It’s not often you get the opportunity to see a 40+ year old band break in a new lead vocalist, but that’s just what happened Sunday night at Auckland’s Vector Arena. Jon Davison, until recently a singer for a Yes tribute band, made his debut performing with his heroes, on this, the first night of the veteran prog-rock band’s world tour. Ironically, the tour is taking place to promote the band’s latest album, last year’s Fly From Here, the first to feature Benoit David, another former Yes tribute band singer who replaced original vocalist Jon Anderson in 2008.
For those keeping count, Davison is the 18th musician to pass through the ranks of the band. The line-up on this tour is Chris Squire (bass), Steve Howe (guitar), Alan White (drums), Geoff Downes (the former Buggle who joined the band in the early 80s) (keyboards) and vocalist Jon Davison.
After a pre-recorded classical piece, the band began the night with Yours Is No Disgrace, from 1971’s The Yes Album. They sounded a bit tentative, with Davison looking from side to side, possibly not quite believing he was sharing the stage with the real deal. His vocals were spot on, you could close your eyes and imaging Jon Anderson was right there. Davison had the right look and demeanour as well; his long hair and white bellbottoms made him look like he fit right in.
Next came Tempus Fugit from 1980’s Drama, the one Yes album Downes appeared on before the latest. After a note-perfect rendition of I’ve Seen All Good People, came the first of many songs from the new album, Life On A Film Set. The band was aware that this being their first visit to New Zealand, their fans would want to hear the old classics, but to their credit, they did plenty of the new album, which they are obviously proud of.
The band then lefty the stage, except for Steve Howe, who took up an acoustic guitar, sat down, and played Solitaire, also from Fly From Here. After a spritely version of The Clap, the band returned and played And You And I. It was the last song before a break, and I felt the performance dragged a bit at this point, particularly Alan White’s drumming which seemed somewhat bland.
The second half of the show got underway with the six-part title suite from the new album. A video accompanied the song, which was projected on the screen behind the band. The song lasted almost a half an hour…the crowd was patient, but you could tell they were itching for something familiar.
That came in the form of an ethereal Wondrous Stories, from 1977’s Going For The One. Then it was time for one more song from Fly From Here. Into The Storm was energetic, but went on for a tad too long.
Then came the old favourites. The Fish and Mood For A Day from Fragile and then probably the evening’s high point…Heart Of The Sunrise…that found Davison capturing the feel of the original perfectly.
Owner Of A Lonely Heart followed and Starship Trooper closed out the second set after a brief bit of confusion over what song would be played…Howe announced Starship Trooper, but White seemed to start to play something else.
The encore was obviously going to be Roundabout. It started strong, but when it came time for Chris Squire’s bass to come in, nothing happened. Squire threw up his hands in frustration while the rest of the band vamped, waiting for the bass problem to be sorted out. After a few minutes of Squire waiting for his crew to solve the problem, he sheepishly stepped on a footswitch and, viola!, the bass could be heard. From there the performance was perfect. The mountains came of the sky and stood there just as they should.
I had a chance to speak to Jon Davison after the show. He turned out to be a friendly, humble guy. He told me that he only had about five rehearsals with the full band before tonight’s show. Incredible really, considering the poise and ability he displayed throughout the show.
I never saw Benoit David perform with Yes, but I have to say, if Jon Anderson is unable or unwilling to perform with his old band, Jon Davison seems to be the next best thing.
Click here to listen to Yes perform Yours Is No Disgrace at the Vector Arena:
Click here to see a gallery of Michael Flynn’s concert photos:
Yes set list:
- Yours Is No Disgrace
- Tempus Fugit
- I’ve Seen All Good People
- Life On A Film Set
- The Clap
- And You And I
- Fly From Here
- Wondrous Stories
- Into The Storm
- The Fish/Mood For A Day
- Heart Of The Sunrise
- Owner Of A Lonely Heart
- Starship Trooper