Review: Yes, Live At Casino Rama, July 10th, 2012

Can a band that’s been around more than 40 years really hit the heights of yesteryear?

In the case of Yes, the answer is…well, you know.

Last night in Rama, Ontario, the band (one of my favourites) kicked off their summer tour, which also serves as a North American introduction to their new lead singer, Jon Davison, who has some pretty big shoes to fill. Did he do it? Find out after the jump?

Yes In 2012 (left to right) – Chris Squire, Alan White, Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, Jon Davison

Realistically, no fan likes the idea of a lead singer being replaced. In the grand scheme of rock and roll, it has only been successfully done a handful of times (AC/DC, Van Halen, Genesis). The thing about Yes is, the band is not looking to hit the top of the charts or score a number one single. Instead, they are looking to perform live and bring their music, both old and new, to a still hardcore group of fans. Unfortunately for some, founding member Jon Anderson isn’t along for the ride for various reasons not worth getting into, mainly because new singer Jon Davison is breathing a unbelieveable amount of life into the band.

On stage at Casino Rama, Davison wasn’t the new guy on stage. He wasn’t a fish out of water. He was the singer in Yes. And he was spectacular. With a natural tenor, he hit the highest of notes with an ease previous Anderson stand-in Benoit David simply couldn’t muster (no slight to Canadian David, who contributed vocals to the bands 2011 studio album Fly From Here, their best in 30+ years). Davison, with his long hair and hippyish attire, looked the part, but more than looking like he fit, he sounded like he’d been in Yes for years, handling classic material like Yours Is No Disgrace and Heart of The Sunrise as though he’d written those melodies and words himself.

While the other members of the band (Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White) were their reliable, musically brilliant selves, for me, the night belonged to Davison and keyboardist Geoff Downes. No doubt, I have a personal bias here, as Downes is one of my favourite keyboardists (along with a recent Biff Bam Pop interview subject), but seeing him for the first time in Yes was simply a personal highlight. Like Davison, he played those classic Yes songs as though he’d created them, which is to say, flawlessly.

For me, the highlight of the night came when the band played their 1977 epic Awaken. To give you some context, this is not one of my favourite Yes pieces. I’ve never really been able to connect with it. Further to that, the middle section, a melding of harp and organ, has always felt like a very quintessential Rick Wakeman/Jon Anderson moment – two guys who aren’t in Yes anymore. I wasn’t looking forward to hearing Awaken when I found out it was part of the set. However, by the time the long piece was complete, I had a tear in my eye. It was simply astounding what Jon Davison and Geoff Downes were able to accomplish – they made that middle moment, not to mention the rest of the song, their own.

Yes has a very vocal fan base online, one that often seems as though they’d rather tear down or complain about group line-ups and set lists rather than simply embrace the band at what they choose to do and who they do it with. To them, I say, chill out. In 2012, the line-up of Yes that I saw perform last night (my lucky 13th show) isn’t Classic Yes. To me, it’s Ultimate Yes. Four virtuoso musicians, including a superstar keyboardist with a personality to match his bandmates, and a unbelievbly talented singer who, in being himself, managed to be the perfect Yes singer for the perfect Yes line-up for the 2010’s.

Yes’ Geoff Downes and Biff Bam Pop’s Andy Burns
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26 Replies to “Review: Yes, Live At Casino Rama, July 10th, 2012”

  1. Did the band play the complete FLY From Here Suite?

    1. They did indeed. It was fantastic. The band were super tight on it. Chris played an electric upright bass. Very cool.

  2. Sounds like a great show, I’m ok with bands going out to play the music journey*nd foreigner for example just wish classic rock radio would play them glad yes was solid.

    1. I agree, Rick. As a former classic rock radio dude, I’ve always thought it was a shame new music from classic rock bands is more often than not ignored. It’s a business decision, not a quality of music decision. The last Yes album was a great one, and should be heard as many Yes fans as possible.

  3. Agree – Jon Davison owned the night. He was spectacular. Great concert, great choice of songs!

  4. sorry kids, Awaken belongs to Wakeman. I shudder to think how Downes pulled it off, especially the first fews shows when the band is always “loose”. If he nailed it, congrats because it is extremely complicated. How was Squire’s triple neck?

    1. I hear what you’re saying Pete, so believe when that I don’t make my comments lightly. But Downes was absolutely brilliant, and he nailed it and then some. We spoke afterwards and he said how it is a complicated piece of music. Squire’s triple neck was triple great 🙂

  5. I want to just keep hitting the like button over and over again after reading this review.

    Thanks Andy for making this lifelong yesfans day, much better. Great review!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, John. I’m thrilled that I could write it. The band is seriously on fire, on opening night no less, and I hope fans get a chance to check the tour out. It’s going to blow minds how tight they are and how wonderfully JD fits in. I’m still buzzing about it.

      1. Great to hear about the buzz Andy. A great YesShow can do that. I’ve been going to Yes concerts since 1972 – 40 years, and I will be seeing 5 shows this tour. After reading your review I’m happy that I decided to see as many shows as I could this summer.

  6. I can’t wait to to Yes at the Tower here in Philly. (btw a truly great venue to see a band)
    I was hoping to see a complete setlist Andy.

      1. Yours Is No Disgrace
        Tempus Fugit
        I’ve Seen All Good People
        Fly From Here
        Wonderous Stories
        Owner Of A Lonely Heart
        Heart Of The Sunrise
        Awaken

        Encore

        Roundabout

        There you go!

  7. Andy…. THANK YOU for the info. It sounds SO special. I do have to say, the song I hoped MOST to hear was “Into the Storm”…. in my opinion, the best song they’ve done since Tormato/Drama. I’m really sad not to see that in the set, as it’s new and should be played!

    1. Thanks Sam! I love Into The Storm as well, a highlight of the last album. I’m guessing it will make its way into the set pretty soon. The Casino Rama show was a shortened one because it was a Casino, so I’m guessing Life On A Film Set and Into The Storm will be played when the band hits the larger venues on the summer tour.

  8. Nice review. And I am of the exact same opinion with respect to the band, i.e. whoever is ‘out there’ is Yes, but with respect to JA, I would say it is too deep, rather than not worth getting into. Here’s hoping they are back in the UK gigging soon!

  9. Great review…I feel that a well composed song is timeless and should be represented in the moment as the piece was meant to be heard…similar to a Mozart composition. This band does that without a doubt to the best level of professionalism that I have ever seen.
    Thanks again for letting the world know that art is still respected…

  10. I have seen Yes 7 times,and the ultimate Yes is Anderson,Howe,Squire,Wakeman,and White. Glad I saw that lineup on my final Yes concert.

  11. Blimey, so how long was the concert? 1,5h? Not very long… At Wedensday I’ve seen Springsteen playin’ 3h 17 min… (can’t go on this Yes tour as USA is a bit far from Poland;p)

  12. I was at the show in RAMA and was reluctant to see YES without Jon Anderson. I was blown away with the power and perfect pitch of the new singer Jon Davidson. I knew the boys would come to the party as they always do with every lineup but this time they were sensational. Go on youtube and check the demo tape that I am sure was what discovered JD. This was the start of their tour and will only get better and I am for sure going to catch them later on. Vegas here I come. GB

  13. Did the reviwer sleep through the concert or was it in a parrallel universe? The concert was god awful and they messed up lots of times. Please god retire and stop this trashing of Yes legacy.

    1. When exactly did the band mess up? One of Steve’s guitars was out during All Good People, but that was quickly rectified.

  14. @Andy:
    I saw them in Boston on 7/21 they did “America” instead of of “I’v seen all Good People”. other than that set list the same. I agree completely wit your review. I was stunned at Jon Davison’s ability to “channel” Jon A.
    and to Mike: what the hell are you talking about? maybe you were sleeping or went into the show with a very entrenched bias about this YES lineup.

  15. to Mike: what the hell are you talking about? maybe you were sleeping or went into the show with a very entrenched bias about this YES lineup.

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