Mystic Lake Casino, Prior Lake
Friday, August 9, 2013
After an evening sauna, we headed out over yonder, out to Prior Lake. As the eye of the sun stared at us and the giant windmill came into sight, slowly Mystic Lake appeared above the roads and hills as we came closer to the venue. Approaching the building on foot we knew it would be no easy task through the labyrinth of video poker and slot machines to witness our favorite English prog rock veterans, Yes. But whilst gallivanting about, lost in a maze of electronic boxes with names like Gorilla Chief, Colossal Wizard and Wild Panda toward the casino auditorium we felt an air of musical spirit and were determined. Steadily we started to feel the rumbling bass and the doors flew open, the guards scanned our tickets and showed us the way.
A large video montage of Yes and a full surrounding sonic blend of the band's intro music was accompanied by an equally enveloping symphonically primed canvas for Yes to recreate two of their most cherished LP's Close to the Edge from 1972 and 1971's simply titled, yet extraordinary complex, The Yes Album. For the some 2,000 and some change seated audience what an overblown and delicious piece of progressive majesty it was.
The present incarnation of Yes which includes kingpin, Chris Squire on bass, the immeasurable Steve Howe on guitar, drummer Alan White, Geoff Downes on keyboards, none of which are strangers to the material. Dutifully handling the vocals the newest member of Yes, Jon Davison. Adorned in a similar wizard-eqsue white shirt and bell-bottomed pants as original, Jon Anderson, considering the depth, lyricism and dynamic nature of Yes's vocals Davison plays a superb homage to the music and handled the job with seeming ease. Much like Arnel Pineda does with Journey, Davison does his best to not overshadow the music with his own personality and humbly provides the essential melodies helping his on stage elders paint the overall picture of the band's vintage work.
Pouncing into the deep end with the title track, "Close to the Edge" the band took the very attentive audience through the roller coaster of the famous album. Steve Howe's intricate soloing was immediately evident showing no wear through the years and played an as usual counterpoint to the aggressive style of his long standing bandmate Squire, who drives the band and the music in a their most frenetic, yet melodic nature.
With a visual bed of subtle images that spanned the color spectrum, decorating the band's on screen logo, on stage the aural cascades continued to provide space for Howe to solo ad infinitum. Often switching to an auxiliary slide guitar he famously lead Yes through the five parts of "And You and I", slowly setting things off for side two of the essential production. In harmony, Howe and Downes worked a spinning pallet of melody which typically enforced with a steady rhythm allowed for Davison to gracefully carry the vocals to a climax.
Like an ambient séance of effectious cacophany, darting synthesizers wrapped about by Squire's bass passages as he commanded his parts in a puffy sparkly shirt for "Siberian Khartu." Howe's staccato themes climbed about his hollow-body guitar, finding the groove with Yes to wrap up the first part of the set in a triumphant splendour.
Cheering along with numerous standing ovations at this point an elongated show of congratulations was bestowed upon the band. Mass appreciation for the band's efforts manifested itself, transpiring with gained momentum with each of the evening's pieces.
With spartan drumming and precise arrangements Yes never faltered when delivering the time signature-laden "Yours is No Disgrace" from the band's third and perhaps best record, The Yes Album.
Feeling the rhythm, Davison would add some tambourine and various percussion when necessary as the endless guitar meanderings would uphold prominence throughout as is typical with Yes. After all for a 12-minute song that's mostly guitar solos, what else should one do but grab some sleigh bells and feel the groove, right? Once again switching to an acoustic guitar and with beautiful pitch, Howe's brief "Clap," rich with arpeggios, helped the tracks unfold without a stop and regardless of the crowds continued ovations.
With the finish line in sight, Davison introduced the opening chorus to "I've Seen All Good People" with the audience on it's feet singing along like a biblical revival, out came the lute. In a glorious round the different cadences intertwined in vocal kinship with anthemic keyboard patches and drum accents to joyous aplomb in an intensified progression that got the audience swinging and singing along. Howe, looking a bit like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings trilogy executed precise blues riffing and soaring leads expeditiously with each continued chorus.
With a climax of confetti cannons, Yes tied the evening together nicely with the obviously challenging "Perpetual Change" and their own trademark ease. As if hearing two rock masterpieces wasn't enough the audience remained on their feet as the band took a bow and a much needed break.
Returning to the stage amid a wave of synthesizer washes, Howe hit the first unforgettable acoustic guitar harmonics for the intro to "Roundabout". With Squire's convulsive bass lines and the pounding rhythm the audience swayed, singing along with Davison for the band's biggest hit from their '70s heyday.
It could be said Yes didn't show their age as they have always been ahead of their time and completely futuristic. Strictly focused on the music, the performance Friday evening is simply the band capitalizing on their past accomplishments and proving their never ending efficiency to which the crowd never stopped showing compounded appreciation for through the years.
Critic's Bias: Having never seen Yes, I looked forward to the pleasure of hearing two of their best records in the live setting. Not getting too holier than thou about original band membership I thought Davison sang his parts supremely and flawlessly.
The Crowd: A really good and even mix of kinda nerds and total nerds.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I just came here with my friends. I don't even really know who these guys are. Seriously, what's going on right now?"
Random Notebook Dump: It's always best to hear music like this live. As classic albums the idea this music still continues to live on in a live setting is a real treasure for the fans who know and love this stuff.
Close to the Edge
Close to the Edge
And You and I
The Yes Album
Yours Is No Disgrace
I've Seen All Good People