RIVALS, OR KINDRED SPIRITS?
T H E C U R I O U S C A S E O F T W O Y E S E S
BY JOHN COLLINGE
What’s in a name? Plenty when it defines a half-century of seminal artistry, in this case framed by tales of personal intrigue as epic as any orchestrated suite. Or, as Jon Anderson prefers to say, “It’s family, there is animosity. People you love you don’t always like.”
The advent of two bands called Yes portends much for all fans of Yes music. That is, however long the factions might endure—a nagging caveat when artists of classic vintage are involved.
In one camp we have the relatively new alliance of former Yes members initially known as ARW, officially rebooting as “Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman” (on vocals, guitars and keyboards, respectively, with support from bassist Lee Pomeroy and drummer Louis Molino III). In the other camp we have “traditional” Yes comprising mainstays Steve Howe (guitars), Alan White (drums) and Geoff Downes (keyboards), assisted by newcomers Jon Davison (vocals) and Billy Sherwood (bass/vocals).
Both groups have been touring heavily playing classic Yes material as followers eagerly await word on new studio recordings, something ARW first hinted at nearly a year ago but has yet to deliver.
Yes, meanwhile, appears further removed from that prospect. Last studio effort Heaven & Earth (2014) was helmed by late bandleader/co-founder Chris Squire (bass/vocals), who died a year after its release, prompting Sherwood’s arrival as his handpicked successor. “In the near future, no,” says Sherwood of Yes’s recording plans. “Right now, for us, it’s touring and a lot of it. Which I don’t mind, I love to play the stuff. The band is smokin’ live and it’s always a fun thing to do, so I’m cool—whichever way the flow goes. I’d like to make a new record but we’ll just have to see when it happens.”
Both bands are emphasizing live work for the balance of 2017: Yes is joined by support acts Todd Rundgren and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy for the August-October North American “Yestival” tour, while Yes Featuring launches an open-ended international series of dates starting in August in the U.S.
For now, chances of the camps joining in solidarity next year to commemorate Yes’s 50th anniversary (a la the 1991–’92 eight-member Union tour) are nil, according to both Howe and Wakeman.
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