REVIEW: Great concert? Yes!

Jon Davison Yes GigCity EdmontonAbout 2,000 Edmontonians took a trip to a parallel rock ‘n’ roll universe for the duration of the Yes concert Monday night at the Jubilee Auditorium.

Lucky for fans of the band – now spanning six decades since its inception in 1968 – this is exactly what they came for.

How many bands in 2014 could start off a show with an ethereal, meandering, intricately arranged, multi-leveled, mid-tempo 18-minute song suite originally recorded in 1972, and get a standing ovation out of it? In the vapid, mass produced and contrived world of rock music in 2014, surely this would be a recipe for economic, not to mention artistic, suicide. But for Yes, it’s a reason the band is still viable over 45 years later, at least for this relatively small yet financially well off group of rabidly polite and respectful fans.

The music of Yes this night proved to be as complex as anything dreamt up by Wagner or Puccini, as they performed three albums – 1972’s “Close to the edge”, 1977’s “Going for the one”, and 1971’s “The Yes Album” – over two sets spanning two and half hours.

Yes’s music is cerebral. It is very much head music. No one is getting beaten with pool cues or broken bottles during frenzied guitar solos. If anything, fans were silently and intently listening to the various intricacies weaving in and out of the songs. Given such intense attention to detail, I suppose it was not unusual Yes took the (unusual) step of projecting surtitles of the song and album titles on the screen behind the band.

The first three three songs clocked in at a little over 40 minutes. The crowd cheered respectfully at the end of the near 20-minute “Close to the Edge” and sat down quickly and quietly before “And you and I” meandered with melodic intrigue for nearly 10 minutes further. Fans were game for another piece of 10 minute piece of magic via “Siberian Khatru” as it charmed its way intricately up, down, over and through a number of scenic melodic, rhythmic and instrumental valleys. The members of Yes clearly pride themselves on experimentation. Seconds into “Going For the One,” guitarist Steve Howe plowed headlong into a strange syncopated high speed blues riff on pedal steel guitar.

What makes this music so intellectually compelling to some people makes it completely “ungroovable” to others. This ain’t dance music. You won’t be copulating in the back seat of your girlfriend’s Range Rover to heavily folk tinged tunes like “Wonderous Stories.” Composition emphasizes originality, complexity and diversity of style as displayed in their 20 minute opus “Awaken” to end the first of two long sets. Yes, they are musical alchemists, even if they’ve never gotten laid for it.

CONTINUED: A symphony of prog rock …

1 2