Yes with Procol Harum opening
Mizner Park Amphitheater – 07/27/12
Boca Raton, FL
Okay, so when TaxiCab called me midweek and asked if I wanted to see Yes in concert, I of course said, “Yes!” After all, TaxiCab spent her early years living in London during the 80’s, whiling away the evenings in side-alley clubs, listening to late night impromptu jams by the likes of Steve Howe and Chris Squire. So when TaxiCab, one of my oldest and dearest friends says “You gotta hear this,” I’m in the car and running.
Given the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s lineage of great progressive rock bands like Gentle Giant, Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and King Crimson, it would be no underestimation to say that Yes reached farther and further up that mountain than all others combined. By comparison, if one were to properly eulogize Freddie Mercury and Queen for blending Mozart into many of their masterpieces (think Bohemian Rhapsody, 1975, EMI), then Yes was known for channeling everything Handel into nearly all that they touched. Having unsurpassed choral compositions with vocalist John Anderson seldom sounding less than a twelve piece choir, the multi-layered keyboard stylings of Geoff Downes, the heart thromping drum beats of Alan White, and two of rock’s greatest guitarist – Steve Howe and Chris Squire – how could Yes be anything but le-creme-de-la-creme. And to have someone like Procol Harum opening for them was like having Babe Ruth open for Mickey Mantel.
Now, in the day, even though they far surpassed the one-hit-wonder stage, Procol Harum never did get the recognition that Yes achieved. But with such mind boggling chart toppers as “Whiter Shade of Pale,” “Salty Dog,” “Simple Sister,” and “Conquistador,” they’re one of those groups that everyone over thirty goes, “Oh, so they’re the ones who wrote that,” whenever they hear a PH song on the radio. Still boasting their indefatigable front man Gary Brooker whose voice blends the richness of Joe Cocker with the clarity of James Taylor, and the classic rock-riffs of lead guitarist Geoff Whitehorn, Procol Harum remains the musical wet dream to which every garage band of my generation aspired. What more can you say of a group that once included the likes of guitarist Robin Trower and bassist Dee Murray (1946-1992).
So what was it like sitting in Mizner Park’s Count De Hoernle Amphitheater and seeing the world’s best garage band open for the most eclectic rock group in the universe? Amazing. More interesting than that was the different ways each act approached the evening. Remember, these guys have all been touring for some fifty years, playing the same songs over ten thousand times, while rolling away millions of miles. There just ain’t enough Vioxx or Viagra in the world to pull me through all that. So how did they do it? Who knows? Okay, okay… sex, drugs, practice, drugs, sleep, drugs, food, drugs, hard work, drugs, road trip, drugs, etcetera, drugs, etcetera. But for now, let’s just leave it at who knows.
Anyways, Procol Harum opened at about dusk in this beautiful open air venue doing classic, after classic, after classic hit, and the whole time I’m thinking that something isn’t the same. Sure, Gary’s voice is dead on. And of course, Geoff’s licks and leads are pinpoint. Even the rest of the group is on key, energetic, and tight as Tina Turner’s you-know-what on Thunderdome. But there was still something different, something unusual and unexpected. Then it hit me. They had eased off and were playing everything about a quarter beat slower than I had expected. And why not? They were tight, they were crisp, they were clean, and they could still dish it out song, after song, after song without a single gap, gaff or mistake. So bravo to slowing it down and still brining it home. Who says age doesn’t bring wisdom.
Yes, by comparison, took the opposite approach. I don’t know if we’ll ever know when Steve Howe (65), Chris Squire (64), Alan White (63), or Geoff Downes (59) will reach their peaks. These guys who in total are pushing 251 years of age just don’t slow down. Their bodies and instruments just keep going. Sadly, though, John Anderson’s (67) body was his instrument and it would be hard to image a guy nearing 70 belting out those incredulous choralistic crescendos like in the old days. So what to do, what to do? Bring on vocalist Jon Davidson. Okay, so maybe he’s not one hundred percent John Anderson’s voice, but at 99.9999% he’s pretty damn close.
So what do I say about this evening of great rock music? Go see it. Cause afterwards when someone asks you if you liked it, you’ll only have to say one thing. Yes!
For upcoming tour dates, visit: http://www.yesworld.com