Veteran progressive rockers Yes can these days be counted on for solid live appearances that feature the best of their classic ’70s compositions along with a generous helping of their occasionally engaging new material, and at the first of three sold-out House of Blues shows on Tuesday, the band nearly gave ecstatic fans their money’s worth.
Having finally settled on one personnel lineup (anchored by four, key long-time members) for consecutive albums for the first time since the mid 1980s, the band is once again finding a pleasant balance between nostalgia and creativity.
The six-piece band opened to loud cheers with their elaborate l971 workout “Yours Is No Disgrace,” and quickly established that this 1999 version of Yes can, at times, be as invigorating a concert attraction as in their arena heyday.
At the end of that first song, bassist Chris Squire swung his instrument up and held it the way a victorious warrior might wield his sword following a battle.
Tracks from the band’s new album “The Ladder” (Beyond/BMG) were inconsistent, and often came across as filler when following more exciting older tunes: The otherwise charming “It Will Be a Good Day” fell flat after a majestic read of 1972’s “And You and I.” The latter song was highlighted by the work of guitarist Steve Howe, who dashed between table slide and acoustic guitars.
Best of the new bunch was the beautiful “The Messenger,” a song that praises Bob Marley. “We’re all climbing the ladder of hope,” singer Jon Anderson would later say.
The numerous video screens in and around the club, which usually monitor the musicians as they play, instead came alive with elaborate and often distracting psychedelic images. Many were courtesy of longtime band artist Roger Dean, whose striking work combined prehistoric interpretation with futuristic visuals.
After such a zealous show, the encore was a bit of a disappointment. It started with a brief 4-piece instrumental jam, then followed with anti-climatic takes on two over-played tracks, the group’s big 1984 hit “Owner Of a Lonely Heart” (the only ’80s title offered) and moldie oldie “Roundabout.”
The band closed the long evening (a rather efficient 2 hour and 15 minute show, actually) with a light-hearted and customized version of the classic “Good Rocking Tonight” which paid tribute to the House of Blues.
Much talk after the show centered on the steep $65 ticket price in light of the set list, which favored songs from the new album as opposed to more of the oldies many fans thought they were paying to hear.