Yes (The Band) and The Importance of Music


On September 13th, I saw Yes (the Anderson, Rabin, Wakeman version) at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. A couple of years ago, I saw the Squire, Howe, White version of Yes. Back in the ’90s, I caught the combined group on the Union tour at George Mason University.

No matter the tour, not matter the line up, the band doesn’t disappoint.This night, I expected a lot from the ’80s albums and wasn’t disappointed with the six songs they played. They also went to the ’70s and played some favorites, including “South Side of the Sky” and “And You and I.”

I was curious about Jon Anderson’s singing because he had health issues a few years. The truth is, he was a bit weak on the first song, but afterward, put in a wonderful performance. The bass player and drummer were brought on for the tour. They played well–there were no obvious places where I missed the original members. Wakeman played with expertise and flair, as expected while Rabin worked the guitar like an expert.

What makes Yes one of my favorite bands, is that they can play a 4:30 pop hit like “Owner of the Lonely Heart” and then turn around and play “South Side of the Sky,” clocking in at over seven minutes. They have no problem going long form with “And You and I” at ten minutes, and “Awaken” at fifteen minutes.

These long form songs tend to intermix stretches of instrumentals and vocal. They change tempo and time signatures. Also, they love more exotic time signatures like 12/8 and 9/3.

This was a fantastic show. They didn’t need lasers, film clips, nor explosions, not that there’s anything wrong with that. They relied on the music and their expertise to entertain the audience.

The audience, by the way, skewed older. While a few teenagers were scattered throughout the crowd (undoubtedly brought by their parents or grandparents), most of these folks enjoyed the early ’70s albums–The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge–when they were originally released. For me, my introduction was 90215–I came to love those ’70s albums in my early twenties.

Progressive bands, like Yes, demonstrate a creativity, both in composition of the music and the lyrics. It’s a true art form that too many under-appreciate. Hearing their albums, see their live performances showcases true talent, which seems to be getting rarer and rarer these days.

I love music. Growing up, I played the organ and the cello. I was mediocre but enjoyed it, especially the cello. I recall playing a variety of songs like “The Rose,” “25 or 6 to 4,” and  a medley from “The Man from La Mancha.” Also, I remember playing straight classical songs to Christmas standards.

While I write, I usually have iTunes running. It helps me block out everyday silliness, and center my thoughts. Sometimes the music inspires me, and other times, it’s something familiar that I can easily block out.

Depending on my mood (and sometimes what I’m writing), I’ll play Yes, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Rush, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and The Alan Parsons Project, if I’m feeling old-school. Other times, I go with Jewel, Alanis, The Cranberries, Mumford and Sons, Paula Cole, and Dolores O’Riordan. Still other times, I write to a mix playlist encompassing multiple artists like Red Rider, Ozzy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Supertramp, The Kinks, and more.

I love music so much that I made it a central plot point in my upcoming novel, The Music of Mars. I’m working hard on finishing edits right now.

If you’d like to learn more about my upcoming book, follow me on Twitter and Facebook.


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