Over the past 45 years, the iconic and Grammy-winning rock band Yes has seen many changes in their lineup but their signature sound has remained intact. This Friday Aug. 2, Yes will perform live at The Twin River Events Center in Lincoln. For the show, they will play two of their most noted albums, The Yes Album and Close To The Edge, in their entirety.
Recently, Yes bassist Chris Squire, the only member who has performed on all of Yes’s studio albums, spoke with Time Out from his hotel in Virginia in preparation for the show.
“People really love the concept,” Squire said of their current tour. In most venues, the show would also include the album Going For The One, but due to time constraints only two albums will be played at Twin River.
Yes is renown for their musical prowess as a whole, but Squire has dug out quite a niche for himself as well. The virtuoso began playing bass when a friend told him that he should because he was tall and had big hands. “My mother bought me this Italian, not specifically good, bass called a Futurama for fifty bucks back in the 60s,” he said.
Growing up in Northwest London, Squire was lucky to be around when some of rock ‘n’ roll’s most influential players were getting hot. Squire recalled his first meeting with Jimi Hendrix as having a very big influence on his career and musical direction. As a teenager, he looked up to bassists like Paul McCartney, John Entwistle and Jack Bruce. So, it wasn’t long before Squire decided to invest in a more suitable instrument, a Rickenbacker.
Squire’s hard-hitting heavy tone is palpable, and he credits his Rickenbacker for that sound. That’s not to say anyone can achieve the same by purchasing a new axe.
The bassist said that he was always putting stickers and whacky paint jobs on his instrument, and would then later have them removed. Through constant covering and uncovering of the finish, Squire’s bass lost a bit of it’s original wood, and weighed less than a traditional Rick.
The weight was not the only factor though. Over the years, Rickenbacker has actually run tests and taken measurements on Squire’s bass to try to recreate it, but the company has come up short.
“They couldn’t make anything that sounded quite as bad,” Squire said in reference to the notoriously dreadful bridge pickup in that particular model. “The bass pickup has always been pretty deep sounding though.”
Playing albums in their entirety is not an easy task for a band with the range of talent that Yes has. The tendency to play off each other can be strong, and many Yes tunes lend themselves to extended solos, and group jams. But, this time around Squire said, “We are actually trying to discipline ourselves to make [the songs] more like the original recordings.”
With some of these albums dating back over to over thirty years, one might expect the crowd at a Yes show to fall into a certain, let’s say, “more mature” age range but Squire said their fan base is very diverse.
“I was amazed how many young people were in the audience,” said Squire, who was speaking of a recent show in Atlanta.
There are a handful of bands from the Yes era that are still touring successfully these days. Names like The Rolling Stones and The Doobie Brothers come to mind quickly. But, what is it about these particular bands that lend them to such lengthy success?
“We set out on a route 45 years ago and we didn’t really have a specific direction,” Squire offered on the question. “I think one of the reasons we have been around for so long is that we remained relatively flexible.”
Like many great bands, Yes began by playing their own tunes mixed in with some covers. The band would play tunes written by The Beatles and The Byrds, who were known for blissful melodies and subtle sounds, but Yes soon became renown for their own music.
In the late 1960s, when Yes was just getting their start, the British music scene was in a state of evolution. The pop/psychedelic era was coming to a close and bands like Deep Purple and Cream were beginning to emerge with a heavier, more progressive sound. Yes took that progression even further by adding mystical esoteric lyrics along with musical complexity.
Squire gave original vocalist John Anderson credit for the mythical verses.
“A lot of those lyrics were from John’s pen,” he said and noted, “Part of their appeal is that they were not really saying anything, but, [instead] created an atmosphere, or a suggestion of musical sounds as well as lyrics.” Squire even theorized that, “quite often the lyrics mean different things to different people.”
With their immense talent, it’s easy to think that the members of Yes spent years studying music at the university level.
Ironically, it wasn’t until keyboardist Geoff Downes joined the band in 1980 that any member of Yes held a musical degree. Downes graduated from the Leeds School of Music in 1975.
In 1985, the band took home a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, beating out bands like Genesis, Van Halen, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. But, Yes would not be pigeonholed as a theatrical showcase. Keeping their musicality intact, they managed huge commercial success in popular music with songs like “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” and “I’ve Seen All Good People” amongst many others.
The current Yes lineup consists of Squire, Downes, longtime members guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White, and new lead vocalist Jon Davidson, who joined the band in 2012. This tour marks the first time since 1973 that these albums have been played in their entirety.
Tickets for the show start at $47.
For more information and to purchase tickets log onto www.twinriver.com .