The marquee said YES In Concert, Tonight. It was the opening night of the 'Talk' tour- the setting: Broome County Arena, Binghampton, New York. Yes performed the best show I had ever seen, although I just began listening to them only a few weeks prior. While everyone else was discovering grunge, I had discovered Yes.
That was when Jon Anderson was the lead singer. His signature voice filled the venue with its complex creshendos and precise harmonies. The best part of the show was when he messed up the timing to 'And You and I.' He had the band start over- in what I would consider a rare treat: a singer making a mistake on stage, laughing about it, and doing it again.
Now it is 2011, and Yes is in the midst of their latest tour- the 'Progressive' tour, co-headlining with Styx. The DTE Energy Music Theatre marquee also announced Yes, written in the same old school manual lettering system as Broome County. Although this time, I entered with minor trepidation, because this show was not going to be the same.
A quintessential aspect of Yes- Jon Anderson, was missing. And Jon's replacement- Benoit David has not always been well-received by some fans or critics. And while it would be difficult to replace any lead for a band, Yes' legendary status and Anderson's unparalleled voice made for a seemingly impossible feat.
Each member of Yes took their place on stage at their respective instruments, and wore attire appropriate for musicians that had been through a long distance runaround- a seemingly endless tour that has lasted forty years and has spanned the globe. The music itself was enchanting. The entire crowd was put under a lyrical spell almost immediately as they heard the 'Fly From Here' overture, which dissolved into 'Tempus Fugit,' followed by 'Yours in No Disgrace.' It was an exciting show of sophisticated music.
The highlight of this evening's show was Steve Howe and his extraordinary musicianship. He definitely struck a deal with the devil to be able to play like that. Howe played every instrument he was handed extraordinarily. Even his instrument's 'downtime' was impressive. He performed with two at once- two guitars 'layered together,' creating a guitar onslaught that was unbelievable. Unbelievable because I had never witnessed anything like it before- ever.
The best thing that evening happened was when I heard Yes with my ears- not my eyes. 'Heart of the Sunrise' sounded as if someone had turned on the radio and the station was playing Yes. It was then that I briefly forgot about my secret [not anymore] disdain for the replacement singer. 'Seen All Good People' seemed to be a crowd favorite. Then came the seemingly Floydian inspired, 'straight outta the eighties' Yes-sounding new song, 'We Can Fly,' from the latest studio album, Fly From Here. Benoit played the bongos for that one.
The band overshadowed the lead singer, who I sometimes forgot was there, by their unsurpassed mastery of their instruments. It was not that he was bad- this wasn't Canandaigua; it was that they were just that good. Nobody fumbled 'And You and I,' but, after it had ended, it did receive a standing ovation.
I also witnessed that when Steve Howe yells from the stage to do something- you do it. The guitar virtuoso told everyone to 'Get up and dance!' as they tore into 'Owner of a Lonely Heart-' and the majority of the crowd did exactly as they were told. 'Starship Trooper' came in for a landing as it closed down the show for the evening. The crowd called out for more, actually chanting 'No- don't go' The encore was a masterful rendition of 'Roundabout.'
Yes, Benoit, speak to me of summer- now I'll actually listen.