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Yes revives the sounds of two beloved albums

08/08/2014 7:02 AM

08/08/2014 1:38 PM

The songs for most of Thursday night’s show at the Midland theater were composed more than 40 years ago.

And most of the nearly 1,500 people in the place knew them by heart.

The English progressive-rock band Yes was in Kansas City, and for most of its two-hour show, it performed two of its more beloved albums, each in its entirety. Between the albums they dropped in two new songs. And during the encore, for good measure, they performed two of their premium standards.

Yes opened with the “Close to the Edge” album, but this evening it would be played in reverse order, starting with “Siberian Khatru.” For the most part, songs were performed the way they were recorded.

Occasionally a twist was added, such as Chris Squire’s brief harmonica interlude on “And You and I.”

This version of Yes comprises longtime members Squire on bass, Steve Howe on guitar and Alan White on drums, plus Geoff Downes on an array of keyboards and Jon Davison, lead vocalist since 2012. Davison’s voice bears a close resemblance to a 1970s version of Yes’ founding lead singer, Jon Anderson, who left the band in 2008. A few times the resemblance was uncanny.

The band played beneath a triptych of video screens, with images including rudimentary graphics and several Roger Dean illustrations. A primitive but effective light show also embellished the visuals. And there were plenty of instrumental fireworks all night.

Howe’s steel guitar during “And You and I” was an early highlight. So was Squire’s solo during “I Get Up, I Get Down.”

Yes’ songs typically feature many moving parts, but the band executes them with an ease and precision that betrays the songs’ complexities. Though he appears almost frail, Howe is still a spectacular guitarist.

The crowd this evening was extraordinarily enthusiastic. Several times, fans stood and, as if moved by a preacher in a tent revival, raised their arms, swayed and submitted to the music and the lyrics, which can be as mystic as they are holistic. Even during some of the longer instrumentals, the crowd was locked in and attentive.

The only real lull in the show came during the two newer songs off the most recent Yes album, “Heaven and Earth.” Both were pleasant but pedestrian.

They followed those with the album “Fragile.” Howe reignited the mood in the room instantly with the intro to “Roundabout,” the band’s best-known song. It has aged remarkably well.

That stirred a rousing ovation, but the song that got the loudest response of the night was “Long Distance Runaround,” which featured some great harmonies between Davison and Squire. Howe followed that with another stellar moment: the guitar instrumental “Mood for a Day,” which he played alone on stage.

For the encore, they dug even deeper into their trove of prog-rock gold, pulling two from “The Yes Album”: “I’ve Seen All Good People” and then “Starship Trooper,” during which Downes joined his mates onstage to play the keytar.

That was a rare surprise on a night that was more about nostalgia, rituals and the live revivals of two beloved albums.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

SET LIST

Siberian Khatru; And You and I; Close to the Edge; Believe Again; The Game; Roundabout; Cans and Brahms; We Have Heaven; South Side of the Sky; Five Per Cent for Nothing; Long Distance Runaround; The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus); Mood for a Day; Heart of the Sunrise. Encore: I’ve Seen All Good People; Starship Trooper.

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