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Concert Reviews:
Yes Plays Close To The Wrong Edge At DTE

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Catching a band in transition can be an exciting experience. It can be frustrating, too -- as evidenced by Yes' performance on Monday night (July 20) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

With a new singer (Benoit David, from a Montreal Yes tribute band) and keyboardist (Rick Wakeman's son Oliver), the veteran progressive rockers could well be forging a new and perhaps fresh direction for itself, but on Monday it felt more like a group of career musicians trying to protect a brand name with an inconsistently played set of material that spanned its career -- at least from 1970 ("Astral Traveller") to 1983 ("Owner of a Lonely Heart"). Rarely during the hour-and-45-minute set did it feel like a true ensemble, but rather more like five individual musicians recreating familiar recorded parts, regardless of how well they meshed.

That disconnect gave the 11-song show a feeling of unexpected sloppiness, from clearly audible clams by fleet-fingered guitarist Steve Howe -- who did double-duty with opening act Asia -- to the often dicey harmonic vocal blend between David, Howe and bassist Chris Squire. There were a few moments of near-transcendence -- during the chiming "Your Move," for instance, the furious "Tempus Fugit" and Howe's acoustic solo spot -- while particular fan favorites such as "Roundabout" and "Starship Trooper" got by simply by virtue of familiarity and audience energy. But epics like "And You and I," "Machine Messiah" and "Heart of the Sunrise" plodded, showing Yes to be in a surprisingly, shall we say, "Fragile" state.

By comparison, Asia's hour-long set -- the prog-rock all-star group's first appearance at the amphitheater, singer-bassist John Wetton noted, since selling it out 26 years ago -- was crisp, breezy and considerably tighter, even if songs such as "Wildest Dreams" "Sole Survivor," "Don't Cry" and "An Extraordinary Life," the latter from the quartet's 2008 comeback album "Phoenix," certainly don't hold a candle to the ambitions of Yes' repertoire. But Asia compensated with trips into the band members' pasts -- the Buggles' (keyboardist Geoff Downes) "Video Killed the Radio Star," King Crimson's (Wetton) "In the Court of the Crimson King" and Emerson, Lake & Palmer's version of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," a showpiece for drummer Carl Palmer -- while Howe seemed considerably more focused in that setting than in the headline spot.

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