As I write this I am listening to a very good quality soundboard recording of Yes Live in New Haven, CT from July 24, 1971. They were playing in the Yale University football stadium (a very small stadium) as the opening act for Grand Funk Railroad. This was the last date of their U.S. tour promoting the Yes album. As expected, their musicianship was impeccable, yet, their energy was dynamic and not at all forced – Take that! Grand Funk.
I saw them just before this date on 07/15/71 at the Capitol Theatre – Port Chester, NY. The set list for that show was longer than the one in New Haven. It was: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Yours Is No Disgrace, I’ve Seen All Good People, Clap > Classical Gas > Mood For A Day, Perpetual Change, It’s Love.
As I believe I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, this was my very first concert experience. My feeling was that they were doing for live rock performance something akin to what the Beatles had done in the studio. I was blown away by Steve Howe on electric and acoustic guitars, and vachalia (a Portuguese 12 stringed instrument), Tony Kaye on various keyboards, including a synth (rare for those days), Bill Bruford’s superb jazz-inspired drumming, Chris Squire’s unique approach to the bass (melodic yet not lacking bottom) and the perfect vocal harmonies of Chris and Jon Anderson. And Jon was quite a welcome contrast to the typical Mick Jagger wannabe fronting new rock bands at the time.
This was a time when there were typically three to four bands on a bill and reputations were made or broken by concert performances. I lived in an area (New York metro) that was served by a number of FM progressive radio stations, but, Yes had no airplay at the time. I remember one acquaintance showing me a copy of the first Yes album and behaving as if he had a religious experience, however I payed no heed. Honestly, even if I had heard The Yes Album before the concert I might have thought that it was just studio trickery. I’m glad I saw with my own eyes a band playing music that I didn’t know was possible. And it only got better when I later saw them with Rick Wakeman.
It is beyond the time for Yes to be recognized for their contribution to the art of rock music. I am saddened that the Hall didn’t see fit to honor Peter Banks along with the rest of the group, but I get it; to the voters what matters is that Yes started selling large numbers of records after Steve joined. I also wish that the induction had happened during founding member Chris Squire’s lifetime. I still remember how the Hall slighted Peter Green when Fleetwood Mac was inducted. After all, they were first billed as “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac”, not to mention that Green was the best musician of the lot and wrote some incredible (although non radio-friendly) songs like Black Magic Woman. Thankfully, Carlos Santana righted that wrong by inviting Green to play with his band at the ceremony. Perhaps, Bill Bruford will be inducted for a second time as a member of King Crimson.
I will wait with anticipation to see which three songs they play and what the configuration of the group is. I’m sure that Roundabout and Owner of a Lonely Heart are obligatory at this point. Perhaps, they can throw in Siberian Khatru. By the way, when Owner of a Lonely Heart broke as a single, I was newly married and working in the research department of a trust company. Our manager was a part-time DJ at night at a gay club, so his choice of radio station was one that played the club music of the time. Imagine my surprise at hearing Yes on the radio.