Classic rock has become its own monolith, a fits-all classification, especially when it comes to touring. Thus, bands that had little in common during their heydays are packaged as tours 30 years later under the nearly-safe assumption that anyone who liked one probably liked the other, too.
Both bands are touring with original and long-time members. Neither features its original vocalist. Benoit David tries to approximate the signature falsetto of Jon Anderson, who parted with the band three years ago. They are not the same without him. David’s resemblance to Anderson grew thin and vague throughout the set. His voice can get a little too glossy and Broadway/show-tune for a progressive rock band. He also seems unsure of what to do with himself when he's not singing.
Yes was one of the best-known and most successful British progressive-rock bands of the 1970s. It’s core is still in-tact:: guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White. On this tour, keyboards (and keytar) are manned by Yes alum Geoff Downes, who can also list the Buggles and Yes-offshoot Asia on his resume.
The setlist included the usual Yes standards and hits: “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper” and the closer, “Roundabout.” Most were performed close to the ways everyone remembers them, with bits of improv thrown in.
Howe is still a uncommonly versatile and fluent guitarist, still capable of embroidering songs with leads and fills that are melodic and complicated and worthy of strict attention. He regularly switched guitars two or three times within a song. During “And You and I,” he played some steel guitar (and Squire played a few measures of blues harp).
Styx took the stage to the sounds of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” specifically the line, “Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.” In the post-Dennis DeYoung days, Tommy Shaw is the band’s unofficial leader, though James Young, by virtue of his physical stature alone, is a very close second in command. His big moment, “Miss America,” got a huge response. Shaw otherwise shared vocals with keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, who replaced DeYoung in 1999.
Like pitching crackers to pigeons in the park, Styx fed its rowdy crowd what it wanted: 90 minutes of ‘70s and ‘80s FM rock theater forged in the Midwest USA. Five of the first six songs are still mainstays on classic-rock radio, including “Lady,” “Too Much Time On My Hands” and “Lorelei.”
The crowd went bonkers for the big hits. During “Too Much Time,” it serenaded the band with a few rounds of the chorus (and did that hand-clap thing without cue). But it seemed familiar with whatever was tossed its way, showing loud recognition for tracks like “Suite Madame Blue” and “Man In the Wilderness.”
Before several of the hits, Shaw summoned from backstage founding member/bassist Chuck Panozzo, twin brother of founding drummer, the late John Panozzo, to join in.
The stage show included some gratuitous graphics and videos broadcast on large screen behind the band. During the encore, fans in the first dozen rows were showered with confetti.
However, this show had little to do with visual fireworks and much more to do with what was coming out of the live jukebox on stage. The bands come from very different places, musically and geographically. But each took its fans on odysseys that landed in similar destinations.
Yes setlist: Tempus Fugit; Yours Is No Disgrace; Heart of the Sunrise; I’ve Seen All Good People; Fly From Here; And You and I; Owner of a Lonely Heart; Starship Trooper; Roundabout.
Styx setlist: Blue Collar Man; The Grand Illusion; One With Everything; Too Much Time On My Hands; Lady; Lorelei; Man in the Wilderness; Suite Madame Blue; Crystal Ball; Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man); Miss America; Sail Away; Renegade.
| Timothy Finn, The Star