An inspired Yes makes up for a flaccid Alan Parsons Project in Vancouver


By Steve Newton

There are some bands I used to like in the ’70s that make me embarrassed by that fact in the ’90s. Back in high school, I figured Uriah Heep was the cat’s ass, but now, it’s like, “What was I thinking!” And I still recall how impressed I was to pick up Styx’s The Grand Illusion for just $3.99 at A&B Sound in ’77, never guessing that I’d be grateful to unload it for a buck at a used-record store one day.

I used to think the Alan Parsons Project was pretty special, too, and I’d invest in albums like Pyramid and I Robot. I was particularly drawn to the instrumental tracks, which were sort of a psychedelic cross between Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream. (“Hey man, how many of these ’shrooms should I eat?”) When I heard the Project was warming up for my old prog-rock heroes, Yes, I thought it would be a good idea to arrive at GM Place on time for a change.

Too bad I didn’t get a flat tire on the way last Friday (July 17), though, ’cause straining against a tire iron would have been about as much fun as experiencing the APP.

Alan Parsons is the technical wunderkind who engineered such monumental albums as Dark Side of the Moon and Abbey Road, but as the leader of a live band he’s monumentally boring. Not that I wanted the guy to dance a jig or anything, but if he’d shown a speck of enthusiasm, his group might have delivered more than flaccid re-enactments of lightweight pop tunes like “Eye in the Sky” and “Prime Time”. Original Project guitarist Iain Bairnson shot off a spark or two, but everybody else looked and sounded like tired old men going through the motions. Strangely enough, the approving crowd of 4,000 called them back for an encore.

What were they thinking?

The huge letdown with the Alan Parsons Project had me wondering if Yes would strike a similarly depressing blow against my fond memories of ’70s rock, but as soon as guitarist Steve Howe rang out the opening chords of  “Siberian Khatru” and the band leapt wildly into the fray, my doubts were erased. This was prog rock the way I remember it being back when the triple-disc Yessongs LP was a fixture atop my bedroom dresser, folded out to display the cosmic Roger Dean art. As a matter of fact, during the course of its two-hour-plus show, Yes performed all but three of the selections from that live recording of ’73.

I couldn’t have compiled a better set list myself.

At times, Jon Anderson’s vocals got lost in the mix, and the show’s much-ballyhooed “Surround Sound” effect was a hoax as far as I could tell, but it was still the best-sounding rock show I’ve attended at the sonically challenged sports complex. I must admit that the four-part opus “Close to the Edge” embodied the grandiose excesses of ’70s rock, but on the other hand, “Yours Is No Disgrace”—which was almost as long—was a triumphal testament to the era’s adventurous bent.

Other highlights included Howe’s solo rendition of Mason Williams’s “Classical Gas”—which segued nicely into the baroque-flavoured “Mood for a Day”—Chris Squire’s thundering bass solo (“The Fish”), and the always rousing encore, “Roundabout”.

To hear the audio of my interview with Yes guitarist Steve Howe from 2017–and my interview with former Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin from 1984–subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
Jeff Healey, 1988
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

….with hundreds more to come

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