Yes at the Theatre at Westbury

by Tom Edathikunnel

This was my first Yes concert, and I can quite honestly say it was one of the best concert experiences of my life. I have never been more impressed with a live performance than I have with Yes’s powerful concert at the Westbury Theater in New York. The band has been touring for over forty years, and has only improved with time, fine tuning their stage presence and musicianship.

Before Yes’s set began, the crowd was treated to Procol Harum, an interesting band that has also stood the test of time and continues to tour and perform. It was a rare treat to see both these influential bands perform in one night, and I hope this trend of older progressive rock bands sharing a stage continues.

Yes’s set list did not disappoint and seemed to be aimed for the loyal long time fan, versus the causal listener. The band performed a sweeping array of songs, with a direct focus on older material, particularly from ‘The Yes Album’. Steve Howe’s performance of The Clap, was phenomenal, and I could easily imagine him on stage 30 years ago, performing it for the first time. Another fantastic surprise was seeing the band performance of America, a rendition of a Paul Simon song, which was first featured on the 1975 compilation album ‘Yesterdays’. The song was spectacularly performed and I was stunned to see how well each band member performed both as an individual and together. The band went on to perform Fly From Here in its entirety, which provided a nice balance of both contemporary and classic Yes. I must admit that I was quite dismissive of the album when it was first released since Jon Anderson was not a part of it, but I thoroughly enjoyed the song live, and am curious to re-listen to the album.

What really solidified this to me as one of the best concerts of all time was watching the group’s performance of ‘Awakening’, which to me possesses everything impressive about Yes as a band. I was genuinely moved by the performance and was floored watching all the band members, particularly Chris Squire, who played a triple neck, double bass/ 6 string guitar. The band’s replacement singer, Jon Davidson, did a great job carrying on Jon Anderson’s lyrics and style. Geoff Downes was exceptional on the keys, providing a unique and equally skillful performance of Rick Wakeman’s impressive organ solo.

The band concluded the night with an encore performance of ‘Roundabout’, a hardedge track that still holds enchantment to this day. Overall I was overwhelmed with the skill and presence of Yes, and although this was only my first Yes concert, it will certainly not be the last.

Fly From Here by Roger Dean