Written by Agah Bahari and Photographs by Lee-Ann Wylie
I learned about “Progressive Rock” genre from a music encyclopedia software, called Music Central. It was highlighted as one of those “Click to Learn More” options, which was directed to a page filled with bands and albums. That very day, I learned about perhaps 50% of the bands that later become some of my favorites of all time. Rush, Genesis, King Crimson, Soft Machine, ELP, Gentle Giant, and the most recent addition to my favorites-list, Yes. Although never really listened to their music, I was well aware of the magnitude and the importance of Yes in the glorious history of Progressive Rock music. Formed in 1968 in London-England, then the capital of Progressive Rock music, Yes carry a rich history of exceptional musicianships, lengthy cosmic epics, and mystical live experiments. I was excited for the show.
Yes was back in Toronto, at Massey Hall, arguably the city’s best venue for live music performance. The show began almost right on time at 7pm without an opening act. Stepping on the dimmed down stage through the first of many standing ovations, singer Jon Davison, guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Geoff Downes and drummer Alan White, began with the title song from their 1972 masterpiece, Close to the Edge. The rich bass tone, harmonically complex yet melodic layers of guitar and keyboards, accompanied by addicting vocal melodies, were exactly the kind of promising introduction that I was hoping for. The nearly 19-minutes epic was followed by the rest of the album, the first of three albums that Yes play every night on their spring North American tour, for the first time in their entirety. Continuing with Going For The One, Yes shared with their loyal fans nothing less than absolute genius and brilliance in their understanding of life, experienced and expressed through cosmic languages of love and music.
During a 20-minutes intermission, I got to meet two fans who although were not exactly from the same generation, shared the love for Yes’s “multi-dimensional” music, and some pretty awesome “Dude!” experiences with a certain type of psychedelic substance, which although NOT glorifying at all, I was totally thinking about how awesome this music would be on it, the whole time. Beside that, the intermission was also a good opportunity to look around the audience and get a sense of the professional, serious group of people who were there to listen to this very specific, intellectually composed and arranged kind of music on a Thursday night, and I have to give them all two thumbs up for being such great, appreciative fans.
The second set of the night began with The Yes Album. With six more songs, Yes took their audience on a journey through the different combinations of colors and possibilities between rhythms, poly-rhythms and odd-time signatures, with the addition of a pretty badass triple-neck bass guitar. Also, one of the highlights of the second set was the acoustic guitar solo performance by Steve Howe, now 66, one of the most prolific guitarists of his generation, which, as every single song that night, was followed by a standing ovation.
Perpetual Change was the final song of the three-album long set. The band was gone, but soon back for the encore, the classic Roundabout, to end the two and a half hour long memorable, fulfilling show.
If you haven’t already, go see Yes. There’s probably a very good chance that I was the only one at that sold-out show who’ve had absolutely no previous experience with Yes, whatsoever. For that, I gotta thank Live Nation for the great seat, and the opportunity to experience such a legendary Progressive Rock band. But more than Live Nation, I gotta thank Yes, for creating such timeless pieces of music to which fans and enthusiasts can still relate to, become one with it and create that magical, unique and unforgettable live environment that I’ve got the chance to experience.