Yes vs. Yes: Which version of the prog-rock band should you choose?

Steve Howe’s Yes (left) and ARW’s Yes are criss-crossing on tour.

Yes, it’s true—prog-rock giant Yes is playing the Hard Rock Hotel and the Smith Center within a six-day span … and it’s far more complicated than that sounds. Two entirely different bands calling themselves Yes are coming to town, and both have a solid claim to the name.

Some background: In 2008, Yes—known best for ’70s albums like Fragile and Close to the Edge and ’80s hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart”—began touring and recording minus original vocalist Jon Anderson, recovering from acute respiratory failure at the time. Led by longtime guitarist Steve Howe, that version of Yes is the one headlining the Yestival tour stop hitting the Joint on August 26.

Beginning last year, Anderson began touring with former Yes bandmates Rick Wakeman (keyboards) and Trevor Rabin (guitar and vocals) as Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman. Then this past April, two days after Yes’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—an event that saw members of both camps perform together briefly—the trio announced it would begin playing as Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin & Rick Wakeman. That’s the Yes playing Reynolds Hall on August 31.

So the real question is, if you can only see one Yes this week, which should it be? Here’s the case for each:

Yes No. 1 (Steve Howe version). This Yes has recent history on its side, having played consistently for almost a decade, the past five years with ex-Glass Hammer singer Jon Davison on the mic. The group, which also includes longtime drummer Alan White, keyboardist Geoff Downes and bassist Billy Sherwood, released latest album Heaven & Earth in 2014, but its shows mostly consist of classic material. The current tour features an especially interesting setlist—touching on every album from 1969’s Yes through 1980’s Drama, but we’ll still give our vote to …

Yes No. 2 (Anderson/Wakeman/Rabin version). Yes just doesn’t seem real without Jon Anderson. Davison might be 26 years younger, but Anderson was the voice and face of the group through its best years and most enduring songs, and he still sounds quite good today, if last year’s Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman performance at the Pearl was any indication. When that group delivered primo oldies like “And You and I” and “Awaken,” it felt exactly like Yes, whatever it’s actually called at this point.

YES with Todd Rundgren, Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy. August 26, 7 p.m., $45-$175, the Joint.

YES ft. Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin & Rick Wakeman. August 31, 7:30 p.m. $39-$114, Smith Center.

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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