Concert review: Yes, Vector Arena

By Scott Kara

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Prog-rock band Yes. Photo / Supplied
Prog-rock band Yes. Photo / Supplied

There are nine keyboards stacked three storeys high in a control centre configuration.

The trippy-meets-touchie feelie visuals on the big screen transport you back to a bygone era when flares were still in vogue and people walked around seeing double.

And the first song stretches out over 20-or-so spectacular minutes.

This is 70s prog-rock Yes-style, people.

And that first song, Yours Is No Disgrace, off 1971's The Yes Album, sets the tone for the show with sprawling, multi-layered songs that come in an array of parts and grand, epic endings.

Though the 70s survivors only play an intimate-sized Vector Arena set-up tonight, more than 40 years, 20 studio albums, and many of the longest songs ever to grace a hi-fi system later, they still have a devout following.

There's everyone from a dancing and flailing hippy, who doesn't stop moving for almost two and a half hours, to the bloke sitting next to me who brought his favourite Yes vinyl along in a hope of getting it signed.

And why not, because it is also the first time the band have played in New Zealand.

Apart from the six-part, 25-minute long title track off latest Fly From Here, which is a little out of kilter and torturous, it's thrilling and over the top.

The hammer and tongs proto-prog-metal of Heart of the Sunrise is relentless, as it spasms between heaviness and beautiful balladry, new singer Jon Davison (on his debut with the band tonight) is a powerful tranquillity on I've Seen All Good People (which featured in the film Almost Famous), and though 80s anthem Owner of a Lonely Heart sounds a little out of place it's great to hear that riff.

Though it's Davison's first show with the band, he does original singer Jon Anderson proud. And while he is a little tentative at times, the man who used to be in a Yes tribute band hardly misses a note, which is impressive considering these are hard and high songs to sing.

But it's Yes' old guard who drive the songs along. Keyboardist Geoff Downes is like an octopus as he reaches out around his control centre, drummer Alan White is a solid antidote to the pomp, founder and bass player Chris Squire is a typically propulsive presence, and the star of the show is guitarist Steve Howe who plays four different guitars, and a mandolin, sometimes all within one song.

Yes, this is impressive stuff, indeed.

What: Yes
Where: Vector Arena, Auckland
When: Sunday, April 1

- NZ Herald

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