Live Review – YES At Manchester Bridgewater Hall – by John Wenlock-Smith

This was a particularly good show, if not just a little strange at times. The evening started with a few words from legendary album cover artist Roger Dean, who has worked with Yes for over 50 years, a true gentleman and very enthusiastic about the works he has created for the band over the years.

He started off by talking about the loss of Alan White and played a short sequence of images of Alan’s time with the band, then Yes came onstage and started their first set with On the Silent Wings of Freedom from the ‘Tormato’ album, a song that rarely gets played live. The band were up for it though with Steve Howe especially energised for the proceedings.

There were a few gremlins sound wise but the band got through it very professionally. Billy Sherwood’s Bass was a huge sounding behemoth, very Chris Squire like in tone, and he played some exceptionally good lines throughout. Billy has a certain air about him, like a rock god from a bygone age with his long flowing hair and his boots very much an image, but he can certainly play that bass like a master. New drummer Jay Schellan kept things very tidy at the back, solid and uncluttered, much like Alan White used to really.

This latest incarnation of Yes is very much orchestrated, led and driven these days by Steve Howe, who was constantly issuing instructions to the other band members with his hands or voice. Steve is the last member with a connection to their golden age (of which ‘Close To The Edge’ is a major capstone of course). Sure, you could moan about the lack of the presence of either Rick Wakeman or Jon Anderson, however the integrity of this band stays true under Steve’s guidance. Jon Davison may not have the presence of Anderson but he is a very fine singer for this version of Yes.

The band then played Yours Is No Disgrace, which was the first of several longer pieces performed tonight. This song was obviously a long-time favourite of many of the audience who’s average age was sixty plus. It is very strange being part of a crowd this old and you definitely know it is odd when the toilet queue is twice as long for me as it is for women!

We then moved onto No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed, from the ‘Time and a Word’ album, one that no one onstage had been a part of but still played it with much gusto, making it one of the highlights of the evening so far. This was followed by a rousing version of Does It Really Happen from ‘Drama’ and Geoff Downes’ keyboards really shone making it really stand out. We were then treated to Steve Howe’s solo guitar piece, The Clap, which he delivered to much acclaim and a rapturous response.

The latest Yes studio album is ‘The Quest’, which got a mixed critical response. Well, here tonight ,the two tracks they played, The Ice Bridge and Dare To Know, were both very well received, with Steve howe really on fire with his playing, he gave the recurring riff and melody some real oomph! This led to Heart Of The Sunrise from ‘Fragile’, another lengthy workout for all the members again with the thunderous bass from Billy really made this memorable, it was another highlight for me.

After a short break and queuing for the toilets the show recommenced with the main event of the evening, legendary album ‘Close To The Edge’ in its entirety.

The three songs, Close To The Edge, And You And I and Siberian Khatru are possibly the very essence of Yes, they were certainly different to much that was around in 1972. These pieces both retain and contain all that makes Yes so loved, mystical lyrics and driving and unorthodox time signatures where musicians really worked and stretched a piece of music to the maximum. This evening the songs did just that, with an especially fine rendition of And You And I. With some dramatic and effective pedal steel guitar from Steve at the end, it soared out over the audience and was again very well received. Siberian Khatru was also well received and was an excellent finale to proceedings, with the crowd up on their feet clapping along with the music.

Then it was encore time and what could it be but Roundabout and Starship Trooper, both of which really rocked out, sending everyone home extremely happy and satisfied at what they had seen, Yes doing what they do best, remembering a lost colleague and progressing onward as only they can. It was an astonishing and wonderful evening and performance plus, to top it all, Roger Dean signed my copy of the Topographic Oceans CD!

You can buy tickets for the remainder of the shows at this link:

https://yesworld.com/live/

2 thoughts on “Live Review – YES At Manchester Bridgewater Hall – by John Wenlock-Smith”

  1. A very tantalising review. Am going to do my best to get to London gig, although train strike could ruin it. They still sound amazing!!

  2. Great review and captures brilliantly was a special performance this was in memory of the great AW.

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