Review – John Jeffrey, Photos – Thomas S, Orwat, Jr.
Canadaigua, NY – Canandaigua’s CMAC Performing Arts Center was the site for the third night of the 2011 Yes/Styx “Progressive U.S. Tour.” CMAC is a great open air venue, with just enough coverage to protect concert goers from any of nature’s elements. Thankfully, it was a beautiful evening, with clear skies and perfect temperature, for a great night of classic prog rock. Unfortunately, the combination of these two legendary bands wasn’t a huge draw on a weekday summer night, as the 2,400 presales, plus the few thousand walk-ups, made this 13,000 capacity venue look rather sparse. Nevertheless, the true diehards who made the trek, would not be disappointed by either of these veteran artists.
One similarity between Yes and Styx is that both groups feature replacement members, taking the place of prominent vocalists in each band. Yes’ founding member and lead singer, Jon Anderson, has been replaced by a Yes tribute band singer from Canada, Benoit David, and Styx has Dennis DeYoung’s void being filled by sound alike, Lawrence Gowan, who also hails from the great white north. At least for Yes, there is currently only one version of the band touring, as with Styx, there is essentially 2 bands touring under the “Styx” brand. Original Styx vocalist, Dennis DeYoung, is currently on tour as “Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx,” while original guitarist, James “JY” Young and cast, simply go by “Styx.” Both lineups play a similar set of greatest hits, and while ‘Styx’ has Lawrence Gowan singing the DeYoung songs, DeYoung has a Tommy Shaw clone (August Zandra) singing his respective tunes. Both DeYoung and Styx have solid musicianship amongst their respective bands, but the big difference between the two groups is in their stage presentation. DeYoung’s campy delivery could be compared to Adam West’s portrayal of Batman, while Styx and their consummate professionalism would be the modern day Dark Knight.
When Tommy Shaw, Todd Sucherman, Ricky Phillips, Lawrence Gowan, and JY hit the stage on Thursday night, ripping into “Blue Collar Man,” it was immediately clear why they own the bat cave. They ARE Styx. With a stage comprised of amps, video screens and a spinning keyboard riser, the band tore through a 90 minute, 13 song set in a systematic fashion, leaving the fans wanting more after every song. Tommy Shaw made it clear that he is the front man of Styx, with most of the songs being sung by him, but don’t be mistaken, Lawrence Gowan is no slouch. When not manning the keyboards, Gowan, dressed head to toe in black, vamped across the stage, giving True Blood’s Bill Compton a run for his money. The showmanship doesn’t end with Shaw and Gowan, as the entire band flows with the energy and enthusiasm that makes Styx a great live band. While the fans ate up the hits, one would hope to hear new material played live by the current regime at some point. Ending their show with an encore of their classic, “Renegade,” it was clear that Styx was the crowd favorite, as many isles cleared out and did not fill back up before Yes hit the stage.
Blue Collar Man
One With Everything
Too Much Time
Man in the Wilderness
Suite Madam Blue
Come Sail Away
Special thanks to Amanda Cagan.
YES Review/photos by Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Canandaigua, NY – The performance of progressive rock pioneers, YES, may not have been perfect, but just being able to witness this once brilliant band, was good enough for a few thousand of their most loyal fans on this beautiful summer evening. And while some of the musically ignorant and disrespectful members of the audience left after co-headliners Styx performed, those that stayed, were treated to mesmerizing 90 minute long performance, from a legendary band in the twilight of their career.
Since their last performance at the CMAC, almost exactly a year ago, Yes has recorded a solid, back to basics, progressive rock sounding CD, “Fly From Here.” In addition to release of the CD, the band has endured yet another lineup change, this time around, keyboardist Oliver Wakeman was replaced with Geoff Downes. The new keyboardist is no stranger to Yes fans, as Downes was in Yes for a short period of time during the early 80’s, and is also in the classic rock band Asia, with Yes guitarist Steve Howe. Another noticeable difference this time around was the fact that newer vocalist Benoit David didn’t face the hostility that he endured during the band’s performance last year. While many die-hard Yes fans would still prefer having original vocalist Jon Anderson back in the band, they have warmed up to the fact that David is now ‘the guy.’
While David and Downes are proving themselves to be outstanding performers, (although Downes looked a little lost during a few of the songs) it was the main three members, Chris Squire-bass, Alan White-drums and Steve Howe-guitar, that clearly stole the show. From Howe’s melodic figuring picking and fast jazz influenced leads to Squire’s and White’s locked in groove, this legendary virtuoso trio are still musically savvy. Howe especially was on top of his game, maybe even overplaying a bit to compensate for Downes inability to precisely perform some of the material.
The band’s setlist was as fan friendly as a Yes set could be, as most of their classics were included. One of the most impressive aspects of the show, was the bands ability to execute, almost flawlessly, the complex and elegant harmonies in their songs. While many of our favorite classic rock bands are now using backing tapes, Yes still sings everything themselves. Although the setlist was solid, one thing missing from previous tours was Steve Howe’s solo. Last year, the bespectacled professor of guitar performed “Classical Gas,” to the delight of his fans. However, this year, there were no individual solo spots performed by any of the group’s members. In addition, Yes could have taken out the overplayed, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” While that song may be their most commercial hit, it really doesn’t seem to represent the mind set or style of the current line-up. Also, Steve Howe was not a member of the band when that song was written, and he should never have to play any song, but his own.
Yes ended the evening with a rousing and extended rendition of “Starship Trooper.” Knowing the show was coming to an end, the crowd rushed to the front of the stage, to get a closer look at their heroes, as each member of the band took to the spotlight for short solo passages within the song. Middle aged men were screaming an appreciative “Thank you,” as the band played on with big smiles on their faces. It was a great way to complete their performance, and although at times it was a little shaky, it all came together in the end.
Yours is No Disgrace
Heart of the Sunrise
I’ve Seen All Good People
Fly From Here
And You and I
Owner of a Lonely Heart
Special thanks to Kevin Chiaramonte, Jamie Simone and Dustin Hardman.
For more on YES, please visit www.yesworld.com