When a veteran band starts replacing core members with younger personnel, there’s always a chance that the product is going to become watered down, or that fans will reject the lineup changes. And while the British progressive-rock pioneers have had 18 members throughout their 44-year history, the distinctive high-pitched voice of Jon Anderson is perhaps Yes’ most recognizable trait, gracing 18 of the band’s 20 studio albums.
But new vocalist Jon Davison, a 41-year-old American who used to front a Yes tribute band, proved a seamless replacement as the band wrapped up its U.S. tour in Las Vegas. Besides faithfully duplicating Anderson’s alto-tenor delivery, Davison added youthful exuberance to songs such as the ballad “Wonderous Stories” and the rollicking “Tempus Fugit,” making dramatic sweeping hand gestures and bouncing around the stage.
Even at age 65, guitarist Steve Howe continues to amaze, playing a variety of styles ranging from jazz to classical to rock. His arpeggiated sweeps fueled 15-minute show opener “Yours Is No Disgrace,” before he later dazzled the crowd with an ambitious acoustic solo.
The inclusion of the 25-minute “Fly From Here,” the title track from the band’s 2011 studio album, shows the band hasn’t lost their zest for epic tunes with odd time signatures and nonsensical lyrics, but the musical journey went on a bit too long for such a relatively unknown song. Yes righted themselves afterward, though, with a thunderous rendition of “Heart of the Sunrise” and the 15-minute exploration of “Awaken” before ending with the classic-rock staple “Roundabout.” And if you closed your eyes and simply listened, you couldn’t say no to new voice of Yes. ★★★☆☆