Fresh off an extremely belated induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a few years of performing specific albums in their entirety, Yes switched up its touring theme to focus on the first-ever traveling edition of Yestival. For the Chicago-area version of the festival-styled event, longtime members Steve Howe (guitar) and Alan White (drums), plus Geoff Downes (keys), Billy Sherwood (the late Chris Squire’s personal pick for bass), Jon Davison (vocals) and Steve’s son Dylan (additional drums) rolled onto the grounds of Grand Victoria Casino, and rather than running through a precise period, turned in at least one track from each of the group’s first ten albums.
The same could be said regarding evolution as the pace revved up “Going For The One” and “Don’t Kill The Whale,” both of which put the focus on the beefed up percussion section prior to “Machine Messiah,” a pivotal piece that steered a reconstituted Yes out of the ‘70s and into the ‘80s.
Yes kicked off its near two-hour slot with “Survival,” followed by “Time And A Word,” and while it’s always a treat when the band goes that far back, everyone seemed a little off while finding their footing in the expansive outdoor space (although it may have also been a testament to the fact that none of the current members played on either of those original records). But any unsteadiness was soon erased as Steve Howe in particular tore through “Yours Is No Disgrace,” alongside the equally familiar and feisty “South Side Of The Sky.”
“And You And I” transitioned towards the acoustic though no less engaging side of Yes, paving the way for a quieter section that pared down to just the elder Howe, Davison and Sherwood come the intimate “Leaves Of Green” (a trio that would remerge in the encore during the rarity “Madrigal”). Though the beer lines started to swell by “Soon,” the third consecutive softer reflection, it continued to mark yet another season of Yes’ exploration.
The same could be said regarding evolution as the pace revved up “Going For The One” and “Don’t Kill The Whale,” both of which put the focus on the beefed up percussion section prior to “Machine Messiah,” a pivotal piece that steered a reconstituted Yes out of the ‘70s and into the ‘80s. While that decade wasn’t the scope of this particular show (and one perhaps best left to Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman), a finale of “Roundabout” completely transcended time and left faithful primed for whatever the players have in mind to observe next year’s 50th anniversary.
Prior to a mid-card set from Todd Rundgren (who Chicago Concert Reviews declined to cover because of his photography policy’s requirements), Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy got everyone warmed up with a solid but all too short set that paid tribute to the all-star drummer’s late band mates Keith Emerson and Greg Lake. But rather than trying to replicate the trio’s exact sounds, the sole survivor, guitarist Paul Bielatowicz and bassist Simon Fitzpatrick offered entirely instrumental treatments of “Hoedown,” “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 2,” “Knife-Edge,” “Lucky Man” and “Fanfare For The Common Man,” adding mounds of muscle and rhythmic textures that nonetheless captured the group’s revolutionary essence and pleaded for a criminally overdue place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
For a list of upcoming shows at Grand Victoria Casino, visit GrandVictoriaCasino.com.