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Yes dazzles in concert at Winnipeg Pantages Playhouse Theatre

Yes sizzles in Winnipeg at Pantages Playhouse Theatre
Yes sizzles in Winnipeg at Pantages Playhouse Theatre
Michael Buckner/Getty

Yes made a long overdue return to Winnipeg, MB, performing to a packed house on Wed., March 26 at Pantages Playhouse Theatre, despite receiving stiff competition from the city's numerous 2014 Juno Award Week music activities.

Playing in the city for the first time since their appearance at the now demolished Winnipeg Arena in April 30, 1979, the pioneering British prog-rockers have undergone many line-up changes since those halcyon days, but remain a powerful live musical force.

The band's current trek, dubbed "The Triple Album Tour," features the complete live performances of three classic Yes releases, including 1971's "The Yes Album," 1972's "Close to the Edge" and 1977's "Going for the One.".

Yes still retains a core member nucleus from that last visit, which includes original bassist and founding member Chris Squire, as well as long-time members - guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White, along with the additions of keyboardist Geoff Downes, who first joined in 1980 and the group's newest addition, singer Jon Davison, who fills the vacancy left by ex-Yes founding member Jon Anderson and the former frontman's initial replacement, Canuck singer Benoit David

For prog-rock lovers, the opportunity to see the musicianship alone is pretty much worth the price of admission with Squire ranking easily among the top five rock bassists in the world and Howe having earned Best Overall Guitarist recognition by Guitar Player magazine five years in a row. (1977-81). White's credentials include previous tenures with John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band and Alan Price Set while Downes' include The Buggles and Asia (along with Howe).

Preceded by a video intro flashing the trilogy album covers, news clips and photos from the band's early days to the delicate intro strains of "Firebird Suite," the Grammy winners ignored the albums' chronological order and launched the evening promptly at 7:30 p.m. with the title track and live show staple - "Close to the Edge."

The song, which opens with interweaving lead guitar and bass work from Howe and Squire, punctuated by vocal shots while rising to a crescendo, treats fans to an early taste of the instrumental virtuosity to come.

Along with the intricate melodies, layered three-part vocal harmonies, complex time signatures, which underpin the soaring lead vocal lines, aficionados were also treated to a dazzling array of vintage and custom made instruments by the pair throughout the course of the evening, which included Howe's electric sitar, lap steel and Squire's triple neck bass.

"Edge" was performed in its entirety, and, following a brief album background introductions by Squire and Howe, was immediately followed by the uncharacteristic (by Yes standards) straight up rock groove intro of the debut title track of 1977's "Going for the One."

Consisting of five short (again - by Yes standards) tracks, the album culminates with the one-two punch combination of the album's U.K. hit single, "Wondrous Stories" which saw Davison shine on lead vocals and don an acoustic guitar plus contribute added synth work, followed by the 15-minute long epic album closer "Awaken."

Though no newcomer could expect to match the inestimable contributions Jon Anderson has made to the legacy of Yes, Davison at times bears an uncanny resemblance to the former singer in his younger days, both in terms of sound and even appearance, and did an admirable job bringing a freshness and enthusiasm to the material. While honouring Anderson's hallowed original vocal melody structures, the 43-year-old Laguna Beach, Calif. native nevertheless injects something of his own personality into the numbers, adding subtle phrasing changes and ornaments.

Following a brief 15-minute intermission, the band returned with the night's most anticipated offering, their 1971 breakout release, "The Yes Album," which contains an abundance of songs that have become beloved live staples, starting with the chopping guitar rhythms of the opening track "Yours is No Disgrace, " followed by Howe's warmly received acoustic solo spotlight "Clap," and into the spacey fan favorite Starship Trooper, propelled by Squires punchy melodic bass riffs and Howe's arpeggiated chord work.

The night ended with a triple combination, opening with the familiar three-part harmony intro of "I've Seen All Good People" with Howe on mandolin, followed by "A Venture" and the winding epic "Perpetual Change," which came complete with confetti cannon explosions, earning Yes a much deserved standing ovation and an encore - their 1971 breakout hit single "Roundabout."

Yes recently announced a brand new U.S. tour leg at which they'll perform two of their classic albums in their entirety, including 1971's "Fragile" (never before played in its entirety), 1972's "Close to the Edge," as well as a set of greatest hits along with songs from their upcoming studio album "Heaven and Earth," set to hit shelves on July 8.

Their next Canadian stop is March 29 in Oshawa, ON at General Motors Centre.

See for more details.

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