- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 29, 2004

Veteran cosmic rockers Yes showed off a few new wrinkles Wednesday night at Nissan Pavilion — and they weren’t all on guitarist Steve Howe’s forehead.

A few examples:

Exhibit A: For those of us who’ve heard “Roundabout” performed just one time too many, the band’s 1972 hit was radically remodeled into a blues shuffle and dished up anew as the centerpiece of an unplugged set. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Long Distance Runaround” also got the acoustic treatment before things degenerated into drummer Alan White leading the band through a few bars of the theme from “The Stripper.” Keyboardist Rick Wakeman topped that by playing “Tiger Rag” even as the roadies were wheeling his piano offstage in preparation for the band’s switch back to electric mode.

Exhibit B:Bassist-extraordinaire Chris Squire actually told a story on stage when introducing “Roundabout.” It was the first time in 30-plus years of attending Yes concerts that I’ve heard him speak more than a couple of words.

Exhibit C: “South Side of the Sky,” from “Fragile,” got a super-sized, muscle-enhancing steroid injection via a sizzling, extended jam in which Messieurs Howe, Wakeman and Squire furiously traded riffs.

Still, most of the night was classic Yes, with the band playing some of its most beloved numbers and sounding better and more energized than it has for years. “Close to the Edge,” “I’ve Seen All Good People,” and “And You and I,” all nearly matched the original blueprints, and received thunderous ovations, despite a plethora of empty seats in the rear of the amphitheater.

More rarely performed songs included “Sweet Dreams,” from the band’s 1970 sophomore album, “Time and a Word,” which opened the show with Mr. Howe blazing away on pedal steel guitar, plus a full 15-minute version of “Awaken.” The long, quiet middle section of the latter number was performed to stunning effect, with the light show’s flickering pots of flames surrounding the stage as Mr. Wakeman played ethereal organ solos and Jon Anderson on the Irish harp — an effect reminiscent of Captain Nemo playing his pipe organ in the glass dome of the Nautilus.

The stage set was designed by longtime Yes graphic artist Roger Dean, whose futuristic visions of man living in harmony with the environment always seem to work better on paper than in 3-D.

The overall effect was pure kitsch, but still fun.

Yes was, of course, initially hailed as a prime avatar of British progressive rock. But once the punk and new wave movements took hold, it became fashionable to curse them as dinosaurs.

Yet 35 years later, the band has not only withstood the barbs of its critics, but has, literally, danced on their proverbial graves; albeit a very un-Yes like thing to do for the karma-loving Mr. Anderson and his fellow starship troopers.

Earlier in the evening, opening act Dream Theater , who performed an hour or so of prog-metal, grabbed the Yes fans’ attention in mid-set when they did an almost note-for-note rendition of “Machine Messiah” from Yes’ “Drama” LP.

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