Live review: Asia, Yes @ the Paramount Theatre - Reverb - Reverb

Live review: Asia, Yes @ the Paramount Theatre

09 YES
Is it ridiculous to like Yes, or ridiculous to be ashamed of liking them? Photos by Mark Osler.

Since the creation of the ever-so fashion-conscious British punk rock movement in the 1970s, progressive rock has been the butt of most jokes within the musical world. For years, the feeling I would get when buying a prog rock record at Twist & Shout or Wax Trax was not unlike the shame one felt when buying pornography.

Imagine the butterflies churning in your gut as a cute alterna-chick or tattooed and pierced rockerdude scoffed and raised an ironic eyebrow as you sheepishly slid your Gentle Giant, Yes, Genesis and other ELPs across the counter — all the while, the indie rock band of the moment blaring in the background. They may as well have had a separate section for the genre hidden away in a seedy little corner of the shop where the sick puppies who get off on musical accomplishment could fulfill their twisted kicks.

14 YES

I’ve since gotten over that shame and I think that most, if not all, other prog rock fans could give a care less about what anyone else thinks about their taste in music. That has always applied to the musicians themselves — they were in it for the music, everything else be damned (including the audience sometimes!) What could be more punk rock than that?

Sure several of the more popular bands took the excesses to the extreme, but don’t most good rock stars in some form or another? And let’s face it, how cool is it that in 2009 bands like Yes, Rush and Van Der Graaf Generator are still touring to extremely dedicated fanbases, while aging punk rockers who rebelled against these “dinosaurs” and “geezers” are now appearing on reality TV shows and butter commercials — I’m looking at you Johnny, rotting.

04 ASIA
“This song is called ‘Not Enough Keyboards’!”

So, it was with my redeemed sense of prog rock pride that I went to go see Yes and Asia at the Paramount Theatre on Sunday evening. Asia, a theoretical prog rock supergroup, consisting of members of King Crimson (the one prog band it’s OK even for hipsters to like), ELP, Yes and Buggles (the band that gave us “Video Killed the Radio Star”), opened the show and was greeted with a standing ovation.

That was really odd to me, because despite their pedigree, Asia is simply awful. These are men who gave up any musical challenge and settled for middle-of-the-road dreck. They played an hour set that included their three recognizable early ’80s hits, “Only Time Will Tell,” “Don’t Cry” (done acoustically) and “Heat of the Moment,” a few album cuts, a terrible new song, as well as sad pleas for relevance by covering songs from their former, more impressive bands back catalogs.

07 ASIA

This included a tepid version of Crimson’s “In the Court of the Crimson King”, the aforementioned “Video Killed the Radio Star,” and an embarrassing take on ELP’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” in which formerly god-like drummer Carl Palmer took the opportunity to pull off a overly self-indulgent (even for prog!) solo. Cringe as I might, the crowd loved it.

The set was redeemed only by the deft performance of guitarist Steve Howe, who would pull double duty, playing in both Asia and Yes. In fact, the entire night belonged to Howe — a bespectacled, grandfatherly wisp of a man who pulled off countless amazing musical fetes in both bands sets. He is truly one of the unsung heroes of the instrument.

08 YES

In addition to Howe, Yes on this current tour consisted of original bassist Chris Squire, veteran drummer Alan White, Oliver Wakeman (the capable son of Yes primary keyboard wizard Rick) and singer Benoit David, a sonic doppelganger for original vocalist Jon Anderson, who is out of commission due to illness. The band took the stage and launched into “Siberian Khatru” a rich musical workout, which found them barely pulling it off.

Fortunately, they fared much better with the next tune, “I’ve Seen All Good People,” in which David gained respect for spot-on alto vocals and harmonic interplay with bassist Squire — one of the cornerstones of the original Yes sound. Following this was two chestnuts, “Tempus Fugit” and a very cool extended take on one of the earliest Yes tracks, “Astral Traveller” (including a more tasteful take on the drum solo by White) — a nice touch. A very weak take on “And You And I,” wasn’t.

11 YES

Following this, Howe took center stage again and shined with an acoustic solo before the band came back and cheesed it up with “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” They bounced back with the metallic, spacey “Machine Messiah,” crowd favorite “Roundabout,” and a solid version of the blistering “Heart of the Sunrise” in which bassist Squire’s signature rumbling sound was brought to the fore.

The band ended the night strongly with “Starship Trooper,” a personal favorite that again provided a sense of redemption. For Yes, too, this evening had its share of indulgent and often embarrassing moments, mainly in terms of the stage show and wardrobe. However, the audience or the band didn’t seem to care — they were just there for the music.

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Michael Behrenhausen is a Denver-based writer, musician and occasional Reverb contributor. He frequently lies down on Broadway.

Mark Osler is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.

MORE PHOTOS: Yes

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12 YES

13 YES

15 YES

Asia

01 ASIA

02 ASIA

03 ASIA

05 ASIA

06 ASIA

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  • hikingartist

    Yes has such a great catalog yet they rarely stray from the “hits” which keeps them in the nostalgia category….maybe if they played Relayer in its entirety they’d be headlining with Dream Theater
    ….nice nod to Gentle Giant.

  • hikingartist

    Yes has such a great catalog yet they rarely stray from the “hits” which keeps them in the nostalgia category….maybe if they played Relayer in its entirety they’d be headlining with Dream Theater
    ….nice nod to Gentle Giant.

  • Sean T

    “Is it ridiculous to like Yes, or ridiculous to be ashamed of liking them?”

    Neither. What is ridiculous is you posing that question in the first place. If you are personally “ashamed” you probably shouldn’t have bothered going.

  • Sean T

    “Is it ridiculous to like Yes, or ridiculous to be ashamed of liking them?”

    Neither. What is ridiculous is you posing that question in the first place. If you are personally “ashamed” you probably shouldn’t have bothered going.

  • Jon

    “Comments that are abusive, obscene, threatening, libelous or defamatory are prohibited.”

    That’s pretty ironic. You should have remembered that before you insulted their fans by suggesting it’s either ridiculous to like them or they are somehow ashamed that they like the band. REMOVE THAT LAME CAPTION(while you are busy removing this post- as we know you will)! It’s totally insulting. Get a clue.

  • Jon

    “Comments that are abusive, obscene, threatening, libelous or defamatory are prohibited.”

    That’s pretty ironic. You should have remembered that before you insulted their fans by suggesting it’s either ridiculous to like them or they are somehow ashamed that they like the band. REMOVE THAT LAME CAPTION(while you are busy removing this post- as we know you will)! It’s totally insulting. Get a clue.

  • http://www.getrealdenver.com/ John Wenzel

    Calm down, superfans. I wrote the caption and was simply referring to the writer’s opening paragraphs about elitist music fans’ opinions on prog rock. Clearly you fall on the latter side of my question.

  • http://www.getrealdenver.com/ John Wenzel

    Calm down, superfans. I wrote the caption and was simply referring to the writer’s opening paragraphs about elitist music fans’ opinions on prog rock. Clearly you fall on the latter side of my question.

  • Hobbs

    I love Journey forever!

  • Hobbs

    I love Journey forever!

  • http://www.getrealdenver.com/ John Wenzel

    Ha!

  • http://www.getrealdenver.com/ John Wenzel

    Ha!

  • don

    Asia is awful? I say in 8-0 Lingo Asia is awesome… Why write your subjectivity in such blunt manner? Can you play any one of the four instruments to the betterment of the band members, or sing better than John Wetton? I am sure not….

  • don

    Asia is awful? I say in 8-0 Lingo Asia is awesome… Why write your subjectivity in such blunt manner? Can you play any one of the four instruments to the betterment of the band members, or sing better than John Wetton? I am sure not….

  • ASIA fan

    unfortunately lots of newspaper reporters are getting paid to do reviews and write articles of groups they don’t care or like, creating controversy the article creates a little ‘spark’ those liked by editors… and here we are defending the groups and music that we love…

    I was there, people liked the show and that is what what counts…

  • ASIA fan

    unfortunately lots of newspaper reporters are getting paid to do reviews and write articles of groups they don’t care or like, creating controversy the article creates a little ‘spark’ those liked by editors… and here we are defending the groups and music that we love…

    I was there, people liked the show and that is what what counts…

  • Col. Hector Bravado – Denver S

    Despite the barbs, this was a damn fair and sensitive review from a guy who — as demonstrated by his admission of previous buying habits — has a pretty round knowledge of the bands’ oeuvres.

    And to Don: music reviewers don’t have to be able to play instruments to review music. If that were the standard, what would happen to sports journalism? ;)

  • Col. Hector Bravado – Denver Six Shooter

    Despite the barbs, this was a damn fair and sensitive review from a guy who — as demonstrated by his admission of previous buying habits — has a pretty round knowledge of the bands’ oeuvres.

    And to Don: music reviewers don’t have to be able to play instruments to review music. If that were the standard, what would happen to sports journalism? ;)

  • Sean A.M.

    To hikingartist: Yes has headlined with Dream Theater; Dream Theater opened for Yes several years ago in Ft. Collins. It was a great show, and for as many crazy/trashy Dream Theater fans as there were (I’m not a DT fan at all) Yes blew them away. Unfortunately they don’t branch-out as much as some of us might like (I didn’t even get to hear Close to the Edge all those years ago), but they have such a deep catalogue that it must be hard to choose, so they pander to their success. Sure, fans like to hear the radio singles, and Yes obviously don’t take as many chances as they did back in the day, so they oblige the laypeople.

    About Relayer: I’m pretty sure they cannot/will not ever play any of that material live because that was the first album without Rick Wakeman (Patrick Moraz was his replacement), and either Wakeman (whether it’s Rick or his son) doesn’t want to play Moraz’s parts, or Moraz doesn’t want Yes performing them. I love Relayer too, but it wasn’t much of a commercial success, and it was a different lineup from the early days. (It’s chronologically the last Yes album to which I’ll actually listen.)

    As far as the tongue-in-cheek jibe about record store employees balking at prog-rock purchases: it’s called “progressive” because it’s forward-thinking; if people don’t like it, it’s probably because they don’t have the capacity to appreciate innovation. Punk rockers don’t like it because they feel like the musicians’ playing indicates that they are better than everyone else; punk was so popular because — as a backlash to progressive/high-minded music — it was music for everyone; anyone could go to a pawn shop, buy a crummy guitar, and bang out a punk song; listening to most punk music rarely gives one the feeling that the performers are better or smarter than the listener. Unfortunately, shunning high-minded art because you feel like it makes you look bad is not a socially progressive attitude, and is also just plain juvenile. Some people spend more time thinking about their instrument and their music (or their craft) than others, and there’s nothing wrong with attention to detail; it is that attention to detail which distinguishes any master craftsman from a neophyte.

    I used to work at an indie record store — almost 7 years total — and always played Yes, (early) Genesis, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, and many others, and you’d be surprised how many eyes were opened (and albums were purchased) just by putting it out there so people could hear for themselves how thoughtful and excellent this brand of music is. I have also been to Twist&Shout a number of times specifically to buy something progressive, and have had many great conversations with whichever clerk I happened to get that day. Wax Trax is a different story … I don’t know who those damn kids think they are.

    These guys (in Yes and Asia) are getting old though, and — even though I missed this show — I’m kind of glad they didn’t play Close to the Edge when I did see the, because Alan White totally butchers Bruford’s excellence, and he drags the beats so they all play it so slowly. However, for as old as he looks, these shows are always about Steve Howe, who is certainly one of the great guitarists of all time.

    I laughed at all the comments about journalists actually being able to do what they review, so thanks for that. I applaud the author’s blunt “subjectivity,” as it’s much better than someone pretending they can somehow write an “objective” show review. I am sorry I missed this show, as John Wetton is one of my favourite vocalists; he was present for all my favorite King Crimson records.

    The answer: it is ridiculous to be ashamed of liking Yes because they are one of the greatest, most talented, thoughtful, forward-thinking, and most unique musical groups of all time; contemporary artists rarely come close to the virtuosity of Close to the Edge and other early Yes records.

  • Sean A.M.

    To hikingartist: Yes has headlined with Dream Theater; Dream Theater opened for Yes several years ago in Ft. Collins. It was a great show, and for as many crazy/trashy Dream Theater fans as there were (I’m not a DT fan at all) Yes blew them away. Unfortunately they don’t branch-out as much as some of us might like (I didn’t even get to hear Close to the Edge all those years ago), but they have such a deep catalogue that it must be hard to choose, so they pander to their success. Sure, fans like to hear the radio singles, and Yes obviously don’t take as many chances as they did back in the day, so they oblige the laypeople.

    About Relayer: I’m pretty sure they cannot/will not ever play any of that material live because that was the first album without Rick Wakeman (Patrick Moraz was his replacement), and either Wakeman (whether it’s Rick or his son) doesn’t want to play Moraz’s parts, or Moraz doesn’t want Yes performing them. I love Relayer too, but it wasn’t much of a commercial success, and it was a different lineup from the early days. (It’s chronologically the last Yes album to which I’ll actually listen.)

    As far as the tongue-in-cheek jibe about record store employees balking at prog-rock purchases: it’s called “progressive” because it’s forward-thinking; if people don’t like it, it’s probably because they don’t have the capacity to appreciate innovation. Punk rockers don’t like it because they feel like the musicians’ playing indicates that they are better than everyone else; punk was so popular because — as a backlash to progressive/high-minded music — it was music for everyone; anyone could go to a pawn shop, buy a crummy guitar, and bang out a punk song; listening to most punk music rarely gives one the feeling that the performers are better or smarter than the listener. Unfortunately, shunning high-minded art because you feel like it makes you look bad is not a socially progressive attitude, and is also just plain juvenile. Some people spend more time thinking about their instrument and their music (or their craft) than others, and there’s nothing wrong with attention to detail; it is that attention to detail which distinguishes any master craftsman from a neophyte.

    I used to work at an indie record store — almost 7 years total — and always played Yes, (early) Genesis, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, and many others, and you’d be surprised how many eyes were opened (and albums were purchased) just by putting it out there so people could hear for themselves how thoughtful and excellent this brand of music is. I have also been to Twist&Shout a number of times specifically to buy something progressive, and have had many great conversations with whichever clerk I happened to get that day. Wax Trax is a different story … I don’t know who those damn kids think they are.

    These guys (in Yes and Asia) are getting old though, and — even though I missed this show — I’m kind of glad they didn’t play Close to the Edge when I did see the, because Alan White totally butchers Bruford’s excellence, and he drags the beats so they all play it so slowly. However, for as old as he looks, these shows are always about Steve Howe, who is certainly one of the great guitarists of all time.

    I laughed at all the comments about journalists actually being able to do what they review, so thanks for that. I applaud the author’s blunt “subjectivity,” as it’s much better than someone pretending they can somehow write an “objective” show review. I am sorry I missed this show, as John Wetton is one of my favourite vocalists; he was present for all my favorite King Crimson records.

    The answer: it is ridiculous to be ashamed of liking Yes because they are one of the greatest, most talented, thoughtful, forward-thinking, and most unique musical groups of all time; contemporary artists rarely come close to the virtuosity of Close to the Edge and other early Yes records.

  • joe

    ‘Awful’ is about as good as this show gets, I think it’s embarrassing too.
    Fans pay to have a good time and will enjoy the night out remembering better times from these guys, that Yes is now a tribute band that look and sound ‘awful’ doesn’t seem to matter to them. I’ve never taken Asia seriously, but this is turning Yes into a joke. Bad show, good review imo.

  • joe

    ‘Awful’ is about as good as this show gets, I think it’s embarrassing too.
    Fans pay to have a good time and will enjoy the night out remembering better times from these guys, that Yes is now a tribute band that look and sound ‘awful’ doesn’t seem to matter to them. I’ve never taken Asia seriously, but this is turning Yes into a joke. Bad show, good review imo.

  • Yes@40

    Good review. On some of the video clips YES sound just like they did in the early 70’s. Who cares who floats it all out there as long as it rings true. They sort of are playing it safe with the set list but seeing as the iconic lead singer is absent or semi retired… To a previous poster they played half of Relayer on the Symphonic tour in 2001 and did a great job of it with full orchestra. Going forward I think they could carve a great niche continuing to go with some young players playing half a show of rarities like Machine Messiah, We can fly from here, Hold out your hand, The more we live (LetGo), To be over, We have heaven etc. and then just roll out the entire YES album. Van der Graf Generator, Yes and Rush still standing tall!

  • Yes@40

    Good review. On some of the video clips YES sound just like they did in the early 70’s. Who cares who floats it all out there as long as it rings true. They sort of are playing it safe with the set list but seeing as the iconic lead singer is absent or semi retired… To a previous poster they played half of Relayer on the Symphonic tour in 2001 and did a great job of it with full orchestra. Going forward I think they could carve a great niche continuing to go with some young players playing half a show of rarities like Machine Messiah, We can fly from here, Hold out your hand, The more we live (LetGo), To be over, We have heaven etc. and then just roll out the entire YES album. Van der Graf Generator, Yes and Rush still standing tall!