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Yes perform ‘Close to the Edge’ at Honeywell

Prog rock pioneers will perform entire album during Honeywell stop

Yes will be at Honeywell Center on Nov. 10.

Wheat Williams

Whatzup Features Writer

Published November 2, 2022

The word “legendary” is overused, but the band called Yes really are rock legends. 

When you think progressive rock, you think metal, but it wasn’t always so. If you know of a progressive metal band today that say they were not influenced by the British band Yes and their albums of the ’70s and ’80s, well, they are lying. 

Yes, with bands like Emerson Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, and Genesis, founded the original blend of styles called “progressive,” starting with the instruments of a rock band and fusing together elements of European classical music, jazz, country, British folk music, and anything else they could fold into carefully crafted compositions. 

They broke out of the strictures of the three-minute pop song, creating sprawling instrumental suites that filled a whole side of a vinyl album. 

This year Yes is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the most revered and influential of all the albums in the genre of progressive rock, their 1972 release Close to the Edge. They’ll be stopping by Wabash’s Honeywell Center on Thursday, Nov. 10, for the Close to the Edge: 50th Anniversary Tour.

Guitarist among greatest

Yes is a musicians’ band, virtuosos all. 

They created a distinct sound, filled with interwoven melody lines, odd meter changes and complex rhythms, intricate keyboard and synthesizer textures, peculiar lyrics reflecting Eastern spirituality, tight three-part harmony vocals, and most importantly, a positive, uplifting vibe that separated them from their peers. 

In the ’70s and ’80s, they filled arenas and stadiums across Europe, the U.S., and Japan. Album-Oriented Rock radio stations would play their epic suites straight through late at night.

The face of Yes is guitarist Steve Howe. In the 1970s many regarded him as the greatest guitarist ever. He’s undeniably among the most versatile, playing electric, acoustic, 12-string, classical, and pedal steel guitars, sometimes all within the same song, and incorporating and blending influences from rock, jazz, country, and classical music into Yes’ unique style. 

In the ’70s, Howe was voted Best Rock Guitarist and Best Overall Guitarist five consecutive years in Guitar Player magazine’s readers’ poll. To clear the way for more artists to get elected, the magazine had to put him in a Gallery of Greats. Forty years later, in 2020, Guitar World’s reader’s poll placed him at No. 23 in the greatest rock guitarists of all time.

 replacing a legend

Founding and much-revered bass player and harmony vocalist Chris Squire pioneered a unique style for rock, creating an independent bass melody line in counterpoint to the singer and the chords, and in contrast to the drum beat as well. 

Sadly, Squire passed away in 2015, but not before asking his longtime collaborator Billy Sherwood to be his successor. 

We spoke with Sherwood, who has worked in and around the band for 30 years as songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer before becoming their bass player.

Sherwood, now in his 50s, was a Squire fan from his earliest days. 

“I think it’s fair to say that every bass player learns who Chris Squire is and what his contribution was to music,” Sherwood said. “Chris was completely unique and individual in his approach with the bass in the band. And unfortunately for my early bands, I wanted to go that direction. My bandmates would say, ‘Do you have to play so much? Couldn’t you just play the root note?’ And I would say, ‘Well, that’s not what Chris would do!’ ”

In addition to Yes, Sherwood has been all through the prog-rock microcosm, playing with and producing many artists. 

“My black book, if you will, became quite large over these many years,” he said. It would be easier to name the ones he hasn’t worked with. “Yeah, well, it’s getting to be a small list at this point,” he said. “I still haven’t been able to work with Sting, Kate Bush, or Peter Gabriel. So, if they are out there, listening …” he laughed.

Band members come, go

Yes has been through many lineup changes as key members drifted in and out of their orbit. 

In 2017, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their performance of “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” featured the now-traditional rock star restrained acrimony as former members not on speaking terms briefly reunited and played together on stage. Following that, founding singer Jon Anderson and previous members guitarist Trevor Rabin and keyboardist Rick Wakeman formed their own reunion and toured for a couple of years.

Backing up through the branches of a formidable family tree, Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes first joined the group for an album in 1980, then went off with Howe to form an arena rock supergroup, Asia, whose career has paralleled Yes. In a complicated thread, the original lineup of Asia reunited in 2006, toured with Yes for a while, then Downes rejoined Yes in 2011. In addition to Yes, Downes is still performing with Asia, without Howe, but with Sherwood on bass.

At 75, Howe is determined to soldier on with Yes despite great loss. 

Squire died in 2015. John Wetton, singer and bass player of Asia, died in 2017. In March of this year, Yes’ drummer of 50 years, Alan White, passed away. On Oct. 2, a memorial concert was given in White’s honor in his adopted home of Seattle. Members of Heart, Queen, Pearl Jam, Dream Theater, Fleetwood Mac, Santana, and more paid respects and jammed with Yes. They also performed “Imagine” and “My Sweet Lord,” songs White recorded with John Lennon and George Harrison before he joined Yes. 

Today, Yes is Howe, Downes, Sherwood, Jon Davison on vocals, and Jay Schellen on drums. In addition to performing Close to the Edge in its entirety, they will play classics from throughout their career and songs from their 2021 album The Quest.

 Yes, legends all.

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