Yes just played Boston on its 50th Anniversary Tour, filling the Wilbur Theater with the faithful for a show that included behemoths like "Close to the Edge" and "Awaken," both running past a quarter-hour in length. Add slightly-shorter 10-minute epics like "Roundabout," "Starship Trooper," and "Perpetual Change" to the mix and you're talking an hour of the concert right there. But that wasn't the reason Yes avoided playing its biggest hit - the 1983 single "Owner of a Lonely Heart," which went to #1 and revived the (at-the-time) obsolete battlewagon of a band.
Yes has been kicking around for half a century now, it's first epononymously-titled album appearing in '69 after the band rose through the ranks of the London rock scene. Once the group scored the warmup slot for a pair of farewell gigs for Cream at the Royal Albert Hall, its star was well on the rise. The lineup of the band in those early days was comprised of lead guitarist Peter Banks, singer Jon Anderson, Chris Squire on bass, drummer Bill Bruford, and Tony Kaye playing the keyboards. One album later, Banks had departed to form the group Flash and Steve Howe took over on lead guitar. By the fourth album, "Fragile," Kaye had left to be replaced by Rick Wakeman on keyboards. Wakeman departed a couple years later to be replaced by Patrick Moraz, before Wakeman returned in '77.
That's just the tip of it. Entering the proceedings and exiting sometimes within one or two albums, over twenty members have been in and out (and sometimes back in) this famed classic rock group. Probably the most famous lineup was the one that toured in the wake of the "Close to the Edge" album and appeared on the triple-live "Yessongs" featuring Anderson, Wakeman, Squire, Howe and newcomer on drums Alan White. But by 1980, Yes had sputtered to a halt with a different singer and keyboardist failing to ignite the legendary group's fortunes. For two and a half years, the band was inactive.
Trevor Rabin, a guitarist in Los Angeles began working with Yes bassist Chris Squire on some music under a project called Cinema. Eventually when singer Jon Anderson brought his distinctive vocals, a trademark of the band, to the table, the project flew under the banner of Yes. The "90125" album would feature the three joined by former Yes members Tony Kaye and Alan White, making this an authentic new lineup that would generate its monster hit single "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and resuscitate the iconic brand.
Lineups continued to evolve and for a time two different versions of Yes toured at the same time, both sporting enough legitimate members to withstand naysayers' cries of foul. But, the latest lineup of the group on tour for the 50th Anniversary show features a different singer, Jon Davison, who does manage to nail the pitch and timbre of Jon Anderson perfectly. Billy Sherwod takes over for the late Chris Squire, Geoff Downes from the 1980-era Yes returns and so does Steve Howe on guitar. Although drummer Alan White is also part of this amalgamation, recent surgery limits his time onstage to a few songs.
So, with only one current bandmember, Alan White (and a part-time one at that) held over from the recording of "Owner of a Lonely Heart" in 1983," the group avoids playing the single at every gig. But, no one in the audience seemed to complain; the musicians offered up enough Yes history to please anybody.
Don't blink, though. Another version of Yes inlcuding Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman toured last year and may reappear with a new album and concert swing of their own. If they do, no doubt they'll play the #1 hit; after all, they did it last time around. But, no fans appear to be complaining; double the amount of Yes can only be a good thing!