in 18 years -- as well as a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine." "The idea was to try and touch on the whole career. We kind of want to show that we do everything, try to touch on the full Yes songbook, which is so bloody enormous it's hard to believe. So that's the pursuit. It's just an idea at first, and then it becomes a concept. I don't know how to describe it other than we take an idea and just build from it."

• The current tour has both Howe and Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes, as well as Palmer, doing double-duty as part of Asia, though Howe is only performing in a "featured guest" role on four songs from Asia's first album. "It's really pretty smooth," says Howe, who's also celebrating his 60th anniversary of starting to play guitar. "When we did this before I was doing a full Asia set, but now I'm just doing the last for numbers, which is all I really want to play. That's the album I love so much and I'm happy to play that and it's delightful. They do a few other tunes and that's pretty good and then I come on and do my bit, and that's pretty good, too. But my main gig is Yes."

• The Royal Affair Tour lineup represents a bit of the flavor of Yes' Cruise to the Edge -- with far fewer acts, of course, but with a focus on progressive rock from the late 60s and 70s. "Although ELP and Genesis and (Pink) Floyd and all that were part of what Yes was as well, we didn't rub shoulders a great deal back in the day," Howe says. "We didn't do a package like this too often before. I wouldn't say I revel in nostalgia, but I do know that everything I'm doing has come from my experiences that I've had in the past, so I have a lot of respect for it. There's always a history; It's unavoidable, but I don't dwell on it in a reminiscing, sad way. I actually find it stimulating."

• For the past couple of tours Alan White, Yes' drummer since 1972, has also been serving in a kind of "guest" capacity as well due to health reasons, coming on during the encore while Jay Schellen plays the bulk of the show. "Alan is more than a guest; He's a part of the DNA of Yes, and long we hope to maintain that," Howe says. "But the toughest gig in the band is the drummer -- it's so physical you can't expect a drummer as he gets over 60 to do a full set. We're just so in appreciation of Alan's work and his contributions to the group -- look at his drummer on 'Drama' or 'Relayer' -- but the fact he doesn’t' do all of it is irrelevant. Jay Schellen is now in a loving way playing for Alan and helping him get along so that Alan can join us and do what's right for his strength and ability right now. And he does a great job."

• For the past few years a group of Yes alumni -- Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin -- has been touring under a Yes moniker as well. The group is currently inactive, though Howe says that's neither here nor there for his Yes. "We don't comment. We've had nothing to say. Basically we're not unhappy, so that maybe tells you something. But we'd never stop anybody doing what they want to do...Anybody can play Yes music. So basically I say 'good luck' to people."

The Royal Affair Tour with Yes, Asia, John Lodge and Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy with Arthur Brown takes place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 3, at the Meadow Brook Amphitheatre on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills. $29.50 and up. 313-471-7000 or 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

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