By John Benson
Yes guitarist Steve Howe isn’t going there.
That is, he won’t directly discuss why original singer Jon Anderson isn’t touring with the ’70s prog-rock giant.
These days that role belongs to converted cover singer Jon Davison, who last year replaced Yes tribute band singer David Benoit.
“That’s like me saying how do you feel without your ex-wife or without your ex-girlfriend,” said Howe, calling from Massachusetts.
“People don’t have any problem asking us questions like that but we have a problem answering them. What about Bill Bruford? He retired and made the choice. Not only did he leave Yes to play with [King] Crimson, which was his decision, but then he retired from Yes altogether. And I love the guy. So there are a lot of crosses to bear, and I do respect all of the people who have made such great contributions in their previous role as Yes members. End of story.”
This summer the story for Yes is playing three of its classic albums in their entirety.
The outfit – Chris Squire (bassist), Steve Howe (guitarist), Alan White (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboardist) and Davison – are playing 1971’s “The Yes Album,” 1972’s “Close to the Edge” and 1977’s “Going for the One.”
Sounds simple, right?
Well, in true Yes fashion, the order of presentation has been swapped, meaning fans attending the upcoming shows won’t be hearing the albums in chronological order.
Instead, “Going for the One” is in the middle of the set, while the two remaining albums are played newest to oldest.
Howe said he didn’t agree with the decision.
In fact, he said in the end he was outvoted.
“To me, it doesn’t make a lot of sense but irrespective of that, I enjoy playing each album so to hell with it whatever order we do them in,” Howe said.
“I’d prefer to show the development of Yes from a simpler rock-based ‘The Yes Album’ into the adventurous, game-changing ‘Close to the Edge’ to the kind of fullness and maturity of ‘Going for the One.’”
Clearly the decision was based around ending the evening with the more popular “The Yes Album,” which includes the radio friendly “I’ve Seen All Good People” and fan favorites “Starship Trooper” and “Clap.”
Howe feels that’s a mistake.
He points to the monumental “Awaken,” the final track on “Going for the One,” as the perfect apocalyptic set closer that speaks to the heart of the band, which has been part of a group of prog rock acts largely ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Sure, Genesis was inducted a few years ago, but when is Yes going to get that call?
“I don’t lose any sleep over that,” Howe said.
“I’ve got a mess of gold albums, lots of awards. I’ve been top guitarist. I can be proud if I wanted to be but I’m very pleased with what we’ve done. As Bob Dylan says, ‘I wouldn’t crawl across cut glass to make a deal.’”
When asked if he’d consider walking in shoes over cut glass to be inducted, Howe quipped, “I’m not going there.”