This time, it's YES. I've avoided the band's tours for some time now. The last tour I went to with the Little Lady was Talk. San Diego and Santa Barbara. I was a Tad Cynical (wasn't Tad Cynical in DAMN YANKEES?) about a Jon Anderson free band; when Chris Squire died, I thought the door was truly closed. Did I really want to go and sit through Steve Howe's YES Tribute Band?
Then I heard they were doing all of the Drama album and the two standout sides of Tales From Topographic Oceans. I waivered. After all, I had experienced the fresh and complete Topographic Tour with original members at the Long Beach Sports Arena. Wouldn't this interpretation be a pallid cut and paste version?
Well, a Blissful mood and deep love for my wife who loves all things YES made me get seats for the first announced Southern California show in Los Angeles. And at a favourite theatre, the Orpheum, where we had so enjoyed KING CRIMSON. I admire Steve Howe, so I thought it would be worth it to watch the man perform his artistry.
When it was announced that drummer Alan White had dropped out of the tour from back surgery, I thought this would be a bad omen. Since Steve and Alan are the only two members who actually played on Tales and neither are original members of the band. And every time I would see a recent picture of Steve, I'd worry that he wouldn't make it through the extensive and exhausting tour.
Fingers crossed. As well as other body parts (but that's just part of the ageing process, not superstition).
Well, we are back in our favourite haunts of Downtown Los Angeles. Referred to now by the hipsters and marketing people as DTLA (which sounds like a dyslexic pronunciation of TV station KTLA). Our Sanctum located in the mystery shrouded alleys of Little Tokyo. City Hall, blue veined and lighted, erectile guardian of the ant life below. I am Kent Allard masquerading as Lamont Cranston, surveying my two views high above the Metropolis. I know this place. I will be sustained by harvest salad, Middle Eastern food, vegetable tempura and Japanese beer. The wife will try Japanese Coca Cola.
Concert night. I have prepared for the evening, making a sartorial debut in my GENTLE GIANT Octopus t-shirt. It is the Roger Dean import cover, not the American octopus in jar one. So there is the Secret Handshake--the shirted connection to tonight's performers. Dean, the YES artist and GENTLE GIANT who toured with them. I get many unsolicited compliments for the shirt. Far more than any other one I have worn to a show.
The Orpheum vibe is as relaxed as ever. When the show begins, all seems well. Like THE MOODY BLUES show I reported on in past cathode glow, the cynicism disappears, the talent rises and the spirit seems fresh. Crescent fresh.
Steve Howe seems healthy and vital. He is very limber and I wonder how his leg bones survive. He plays masterfully and drops to his knees in rock star fashion. I'm jealous. I can't feed my cats without threat of appendage disaster. And the new drummer impresses everyone. One person passing by during intermission said, "I'm glad Alan didn't show. This guy has a real presence." Oh, my. He was good.
Geoff Downes did an admirable job. Though I've played his work on SPACE PIRATE RADIO from The Buggles on, I had never seen him live. The Little Lady has from numerous concerts, especially ASIA. I think Billy Sherwood is physically morphing into being Chris Squire. And Jon 2, who used to have the effect on me like chalk on board, has brought me around. His voice has rounded out, developing richer colours. All in all, the show was very, very good. This is probably the best this incarnation of YES will be.