The Calvin Theatre in Northampton is an historic venue. The antique decor and close quarters with the artists make it an intimate show. The stage set for YES was simple. There was a collection of white canvases flying over the stage like birds. The only YES logo was on the drum set. Vintage. Perfect.
The crowd, for a Monday night, were lively. Well seasoned rockers, true blue hippies, starched shirts and the Valley's finest artists were there. The intergenerational presence was striking. Parents with teenage kids sporting mod haircuts and grunge wear were common.
8 pm. The house lights flashed and a slow violin quieted the crowd. The band walked out. "Firebird Suite" was beautiful. There was so much going on in front of you that you realized the levels of artistry in an instant. "Siberian Khatru." All band members singing in harmony, playing their instruments simultaneously, cueing each other and leading the crowd, made one know the amount of craft that goes into each song.
It took two songs for the sound mixing to get the right balance.
The vocals were almost drowned out by the instruments, but the band kept harmony with each other and quickly settled in to this eager crowd. "I've Seen All Good People" had us on our feet by the end of the song, clapping in unison. The band and the sound quality warmed up to tempo by the end of the song.
The intro to the crowd was done by Chris Squire. "Good Evening Northampton!" He made a local joke about Chase Manhattan bank and introduced the band. We all missed Jon Anderson for sure. There was a mild protest outside with fliers explaining his absence. The crowd and band were professional, however, and Squire announced the current lineup. He mentioned Benoit David was from Montreal and introduced Oliver Wakeman, Rick Wakeman's son.
Band Line Up (02-08-2010):
Steve Howe (Guitars)
Christ Squire (Bass)
Alan White (Drums)
Benoit David (Vocals)
Oliver Wakeman (Keyboards)
The third song was from the 1980 album "Drama." This was interesting because it is the only "YES" album that did not have Jon Anderson on vocals, as Trevor Horn was the lead. It has been a rare occasion that they play anything live from this work, but there we were with "Tempus Fugit" unfolding in front of us. The quality musicianship reminded us of why we were there. Time does flee, but it seemed to stand still in those moments at the Calvin. The 1978 classic "Onward" was great with its unique sound and slow water drifting keyboard scheme.
Steve Howe talked to the crowd. He was humbled in his brilliance and cool, and seemed so comfortable in front of any crowd, really. He said, "feels like we're local ... spread the word ..." His UK accent was striking. He told us we'd go way back to the 1960's to the "Fantastic Time" album ... and that he actually remembered it !
"Astral Traveler" was played as David transitioned from the stage. Howe's guitar, and Alan White's drum solo were excellent. The energy in the room was amazing. The drums seemed to structure the pace of the song. Unbelievable precision met creativity. Someone from the balcony yelled "We Love You Steve!"
"Yours Is No Disgrace" was quickly next. I noticed Steve Howe cueing the drummer, the crowd, and David was jamming with the tambourine, lots of dancing. They were all really getting into the show and found their rhythm.
YES is a musician's band. I am not a musician, but even I noticed there was so much going on technologically, I was very impressed with the complexities in which they create their sounds. In this venue, the theatre setting showed every detail of the musicians' work. Howe was standing on an area rug and the staff kept bringing him different guitars. He rocked out fast in a solo, then would change to another guitar, a blue one, on a stand, and almost played both guitars at once. It was incredible.
David announced the next song as "dedicated to our loved ones everywhere." "And You And I" was ethereal. The phases of the song were true to tradition. Squire played the harmonica! They wrapped it up flawlessly and the dramatic crowd was moved.
9:00 pm. Chris Squire, "We are going to do what we traditionally do." The band left the stage and Steve Howe came out for a solo. The staff brought a plain wooden bench to the stage. Howe took a seat with his acoustic guitar. Wow. A peaceful, folk, yet substantially rock ballad was played. There was power and fast changing pace, but a warmth to the sound. I could have listened to him play for hours. He finished by saying it was dedicated to "Provence", which was quite special to him, and to us.
Up tempo to "Owner of a Lonely Heart" from 90125. Red guitar for Howe, David sported a blue tie dye t-shirt and medallion necklace. Wakeman kept the sound effects on cue. David was using a hand held drum and stick. The song was great, the crowd cheered. David lead clapping and involved the crowd during different times throughout the night. The energy was consistent.
"South Side of the Sky." Eerie echoes filled the room for longer than the album version. Wakeman had a piano solo which was impeccable. Squire dawned a green guitar, a lot of back and forth with the band. David pulled out an acoustic guitar. There was even some synchronized stage choreography with David and Squire. The piano/keyboard went on jamming with the guitar pieces. It was classic YES, rich sounds melding together with a strong rock edge. Fantastic, standing ovations were throughout the theatre.
"Machine Messiah" had amazing stage presence and the jam sessions among these veteran musicians got tighter and tighter. The song came on like a freight train and the harmonies that ensued were the sceneries that flew by.
"Heart of the Sunrise." Squire had a great solo, white guitar. Traditional YES jam session. Awesome. Howe was doing some fancy footwork on his pedals with the lead guitar pieces, masterful.
"Roundabout" by 10 pm. Everyone was singing, on their feet. David lead the crowd clapping, great show.
The audience started pounding their feet, clapping consistently. No one was going anywhere. "Starship Trooper" was the encore. My favorite song, probably everyone's. Squire came out with his bass like a loaded gun, pointing it at the crowd, shifting across the stage. YES reminded us who they were, who they've always been and still are to present. The hippie dude with his tye dye shirt in the row beside me was absolutely screaming, standing incessantly. Teenage kids were taking pictures with their cellphones and sending them off to friends. A grey haired lady who looked like a band manager had known every word to every song and was blaring. Great performance. YES rocked.
I've Seen All Good People
Yours Is No Disgrace
And You And I
Owner Of A Lonely Heart
South Side Of The Sky
Heart Of The Sunrise
Starship Trooper (encore)