It was only last year – – This past Saturday to be exact – – when prog legends Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, and Rick Wakeman brought Yes music to Clearwater. But this was Yes like you’ve never heard before. Steve Howe and Alan White were not present in any way. It was the three mentioned, along with Louis Molino III on drums, and from Jeff Lynne’s ELO’s backing band, lefty Lee Pomeroy on bass.
In April, rather than new music, the second US leg of their tour was announced, where they wanted to hit some towns they didn’t play last time around. But they must have loved Clearwater’s energy so much, they came back. Oh, and not to mention like, three other dates in Florida. (in order, Melbourne, Clearwater, West Palm Beach, and Miami)
Like last year, the show’s beginning at precisely 8:00 alerted us with a symphonic rendition of the main riff of Perpetual Change. Following the backing members, Rabin in his black t-shirt, and Wakeman in his wizard cape (because why the hell not?) walked out from opposite sides and hugged to the roar of the audience. The four ripped right into 90125’s Cinema, and the night began.
In the middle of the song, Jon Anderson came fluttering out, completing the lineup. As he hopped onto his platform so he could reach the microphone, the opening riff of Perpetual Change could be heard.
Many changes were made from last year’s setlist to improve, or deteriorate, the fans’ wants. I’ve Seen All Good People replaced with the Fragile album track, South Side Of The Sky, and off their massive 1991 reunion album Union, Lift Me Up replaced with another Rabin-era song, Changes. Really, the only major blow was the removal of The Meeting, an Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe song, which was replaced with I Am Waiting, off of 1994’s Talk.
But who’s anybody to complain? Anderson bolted out the 12 songs played in two hours, Rabin shredded out a solo running roughly four minutes near the end of Hold On, and Wakeman pounded out an organ solo just as long in the middle of their 20 minute 1977 epic, Awaken. And you can’t forget about the backing members either. Pomeroy got a number of bass solos, some of which could convince you that original Yes bassist, the late Chris Squire was present. Molino smashed out hits with an energy that greatly differed from what original drummer Bill Bruford or current drummer of Steve Howe’s Yes, Alan White had.
But the part of the show that was perhaps most unexpected was the jam session at the end of their main set. Following the end of their smash hit Owner Of A Lonely Heart, all five of the guys began to play solos, change key, and even stop to listen to the backing members. When both guys finished, they received a “thumbs up” of approval from Rabin. Last time around, Rabin and Wakeman simply walked off stage and into the first five or six rows of the audience. But hearing Yes simply jam out, and do a brief cover of Sunshine Of Your Love by supergroup Cream was better for a fan who just came for the music.
Anybody can run up and touch Rick Wakeman’s glittery cape, but not many get to hear Yes cover Cream.
“Some of these songs were written 42, 3 years ago,” Anderson stated following the end of South Side Of The Sky. “That’s before most of you were born!” Most of the fans in the house were either in their 30s and had grown up in the Rabin era, or in their 40s, 50s, even 60s, who got to know Yes during, or perhaps before, Wakeman’s time. There was also not a soul who grew up with Anderson’s replacements, Benoît David or Jon Davison.
The show wrapped up with an encore of Roundabout, which excluded Squire’s bass solo. It had just about everybody in the nearly sold out house on their feet, singing and clapping along to the kings of prog. Will the guys tour together again? It’s very likely – – With new music on the way, a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction earlier this year, and a name change to Yes feat. ARW, (as oppose to simply ARW last year) perhaps this won’t be the end of the road.
And even if it is, there’s always Howe and White.