The lineup seems to change every time British art-rock band Yes rolls into town to play a show, so much so that one almost needs a scorecard to keep up with the rotating members, like keyboard player Rick Wakeman, who’s gone, and guitarist Steve Howe, who’s back.
But this 1997 touring version has as its foundation four of the key members from the band’s ’70s heyday, and the foursome still — nearly 30 years after Yes formed in London — has the necessary chemistry and suitable enthusiasm to make their brand of progressive-rock magic succeed, as they did for 2-1/2 hours Sunday at Universal.
The group has released two new albums recently — the optimistically themed “Open Your Eyes” (Beyond Music) and the double-length, half-live/half-studio “Keys to Ascension II” (Cleopatra Records) — but the bulk of the long show (in typical band fashion, there was no warm-up act) comprised familiar classics from the expansive Yes catalog. The group could have been more inventive with the set list, actually; haven’t we all heard “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” more than enough times?
As always, bass player and L.A. nightclub fixture Chris Squire was the most animated of the bunch. During a playful version of his 1972 signature tune “The Fish,” the tall bassist, who cut quite the intimidating figure as he stalked about onstage, pulled reverberating single notes from his instrument while being egged on by the mostly thirty-something-males crowd.
One handicap is current Yes coproducer and now full-time member Rick Sherman, whose uninspired guitar solos and struggling backup vocals weren’t worthy of the group. On the other side of the stage, prodigal guitarist Howe was nothing short of masterful. His acoustic stylings on “And You and I” were counterbalanced by his psychedelic table-slide solo during “Siberian Khatru,” the 1972 piece that opened the show.
Also a pleasure was new key-board player Igor (Ivan) Khoroshev, a recent Russian emigre and unlikely successor to the flamboyant Wakeman, whose unbridled energy and agile style — including one segment where he played synthesizer with one hand and percussion with the other — was a welcome addition to the continuing Yestory.