Prog Rock Progenitors – Yes- Light Up Kansas City

In what seems to have become a bi-annual tradition, prog rock legends, Yes, returned to the Midland Theater in Kansas City. After having played in town several times in recent years, maybe fans decided to sit this one out, as the show wasn’t near sold out. This was also the band’s first performance in Kansas City since the passing of founding member, bassist Chris Squire. The band would appropriately pay tribute to him that evening. Replacing Squire on bass was Billy Sherwood, who is no stranger to Yes fans, having recorded on albums Open Your Eyes, and The Ladder.

Billed as the 50th anniversary tour, Yes fans expected to have many surprises in store. The setlist certainly contained some surprises. Opening with perennial classic Close to the Edge, as the band seems to do every show, kept things somber for 20+ minutes, with Sherwood blistering through the bass solos, and Downes juggling his multiple keyboards, and synthesizers. Notably absent was drummer Alan White (who would later make an appearance during the 3-song encore). Sitting in on the throne, taking a break from his stint in Raiding the Rock Vault was Asia, and Hurricane drummer, Jay Schellen. 

Things quickly transitioned into Nine Voices from 1999’s The Ladder, before returning to the 70’s for Parallels. For the casual fan, or those unfamiliar with the catalog, it would be very difficult to tell when one song was ending, and another one beginning. Prog rock is known for long, non-radio-friendly pieces, and Yes certainly gave us no shortage of those that evening. Steve Howe served as a sort of MC for the evening, introducing most pieces, and band members and, of course, leading the evening’s tribute to Squire.

With a library of classics as extensive as Yes, things will invariably be left out, as so many songs are deemed classics. City of the Angels, and Seen All Good People were noticeably absent from the set list, surprising that two of the band’s best-known songs would be missing from a 50th anniversary celebration, but that’s one of the surprises they had in store, I suppose. 

The concert was broken into two sets, with a three-song encore, as mentioned; after the band finished Awaken, original keyboardist Tony Kaye was introduced, and came out to join the band for Yours is No Disgrace, Roundabout and Starship Trooper, leaving the audience on their feet for the remainder of the evening. 

Though most of the band are pushing their 60’s, and 70’s, they keep a heavy touring schedule, and genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves while onstage playing for fans. Though this iteration of Yes includes Jon Davison on vocals, rather than Anderson, he handles the falsettos effortlessly, and delivers a stellar performance. While the ARW incarnation of Yes brings a livlier, more commercial type of performance, the Howe company brings the mellow, deeper cut, psychedelic/brownie-friendly music. And both are fantastic.

Lifelong fans will enjoy hearing the soundtrack of their teenage years, and reminisce about sitting in their parents’ basement while getting…the munchies. Casual fans will enjoy the musicianship, and mastery of instruments displayed by all members of the band. With Alan sitting out for most of the show, it’s difficult to say how much longer he’ll remain on heavy tour with Yes.

In short,  when Yes is in town, it’s a show not to be missed.

Words and Photos by Josh Chaikin

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