YES and STYX Progressive US Tour MGM Grand Theater Foxwoods Resort Casino Mashantucket, CT July 8, 2011
Two of rock’s greatest bands, Yes and Styx, teamed up for an awesome concert at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods on Friday, July 8, just a few days into their “Progressive U.S. Tour.”Truly one of the pioneers of prog-rock, Yes played the first set, showing off their impeccable musicianship and reverence for their four-decade catalog of hits, album tracks and songs from their new CD.Styx followed, rocking harder than ever and put on an exciting rock 'n roll show (read Styx review).
Yes hit Foxwoods amidst a virtual shit-storm surrounding founding member and lead vocalist Jon Anderson, who told Rolling Stone in a story that hit newsstands just as the tour kicked off earlier in the week that he was disappointed he was replaced in the band as they apparently grew impatient waiting these last few years for him to recover from acute respiratory illness. Worse, he claims no one in the group actually called to tell him.
So, while the absence of Anderson, the lyrical heart-and-soul of the band, was disappointing to the MGM Grand faithful, this is nothing new to their fans.Yes has a long history of members coming and going. Former Yes keyboard player Geoff Downes has returned in place of Rick Wakeman (who left for the fifth time after rejoining for their anniversary tour a few years back). It's been three years since Anderson was replaced by vocalist Benoit David, who was discovered in Yes tribute band Close To The Edge.
Guitar-god Steve Howe is on board, along with fellow “classic lineup” members Alan White on drums and founder/bassist Chris Squire.The new album, Fly From Here, was produced by Trevor Horn, who also produced their 1983 album 90125 with the hit, Owner Of A Lonely Heart.
Anderson, according to Rolling Stone, is touring in a two-man show with Wakefield, but only a few days a week. Road warriors Howe and Downes, on the other hand, tour with Asia when Yes isn’t out there.The perception is that the rest of the group wanted to move on in order to play more shows.Anderson also told RS he grew unhappy during the last tours; onstage, his health issues made it difficult to sing, and offstage, he and Wakeman traveled in a separate bus."We had the happy car," says Anderson. "They were in the grumpy car."
Online fan chatter I saw leading up to the show was, predictably split, with some long-time Yes fans loving the new CD while some die-hards yelp that it sounds more like Asia (why wouldn’t it, with Howe and White making up a big part of it) or The Buggles (the ‘80s band with Downes and Horn) and howl that Benoit David was plucked from a tribute band.Let’s get reasonable, folks.If someone is going to sing as difficult a setlist as Anderson’s, he’d better be trained for it, and David had already been singing the songs (and sounding pretty much like Anderson) for years.
With all that in mind, we were anxious to see what transpired when the lights came up on Yes’ set and the band played a set that was satisfying to old-schoolers and accessible to relative newbies who were there for Styx. They kicked it off in grand, epic, prog-rock style, delivering Tempus Fugit and Yours Is No Disgrace before hitting classic-rock standards Your Move / I’ve Seen All Good People and Owner Of A Lonely Heart.David added a youthful look and energy to the band and Downes, who was surrounded by a virtual castle of keyboards (I counted nine), is a proficient player.Longtime drummer Alan White pounded out the rhythms with a booming kick-drum and bassist/founding member Chris Squire (the only one who’s never left the group) supplied a steady low end you could feel.
But it was guitarist Howe’s show, showing off why he’s one of rock’s greatest axe slingers.His technical prowess and feel for the instrument are awe-inspiring.His guitar tech handed him a different guitar for every song and as many as three guitars in one song, including a stationary instrument on a stand, which he played several times (so he wouldn’t have to put down the one strapped over his shoulder) and his scintillating electric pedal steel work.
David introduced Fly From Here, the first new Yes single in ten years, followed by And You And I and closed with the classic Roundabout.
Howe was amazing throughout.Downes took on greater visibility near the end, playing keytar and stirred up some pizzazz from the more typically laid-back Howe and Squire.
Pick up my keytar and play: Geoff Downes adds a tenth keyboard (by our count) to his arsenal.
Vocalist Benoit David did an admirable job in a tough position.He has a nice stage presence and good voice but seemed a little pitchy a few times (like on I’ve Seen All Good People).They’re tough songs.No wonder Anderson wound up in the hospital.Yes die-hards I talked to after the show were enthusiastic.Colin, who traveled from Toronto to see Yes for the 47th time, said he missed Anderson but “it was a very good show, very good!”
“Great show! I love Yes; I’ve always loved Yes,” said Dave from New Haven, who plays guitar in a Yes tribute himself.
“I loved it!I’m a Yes fan from way back,” said Penny of Moodus, CT.“I’d rather hear them do the new stuff because you don’t miss Jon so much, but I loved it.It was fantastic.”
Steve Howe, Benoit David, Alan White, Geoff Downes and Chris Squire take a final bow