Yes: In the Present – Live at Lyon
In 2011, Yes, the existential Anglos who brought us close to the edge with progressive rock epics like “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” emerged from a 10-year recording hiatus, releasing Fly From Here. Despite positive reviews, the argument from diehard Yes fans was that without lead singer Jon Anderson, it wasn’t really Yes. With In the Present: Live From Lyon, their second release with new singer Benoit David, Yes proves that no individual member is bigger than the group.
In the Present was recorded in 2009 while the band was still adjusting to David. “Siberian Khatru” opens the show with promise as guitarist Steve Howe slashes and drummer Alan White bashes. The group goes on to revisit many of their signature tracks, including “And You and I,” “Roundabout,” “Starship Trooper,” and “Yours is No Disgrace.” They break out a real oldie, 1970’s “Astral Traveller” from their second album, Time and a Word. It’s improved with age, thanks in part to White’s pretty-good-for-a granddad drum solo and Chris Squire’s rubbery bass.
For the most part, David sounds eerily like Anderson. He falters when he tries too hard to emulate Anderson’s higher registers (as in “I’ve Seen All Good People”). The band plays at a slightly slower pace — perhaps a concession to Squire, White and Howe being in their sixties. The more deliberate pace is most noticeable in “South Side of the Sky,” but the intricate mid-section harmonies are as graceful as when Yes recorded the original version in 1971.
In essence, if you liked Fly From Here, In the Present will be equally as pleasant. Howe’s solos are as pristine as ever, keyboardist Oliver Wakeman doesn’t get in the way, providing moody, spacey backing; White remains one of rock’s premier percussionists, Squire’s lead bass abounds and David properly mimics high-pitched pipes of a youthful Anderson.
In the Present: Live From Lyon isn’t stellar, but it isn’t stale either, indicating that Yes’s new lineup will carve out its own chapter in the group’s illustrious story. Is Yes Still Relevant? YES!