YES at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 23/5/24

YES come in for so much crap these days because there are no original members in the band which is a load of baloney, not only are they keeping the spirit of the bands music alive they are also releasing new music – Mirror To The Sky released almost a year ago was superb. A tribute band? Definitely not!

And here we are on a cold (10C) drizzly May evening and hopefully we will hear some audible sunshine come through for an evening of YES music.  Whilst the Bridgewater Hall is not my favourite venue, it’s a little too bright sounding for my liking, it suits YES’ needs perfectly.

From the Drama album, Machine Messiah is an interesting choice to open the show with.  Dark and grimy, with it’s Metropolis sensibilities, is perfect to work up the crowd and the band as they lighten the mood moving into It Will Be A Good Day (The River) – Jon Davisons voice is so well suited to this song from The Ladder, such an understated album and a wonderful surprise inclusion.

As for the stage, gone are the video screens from the last few tours, replaced by a large white sheet that coloured lighting and random shapes are projected onto.  This is one the most muted stage set’s I’ve seen from the band for some time, but it works perfectly.  Band positioning on stage is pretty much the same as it has been for the last 8-10 years.  Back to the set…

The title track from my favourite YES album Going For The One, is next with Steve’s pedal steel really cutting through and Jay Schellen’s drums providing a solid, steady beat, pretty much perfect.  One of the staples of most tours, I’ve Seen All Good People is spot on and Geoff Downes recorder pads are spot on, and during Your Move Howe’s guitar playing is electrifying.  

Another surprise inclusion is Paul Simon’s America but played as an instrumental.  It is clear that Howe is thoroughly enjoying himself and Billy Sherwood is delivering some gritty Squire-esque bass but Jon Davison does look at a bit of a loss during the song.

I’m surprised at how muted the applause is from the audience, this is fantastic stuff and I am really enjoying this show.  Predating Howe’s arrival in the band Time and a Word is wonderful and I am glad they choose to play it from time to time.

Don’t Kill The Whale is another interesting inclusion with its powerful message, Howe says it was ahead of its time, I’d say it’s of it’s time as there was a huge push from Greenpeace around ‘78.

The first set ends with Turn of the Century is one of Davison’s favourite songs to sing live.  It’s trickier than you’d think, Howe’s acoustic playing is sublime and the crescendo in the middle gives me goosebumps; the standing ovation at the end of the song was well deserved and showed the crowd had finally woken up.

After a 20 minute intermission the band launched into South Side of the Sky, an utterly brilliant fan favourite from Fragile played superbly with Downes keyboards to the fore as they should be, Howe is highly animated and is clearly enjoying himself.

It is wonderful to hear a song from last years Mirror to the Sky, Cut From the Stars is a great choice and again Howe is clearly enjoying himself.  I am glad the band are also playing more current material.

Tales from Topographic Oceans is a divisive album, some think it is their best work, some can’t stand it, but the band are presenting a ‘Tales Medley’ seriously chopped and cropped.  Whilst I enjoyed it I am not sure it works particularly well, The Revealing is perhaps a little too hacked.  However, the Leaves of Green segment is lush and was the highlight of the medley, Ritual is highly enjoyable with Billy’s phased bass providing an interesting contrast.  I spoke with several friends after the show and we all had the same conclusion of this medley).

Steve Howe talks of YES’ links to Manchester, mentioning Jon Anderson who is from Accrington.  However, he failed (or purposely forgot) Rick Wakeman’s curry eating on stage at the Free Trade Hall back in late ’73 during the original Tales tour.

The second set felt short at 37 minutes but the band are soon called back for an encore with the omnipresent Roundabout with the audience give them a standing ovation at the end.  Starship Trooper is as perfect as you’d expect and Howe once more is owning the stage.

Final thoughts:
On the down side the Tales medley wasn’t great.
The merch selection was rubbish compared to previous tours, I would have bought a tour book (expanded program) but there were only signed copies at £100 each, ouch. 
Geoff Downes is under represented in the mix a lot of the time which is a shame as YES are a guitar and keyboard driven band.

On the upside, Steve Howe is 77 and it is incredible he is still able to play at this level, his masterful playing is stunning.
An amazing selection of songs covering 9 albums plus America.
The last couple of tours has shown musically that the band are still at the top of their game.

I can’t wait for the next tour…and album!

Jon Davison – vocals, acoustic guitar
Geoff Downes – keyboards, vocals
Steve Howe – Guitar, vocals
Jay Schellen – drums
Billy Sherwood – bass, vocals

Part 1:
Machine Messiah
It Will Be a Good Day (The River)
Going for the One
I’ve Seen All Good People
Time and a Word
Don’t Kill the Whale
Turn of the Century

Part 2:
South Side of the Sky
Cut From the Stars
The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn) / The Remembering (High the Memory) / The Ancient (Giants Under the Sun) / Ritual (Nous sommes du soleil)

Starship Trooper

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More photos of YES at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester can be found here:

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