Yes performing their Yes At 50 Tour at The Symphony Hall Birmingham on Tuesday 20th March 2018.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

At the opening strains of Stravinski’s Firebird Suite a packed Birmingham Symphony Hall rose to their feet ecstatically and was instantly transported back to a time when progressive rock ruled the air waves.

Touring to promote their 50th anniversary, Yes concentrated on the first ten years and after their classical intro they launched straight into Yours Is No Disgrace and I’ve Seen All Good People, tracks from their 1971 classic self titled album that kick started Yes’ career and became the standard by which other progressive albums would be measured.

Yes are a group that have been through nineteen members and have ended up as two touring incarnations, and whilst in this one only guitarist Steve Howe remains from their classic line up, they have a long history of integrating great musicians seamlessly into the band and the current line up is no less proficient and polished as one would expect.

In a show that was divided into two halves, the first hour covered the most popular songs from Yes’ twenty one studio albums with the likes of classics and fans favourites Parallels and Wondrous Stories. There was a brief tribute to the recently deceased original bass player Chris Squire with his composition, Onward, before Howe took centre stage for a subliminal acoustic version of Mood For A Day.

Singer Jon Davison had an incredibly hard job filling Jon Anderson’s shoes, but he made the songs his own as he brought the audience to their feet again with first half closer And You And I which was certainly a highlight of the evening.

Billy Sherwood filled the late Chris Squire’s shoes on bass and although Alan White did make a short appearance behind the drum kit later in the set, his recent poor health meant that this role was taken mainly by Jay Schellen who did a sterling job. Geoff Downes, as inventive and talented a player as ever, completed this current line up surrounded by his bank of keyboards.

If you think of a Yes album cover, images of Roger Dean’s Artwork instantly come to mind, and last night the band played in front of large screens displaying his work, which all added to the sense of history and occasion.

Starting the second half with The Revealing Science Of God from the ground breaking Tales From Topographic Ocean, a double album from 1973 which gave Yes their first number one. Undoubtedly a magnificent piece of work, it allowed all of the band members to showcase their talents. Howe played his guitar like an absolute demon as he transfixed this audience when he switched between multiple styles on different guitars frequently within a single song, and Downes’ keyboard work was superb as he held together the typically intricate and complex web that Yes are renown for.

Howe and Davidson joined for a beautiful duet of Leaves Of Green, an extract from The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) with Sherwood joining the pair to harmonise on vocals. The beautiful Ballad, Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) was also given an airing, and applause filled the Hall as White appeared behind the drums for the closing part of it.

To round the evening off and with the audience on their feet, the band returned to their early years with their hit Roundabout and a superb storming version of Starship Trooper which brought an end to a great evening.

Last night Yes showed that in the era of progressive rock, there were none better. But this version of Yes whilst still flying the flag is certainly more for the purists.