Yes showcases songs spawned during 49-year career
In recent years, Yes tours featured the band playing classic albums in their entirety. But the Aug. 16 concert at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg will showcase many of the best-known songs from the English group's 49-year career.
Within that canon of music, drummer Alan White still finds new challenges and a desire to create new works.
"We have 21 studio albums," says White, who joined Yes in 1972 and is second in tenure to guitarist Steve Howe, an original member. "We always have an overload of music in everybody's mind, and we always want to come out with an album we've worked on. It's also something we all work on constantly, and every year and a half or whatever we pull it together and make a new album. That's still running within the band."
Yes' most recent album, "Heaven & Earth," was released in 2014. Since then, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, an honor White appreciates. But the most seismic change came in 2015, when original member and bassist Chris Squire passed away from leukemia.
"If you think about it deeply, it's difficult to go on without Chris," White says. "He was a mainstay in the band for a lot of years. Chris and myself were really good friends. We played music together for 43 years to the point where he didn't have to tell me what he was going to play. I knew what he was going to play … He'd just give me that look and I knew what to do."
Squire's death did give the band pause about its future. But before he died, Squire anointed a successor, Billy Sherwood.
"Chris was (Sherwood's) mentor," White says, noting he collaborated with Sherwood in the band Circa. "I knew how to play with Billy and he's all around great musician. It's still not the same thing, of course."
White compares Squire's playing to that of John Entwhistle, the late bassist for The Who. Both men, according to White, had an inimitable style, and the same can be said about Yes' music. While many bands from the '60s spawned imitators, the complexity of "Close to the Edge," "Tales From Topographic Oceans" and "Relayer," (the latter one of more underrated Yes records and a favorite of White's).
"Chris, myself and Steve (Howe) got a lot of ground from 'Relayer,'' he says. "There's a lot of instrumental bass and drums in there that's very inventive and not easy to play. Songs like 'Sound Chaser' are elaborate and difficult to play. … (The song) 'Gates of Delirium' is a beautiful piece to play. There's an atypical bass and the drums are in complete counterpoint all the way through it."
This tour can viewed as a victory lap of sorts, given the band's long-awaited Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. The supporting acts are kindred spirits. White speaks highly of Todd Rundgren's musicianship and personality. But years ago, the inclusion of Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer on a tour with Yes would have been unlikely.
"I've known Carl since the '70s, when we he had a love-hate relationship," White says. Now, after being on tour with him a few times and getting to know him a lot better, we're better friends. In the '70s a lot of bands were a lot bands, like ELP and Yes, were fairly competitive."
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.