All words: Josh Stewart — All photos: Shauna Alexander
This past Saturday night brought two icons of rock and roll to the Warner Theater in DC. Procol Harum and YES both hold respective places in musical history, and for those of you who don’t spend hours upon hours on Wikipedia trying to match your Dad’s record collection with arcane 60′s and 70′s musical history (trivia?), let me catch you up.
Procol Harum, who I only was able to catch the last few songs, are a British psychedelic and symphonic rock band who earned their stripes during the Summer of Love in 1967 with their epic, souful, last-call jam, “Whiter Shade of Pale.” You may know the track from the soundtrack for the Big Chill or Annie Lennox’s 1995 cover (or not). If you don’t know it, get acquainted, it brought the house down. Oh yeah, and the guitar player was wearing a sleeveless version of his own band’s shirt, which is obviously super cool.
YES is a prog-rock band whose heyday spanned from the late 1960s to the early 80s. Must own albums include the quasi self-titled The Yes Album, Close to the Edge, and I have a soft spot for the oddly 80s 90125 – though I am sure YES purists will hate on that.
YES opened with “Yours Is No Disgrace”, which lasted at least 15 minutes, a theme for the night. I was originally anxious about the absence of original lead vocalist Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, but young buck Jon Davison filled in almost flawlessly on vocals, hitting all the impossible high notes and performing with peaceful, earnest, and optimistic tone. Though, current keyboardist Geoff Downes did not wear a cape as Wakeman was famous for, he still nailed the complicated and crucial keyboard riffs.
The band sounded huge as images of the band super-imposed with lightening and swirling light patterns were projected onto to a giant screen behind them. This made guitarist Steve Howe and bassist Chris Squire look like mad scientists. So tight.
The crowd was quintessential dad, though I spotted a about a half a dozen middle aged women at the show who appeared to be flying solo. Things seen and heard: plenty of rock-sign devil horns, head-nod dad dancing, talk of who saw Asia at the Birchmere last year, and why Jon Anderson is the best vocalist of all time.
Big crowd favorite of the night was the “I’ve Seen All Good People”, which was the first track of the night that had the entire crowd singing along. The half-time thud throughout the intro built the tension as you waited out the folksy ethereal intro before the electric guitar comes in for a full throttled rock out. This is one of the few things can make dads dance. The band then went to an epic cover of Simon and Gafunkel’s “America.”
Post-cover, the band took a break to let Howe, a guitar legend in his own right, shine. He played a solo acoustic track that steadily built into arpeggiated riffs (think of a more intricate and complicated version of the music from the Game Boy version of Zelda) and ended with the crowd on its feet cheering as the humbled icon gave a graceful bow.
The band ended with “Close to the Edge” and “Long Distance Runaround” then returned for an encore to play perhaps their biggest hit and crowd pleaser “Roundabout”. Leaving no cliché on the table, Downes grabbed a keytar, and ran up to Howe for a final, epic shred session.
Aside from 20 minutes of “new stuff” in the middle of the set and the infuriating inability of the crowd to clap on beat, YES lived up to the their EPIC reputation and put on an amazing show. Who knows how long the band will keep up their touring schedule, so if you get a chance see them live, go for it. You won’t be sorry.
Grab your dad approved YES t-shirts HERE and complete your prog-Summer schedule and check out RUSH live at Jiffy Lube on September 9. I’ll be cruising around in the van with Gandalf painted on it.