A few weekends ago, London rock band Yes, who rose to prominence during the 70s, brought their 50th Anniversary Tour to the Virginia Credit Union Live! Richmond Raceway amphitheater.
Most of the audience grew up on Yes albums, with their intricate instrumentations, esoteric lyrics, and surreal harmonies and album covers. The crowd sang along on the old-time favorites, the long, deep tracks that Yes pioneered as leaders of the progressive rock movement. Long and complex, yes, but still catchy and infectious.
Since their inception in 1968, Yes has had an ever-changing lineup. Some nineteen musicians being apart of the band at one time or another. Founded by singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye, and drummer Bill Bruford, today Yes continues to perform with a line-up that doesn’t include any of the original musicians. The current roster includes guitarist Steve Howe, who joined in 1970, drummer Alan White, who’s been with the band for 46 years, bassist Billy Sherwood who replaced Squire after his death in 2015, keyboardist Geoff Downes, and lead singer Jon Davison, previous frontman of Roundabout, a Yes tribute band.
Yes opened with “Close to the Edge,” the transcendental anthem from their 1972 eponymous fifth album. I saw the show with my brother, who named the tune in eight notes, although it would be four minutes of instrumentation before Davison sings the opening line: “A seasoned witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace and rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace.” “Close to the Edge” is a 20-minute journey of discovery, learning and wonder with a mystical edge, a rolling and complicated story presented with precision and love.
And after catching us up with the classics, Yes led into some of their newer material, like “Nine Voices and Parallels,” which Howe dedicated to “Chris Squire’s loving memory.”
Howe dialed it down next with an acoustic solo on slide guitar. He is master of his craft and king of guitar solos, and you can see the wheels spinning as he plays. Davison joined him for a duet of “Madrigal,” singing “Celestial travelers have always been here with us, set in the homes of the universe we have yet to go.”
Yes picked up the pace again with “Fly From Here (part 1),” followed by the more-familiar-to-radio-audienc
Special guest Tony Kaye, founding keyboardist for the original line-up, was welcomed to the stage for the finale: Classic Yes songs “Yours is No Disgrace,” “Roundabout,” and “Starship Trooper,” which reminded us that the serious and exceptional musicians of Yes brought us serious and exceptional music and memories that stand up over time. The crowd went wild.
Check out a glimpse into Yes’ Richmond show below:
Photos By: Rebecca Maguire and Jean Pauley
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond