Yes and the Drama of touring

Yes keyboard player Geoff Downes

Yes keyboard player Geoff Downes

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Universally accepted as the ultimate Prog Rock band, Yes has again decided to perform two classic albums in their entirety for their lastest tour: ‘Fragile’ from 1971 and ‘Drama’ from 1980.

Billy Sherwood, who has performed and recorded with the band in the past, has taken over bass guitar duties; whilst lead vocals are handled by Jon Davidson.

“Most of the songs haven’t been performed in some 30 years,” guitarist Steve Howe says, “and these two albums mark two essential chapters of our career.”

‘Drama’ marked the debut in the band for keyboard player Geoff Downes, who controversially joined the band with Buggles’ bandmate Trevor Horn.

“There was antagonism originally,” he tells me, “but the album warmed on Yes fans over the years.”

Geoff alludes to the fact that many fans were outraged when he and Trevor replaced Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson in the band.

‘Drama’ hasn’t been performed for 30 years and of course it’s very close to me, and there are still three of the five original members from the album in the band today (himself, Alan and Steve).”

The band has already toured the ‘Fragile’ album.

“Yes, we did ‘Fragile’ in the States last year but not in Europe,” he states. “In some respects that one featured the original ‘classic’ line-up (Anderson, Wakeman, Howe, Squire and Bill Bruford) and it gave us four really progressive tracks; ‘Heart of the Sunrise’ for instance.”

He continues. “It’s the one where the band really cut their teeth and that’s one of the reasons we’re doing it.”

“Then ‘Drama’ moved Yes from the 70’s era to a different 80’s era and they reinvented themselves.”

“The beauty of Yes’ music is that it has developed.”

Expanding on his theme, the Stockport-born keyboard player, who studied at Manchester University adds. “The band extended themselves with ‘Fragile’, there were the five little cameo piece which showed off the fact that they were all excellent musicians, and presented another angle to the music; and of course there was the track ‘Roundabout’ which has become synonymous with the band.”

“When the band recorded ‘Drama’ they had done all they could with the 70’s formula, so it was a new slant.”

“I’m quite proud of the album.” He adds with a grin.

Before joining the band, Geoff knew all about the music.

“When I was at school, I was into ‘Time and a Word’ (the bands’ second album), so the band was part of my musical appreciation, but hand on heart, I’d say that my favourite album is ‘Close to the Edge’ which I think is as close as can be to the perfect Yes album.”

But it will be strange without the presence of Chris Squire, the one person who has appeared on every Yes album and was known by the fans as ‘The Keeper of the Flame’.

Geoff says. “It goes without saying that Chris was irreplaceable, his spirit is very much alive with the legacy he left.” It was a huge shock when he died, but he had already appointed Billy to take his place. Chris did great vocal arrangements and was the second voice of Yes. Billy has done an amazing job and is as faithful as possible to Chris’s part and he is honouring his legacy.”

As well as the two albums, the band plans to perform other tracks from the catalogue, as Geoff explains.

“The albums were quite short, both around 40 minutes, so we hope to do about 40 minutes of other material – maybe some form of the recent albums.”

And despite the sadness at the passing of Chris Squire, the band is looking forward to touring the UK.

“Yeah,” says Geoff, “It’s always great fun. The last time was two years ago and we did some great venues, and of course my old stomping ground of the Apollo in Manchester is good. We’re all very much looking forward to it.”