Yes / A Stunning Tour Finale At Royal Albert Hall

The Yes UK tour came to a close at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall, a venue truly fitting for the majesty that is this band. Following what has been a truly inspiring tour, this was the ultimate performance on the closing night, and it is fair to say Yes did not disappoint.

Yes

Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024

Words: Adrian Stonley

Photography: Robert Sutton

Of course, there will always be some naysayers out there who still stick to their stance that without Rick Wakeman or Jon Anderson, there can be no Yes, yet anyone witnessing this performance is likely to say otherwise.

Yes have been a band of many incarnations over the last fifty-five years, and this lineup is just the continuation of the Yes story. No, there is no Wakeman or Anderson, and sadly, no Alan White or Chris Squire with us anymore. Yet the legacy of Yes music is all-encompassing, and this musical juggernaut rolls on.

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The five members of Yes now are as entitled to the name as any that have come before, and based on the audience reaction, those fans who caught this tour and this closing night are likely to be of the same opinion. This version of Yes is as valid as any lineup that has gone before. 

So, to the set. In the words of the current frontman, Jon Davison, who himself has now been at the helm for twelve years, they played an eclectic set, and that truly summed up the show.

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The concert itself was split into two parts, with set one consisting of revisiting past albums while pulling out some lesser-played pieces and deeper cuts. WhereThe second set continued that theme before bursting into highlights from Tales From Topographic Oceans, with some pieces being played for the first time in fifty years, as was pointedly commented upon by Steve Howe. 

Quite simply tonight there was something for everyone.

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The show itself was stripped back with a simple curtain and lighting for a backdrop. There was none of the hi-tech paraphernalia that many bands bring with them to enhance the show, as Yes have themselves done so in the past. Tonight, this was all about the music with no visual distractions.

Opening with Machine Messiah from the Drama album, they set out their intent with Steve Howe’s intricate guitar picking aligned alongside the driving bass of Billy Sherwood, a man who could almost be a musical reincarnation of the much missed Chris Squire, such is his musical dexterity.

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

It Will Be A Good Day (The River) from The Ladder album followed, and though this is not a regular set list song, it more than held its own, allowing Jon Davison to show off his vocal range.

Now, there is no escaping the fact that he does have a similar vocal range to Jon Anderson and realistically needs to manage the vocal gymnastics required to sing much of Yes material. The voice in itself is as much part of the Yes sound as is Steve Howe’s guitar or Geoff Downes flowing keyboards.

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Yet Jon brings his own style and touch to the performance. He isn’t Anderson, and he brings his own personal flourishes to the pieces and, in this way, clearly makes them his own.

With Steve Howe’s famous slide guitar being rolled on stage, many were expecting firm favourite And You And I. Yet in line with the evening proceedings, the fabulous slide introduction to Going For The One shone out, and the band went into full rock band mode. 

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Your Move/I’ve Seen All Good People followed with the band showing that they still have the ability to build beautiful choral landscapes before the powerhouse drumming of Jay Schellen brought All Good People to bear, and the band rocked out in its full glory.

With the tempo rising and the audience responding in true fashion, they brought out a real treat in the instrumental section of their cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s America. Perhaps this is fitting as this very English band now contain three American members.

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Stepping back to 1970, we were then treated to a beautiful rendition of Time And A Word, which evokes feelings of love and compassion, as well as companionship and care. It’s a gentle return to times past and provides a soulful anecdote to the driving rock of the previous twenty minutes.

This allows both band and audience to relax, although the rapturous reception it received at its closure was evidence of the love for this piece.

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

However, this does not last for long before the 1978 hit single and ecological anthem Don’t Kill The Whale is performed, with the band moving up a further level and bringing parts of the audience to their feet. 

The first set closed with Turn Of The Century from the Going For The One album, a delicate and emotive piece, part love song, part ghost story relating an undying love affair. Again, this allowed Davison to show his vocal abilities as his range was tested to the full, yet he was able to wring every musical nuance out of the piece.

It was quite simply beautiful, tranquil, breath-taking and emotional.

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

After a short break, the band returned with the familiar Fragile intro tape of footsteps and blowing winds as they burst into South Side Of The Sky. Cut From The Stars from the recent album Mirror To The Sky followed, being the only new song played, yet this fitted perfectly into the set and may well become a standard for the future. 

However, the main part of the evening, and that element which many had turned up to hear, was to follow with a reduced version of the ninety-minute bombast of Tales From Topographic Oceans being played, though not in its entirety.

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

That would have been a step too far. Yet condensing the four key elements of the album into a twenty-minute piece brought out the very best of this opus.  All the major parts of the piece were lovingly revisited, and with some parts not having been played in the live environment since the album was originally released back in 1973, it was an absolute joy to hear.  

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Initially, I had reservations about how the four very different and complex pieces could be joined together as one. Yet, I need not have worried as the whole piece flowed perfectly and outlined what an absolute tour de force this album was. Though critically dismissed at the time, revisiting all these years later and in a condensed form brought the very best out of the work and it was clear to see that not only the audience but the band themselves were having the time of their lives.

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The band returned for two encores, and here the surprises ended with two old favourites and standards rolled out. Realistically, you couldn’t finish a Yes show without playing Roundabout. If that wasn’t enough to bring the audience to their feet and dancing [Yes, it appears you can dance to prog], the powerhouse of Starship Trooper closed out the set.

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

This enabled every band member to open up and show the consummate skills that are contained between them, the interaction sublime and complimentary. As we thought it was finishing, the band threw in a few bars and a verse from The Beatles’ I Feel Fine.

Perhaps that was a comment from the band about their longevity and vitality. It was the perfect ending to a perfect evening.

I’ve been to many Yes shows over the years, but honestly, I cannot remember two such enjoyable hours passing so quickly.

Roll on the next tour.

Yes - Royal Albert Hall, London - 4 June 2024
Yes – Royal Albert Hall, London – 4 June 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Set 1:

Machine Messiah
It Will Be A Good Day (The River)
Going For The One
Your Move/I’ve Seen All Good People
America (Simon & Garfunkel Cover) (Instrumental)
Time And A Word
Don’t Kill The Whale
Turn Of The Century

Set 2:

South Side Of The Sky
Cut From The Stars
The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) / The Remembering (High The Memory) / The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) / Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil)

Encore:

Roundabout
Starship Trooper

Edited: 6 June 2024 to correct the release year of Time And A Word and the single Don’t Kill The Whale.

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