Performing as the present-day incarnation of Yes requires just as much heavy lifting as it did in the prog-rockers’ peak of the early 1970s. Maybe more, since in the subsequent four decades their meticulously composed, orchestrated crop of enduring FM radio classics has remained just as challenging to execute as the players have gotten a bit grey; and a reimagined “Roundabout” wouldn’t cut it with this crowd. That is what makes this live document ever so nice; the boys bring the goods to Sin City.
Drizzling in a couplet of covers- a surprising and Yes-ified “America” from Simon and Garfunkel; a loving take on John Lennon’s “Imagine” (notably, Yes drummer Alan White graced the original)- the set is a circuitous journey through Yestory. On this July 2019 Vegas stop during the group’s Royal Affair tour- a trek that dovetailed out of the band’s prior 50th anniversary run- there’s, of course, the better-known trio of “All Good People,” “Roundabout,” and closing “Starship Trooper.” And, like the rest of the 10-song collection, those three are executed unequivocally well, with vocalist Jon Davison hiking with relative verisimilitude across the high register range once commanded by Jon Anderson.
Yet, it’s on a gorgeous “Onward,” from 1978’s Tormato, that the ensemble truly wows. Hypnotically cycling riffs from guitarist Steve Howe and Davison’s patient reading reveal a Yes that can be vulnerable and unadorned as well as it can be dexterous and dissecting. This mid-show respite is the band at its finest.
Perhaps the most commendable aspect of this release is that it just feels like a classic live album. It’s comprehensive, but doesn’t linger in ceremony or indulgence. It’s well-recorded and representative, and more than a tour keepsake; it’s 21st century Yes bringing stately care and character to its impressive back catalog. A laudable addition to the Yes discography.