Mandelay Bay, Las Vegas 4/21/04
By Dale Nickey:
Another year, another Yes incarnation. One of the few bands from ’60s that has all members and alumni alive and in remarkably good health. Not by luck, but testimony to the mysterious force Karma, because Yes music was and remains stubbornly and unfashionably positive and spiritually nourishing to performer and listener. After watching the steep decline of the “Trevor Years”, Las Vegas would have been the projected sight of the band’s final death throws ala’ Chicago and Air Supply. However, the Yes twilight years have been their most heroic and fascinating. The “KEYS TO ASCENSION” reunion with Rick Wakeman was to be their realife firebird suite. A resurrection from the ashes of punk. Rick’s health problems crumpled that blueprint.
The long march back to the limelight took a little longer than projected. Detours into symphonia, infirmity, solo albums, and HOB residencies have finally culminated in a proper reunion of the classic Yes lineup; returning to their rightful place on the Hockey arena circuit and supported by “rock blocks” on classic rock radio.
Yes still refuses to play safe. Their Las Vegas show was lavish, loud, and as always, precise and expertly played. All bases were covered. “Unplugged set”, new wardrobe, Roger Dean stage set, predictable favorites, unpredictable gems, and a set spanning most significant points in the Yes canon. I saw “Going for the One” coming a mile a way. “Every Little Thing” was a left hook to the jaw. “And You and I” somehow retains its majesty while “South Side of Sky” is a welcome respite from “Heart of the Sunrise”.
“Ritual” was a, ahem… curious choice for a set closer. Steve Howe’s closing outro to “Turn of the Century” was staggeringly beautiful and daring. If “Awaken” is becoming a little too familiar to the band they might have a go at “Homeworld” from “The LADDER”. Let Rick sink his teeth into that one. Am I alone in thinking that piece has been criminally neglected since the “House of Yes” tour? It was transporting when I saw it performed.
Yes has climbed the mountain tops. Been the biggest band in the world, public enemy #1 in the late 70’s. Out of touch, out of funds and now have returned as a respected elder of the music business. They stake credible claim to the title “The Worlds Finest Progressive Group”. Actually, the “Best Band in the World” period. That will do. Show me a better one. You can’t.
Hello Hall of Fame???!!!! Now that The Dells are safely in, maybe you can grow some balls and pay grudging respect to 40,000,000 record buyers five consummate, committed and enlightened musicians who, by the way, happen to be FAMOUS!