Seeing Yes is kind of like going to a horror movie: you’re knowingly subjecting yourself to something that many people can’t bear to watch. But you’re going because you’re not afraid of long songs, odd time signatures, nonsensical lyrics and a triple necked bass guitar — it’s entertainment! You’re choosing to go on a musical journey that takes you places — even outside your comfort zone.
The word that kept coming to mind during Thursday night’s show at the Paramount was “vintage.” In the case of Procol Harum, perhaps it was because the band’s biggest hit, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” was released back in 1967. The band was led by keyboardist Gary Brooker, a statesman-like Brit who sounds like a slight mixture of Joe Cocker and Randy Newman. The hour-long set, which also included the crowd pleaser, “A Salty Dog,” elicited warm applause from the sparsely populated theater. At 67-years-old, hats off to Brooker and his band for delivering an organ-rich, solid set and impressive vocal performance.
By the time Yes came on stage, more seats had been filled, but not as many as I expected. I saw Yes play the Paramount back in 2009, and to put it simply, a lot fewer people saw a lot better show this time around. With bands that have been around for decades, there’s always that lingering question of, “When is it time to hang it up because now you’re degrading the legacy of your work?” In 2009, I thought Yes had passed that point. They seemed tapped of energy and inspiration, and I mentally noted that I’d probably never see them again.
Fast forward a couple years and things have changed — which is business as usual for Yes. The group is more of a fraternity than a band, with members coming and going every new “semester” (tour). The incoming freshman, Jon Davison, replaces Benoit David, who had replaced the founding iconic singer, Jon Anderson. Can Yes really be Yes without Anderson? It turns out that Davison can do Anderson better than Anderson can at this stage — voice, vibe and all. Add to the mix that Geoff Downes (Asia) has returned to the keys after a 30-year hiatus, as well as the fact that last year’s “Fly From Here” was the first new material in a decade, and you have a band with new life.
Tracks like “America,” “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Heart of the Sunrise” contained new sparks of excitement. And while the tempo of “Tempus Fugit” felt awkwardly slow, the live version of “Fly From Here” was far superior than the studio version, earning its place alongside the classics. Glaringly absent was “Owner of a Lonely Heart” — apparently it wasn’t vintage enough. For at least one night in Denver, time was kind … and the old was still very good.
Alan Cox is the president/creative director of Cox Creative, a Highlands Ranch-based creative shop. He works too much, sleeps too little and spends every free moment coaching baseball, shooting images and hanging out with his rowdy sons and rowdier wife. Check out his photos here.
Todd Radunsky is a Boulder-based photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.