Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
In a career spanning just over a half century, Yes have been at the forefront of musical innovation and numbered some of the greatest performers in their field amongst their numerous line-ups.
Whilst the story of the band has been a long and tangled one, what has always remained true is their commitment to excellence and it’s this that helped them weather the storm of attacks by the punk era of the mid to late 70’s and the fickleness of fashion.
Barring their more mainstream success in the mid 80’s when the band strayed into more pop rock territory, they have always remained very much at the forefront of the Prog Rock movement, very few other artists coming anywhere near them.
Recorded during their 2019 American tour, this latest live album is a refreshing dip into their back catalogue and covers a cherry-picked selection of highs, along with some nice little surprises.
Nevada’s ‘Sin City’, Las Vegas has long divested its image of a town full of smooth cabaret style shows as more and more rock bands fill the halls once dominated by the likes of Manilow and Streisand.
Yes seem to fill the space between the two, the amplification and excitement of the modern age but with all the grace and superb musicianship that made the Rat Pack et al Kings of the Strip.
This juxtaposition is encapsulated by opening number, ‘No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed’, the Richie Havens cover that featured on the sophomore album.
Sounding as fresh and vital as ever, the track covers the grooving 60’s feel of the original and throws in ‘The Big Country’ western film theme for good measure.
The band are on particularly fine form as Steve Howe’s guitars and the keys of Geoff Downes build layer upon layer, the whole thing powered by Alan White’s peerless drumming.
‘Tempus Fugit’ highlights the dazzling bass work of Billy Sherwood, its kinetic rush enough to light up the town and fan favourites ‘Going For the One’ and ‘All Good People’ somehow seamlessly combine rocked up country, blues, honky tonk and folk along with prog in varying measures.
More dexterous virtuosity is displayed in the multi-faceted ‘Siberian Khatru’ before a beautiful and delicate rendition of ‘Onward’ soothes the soul, its gently undulating rhythms washing over the audience in a warm blanket of sound as singer Jon Davison melts hearts.
The longstanding cover of Paul Simon’s brilliantly evocative ‘America’ thrills and the band continue upwards from that high with their rarely heard tribute to John Lennon starts with the unmistakable opening piano of ‘Imagine’.
With The Moody Blues John Lodge joining in on vocals, this version once again highlights the genius of the ex Beatle, it’s structure perfect and message so prescient for these times, particularly as this release comes shortly after what would have been Lennon’s 80th birthday.
The set finishes with the magnificent and epic rush of ‘Roundabout and Starship Trooper’, both as jaw dropping as when they were first released and the pairing a perfect snapshot of what made the band so popular in the first place.
Often imitated, never bettered, Yes once more prove the gold standard in music, the so called ‘dinosaurs’ outlasting the snotty young flash-in-the-pan pretenders by decades.
Equally thrilling and beautiful, great music, well played will never go out of style and ‘The Royal Affair Tour : Live From Las Vegas’ is a glowing testament to that fact.
Pre-Order The Royal Affair Tour: Live From Las Vegas now! https://YesBand.lnk.to/RoyalAffairWE