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Artists: Yes

Venue: Liverpool, Philharmonic Hall

Date: 26th May 2024

"The fans are in raptures. There’s nothing from the Rabin era but we don’t care - tonight is a tale that we will share."


Photos © Mike Ainscoe
Photos © Mike Ainscoe

Prog legends Yes announced in the summer of 2021 that they would be touring the following year and playing the 1974 ‘Relayer’ album in full. The response was very positive. Diehards as well as new fans were anticipating hearing the three songs played live. Unfortunately, without any reasonable explanation the tour was pushed back twelve months and ‘Relayer’ was no longer featured, which is a damn shame as I’ve only ever heard ‘Gates Of Delirium’ played live in the forty years since I first witnessed the band on stage. The keyboard warriors were out in their droves with the reasons why the album was not being performed. The two main reasons being that guitarist Steve Howe could no longer replicate his guitar parts and that keyboardist Geoff Downes would struggle to perform Patrick Moraz’s parts.

Yes finally played the aforementioned tour and performed the ‘Close To The Edge’ long player in full. It was a fabulous tour and as soon as it finished, they announced a ‘Relayer’ tour for 2023. Once again, a few months later the tour was postponed and fast forward to this summer and we now have “The Classic Tales’ tour instead. Yes enthusiasts will probably realise the reference to the ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ album which turned fifty last year and their disappointment slightly dissipated at the lack of ‘Relayer’ tunes.

Normally Yes shows run for at least two and a half hours and they have a great stage set designed by the iconic Roger Dean. Times must be hard and maybe age is playing a factor (Steve Howe is seventy seven), as the stage is pretty bare and the night will be split into two one hour sets. The band enter the fray to the sounds of ‘The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra’ and immediately we’re off with ‘Machine Messiah’ from the 1980 ‘Drama’ album, which also happens to be my favourite from their extensive canon. Howe has plenty of opportunity to display his guitar prowess – he still has it. Jon Davison is finally comfortable in his role as frontman and his voice sounds in fine fettle. Billy Sherwood prowls around the stage with some amazing sounds emanating from his bass. Geoff Downes’ keyboards fit in perfectly and drummer Jay Schellen excels during the heavier parts and is very subtle during the few quieter moments. It’s a lovely surprise to hear ‘It Will Be A Good Day’ from ‘The Ladder’ and it suits Davison’s ethereal vocals.

Howe’s trademark steel guitar is wheeled out for a stonking ‘Going For The One’ and once again he proves that he’s a master of his unusual instrument! Sherwood plays some great notes on that bass. ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ features superb harmonies and the large crowd have ample opportunities to clap along. ‘Time And A Word’ is another nugget that’s been revived and Davison sings it beautifully. Climate change isn’t new as the awesome ‘Don’t Kill The Whale’ from 1978’s ‘Tormato’ proves. Howe plays some wonderful solos throughout. The first set draws to a close with the absolute wonderful ‘Turn Of The Century’ with initially just Howe on acoustic guitar and Davison on vocals before the remaining members join one by one. The band receive a well-deserved standing ovation.

Set two begins with the haunting ‘South Side Of The Sky’, Downes plays some superb keyboards throughout. ‘Cut From The Stars’ from the band’s latest album goes down well and then it’s time for the main course. ‘Topographic…’s four twenty-minute compositions are trimmed into a twenty-minute best of, so to speak, which the crowd and myself thoroughly enjoyed. I’d love to hear a studio version of this, as opposed to the bloated eighty-minute double album. Cue another well-deserved standing ovation. Don’t go home just yet; the band are back to play the obligatory encores ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Starship Trooper’, both are superbly executed. The fans are in raptures. There’s nothing from the Rabin era but we don’t care - tonight is a tale that we will share.


Review: Az Chaudhry Photos: Mike Ainscoe


Gallery: All photos © Mike Ainscoe (used with kind permission)




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