The Wharf in Tavistock in the former industrial heartland of Mid Devon is the jewel in the crown for the South West. For over 25 years The Wharf has been the venue of choice for prog bands and has seen everyone from Porcupine Tree and Steve Hackett to Fish, Focus and Mostly Autumn perform there. Tonight though is a very special evening. For the last week Yes have been conducting production rehearsals at the venue and finish off tonight with a live show to the delight of the venues regular music fans.
Given the process is to iron out any last minute glitches, not everything goes to plan. Roger Dean was unable to attend for the pre-show Q&A, although there was a small Roger Dean exhibition in the upstairs gallery of the venue, hosted by Trading Boundaries. And the venue was simply too small for the video screens that had been previously announced, and having seen some photos of the production rehearsals where they tested them out there would be no room for any audience in there if they set them up!
With that all out of the way Yes take to the stage dead on the advertised time of 7pm the time honoured Stravinsky intro tape playing as it was in 1972. The rarely played On The Silent Wings Of Freedom, got things going, before the set, like the upcoming tour, dedicated to late drummer Alan White (US drummer Jay Schellen is performing on the upcoming dates), upped the ante with Yours Is No Disgrace and No Opportunity Necessary. You know immediately that Steve Howe is running a very well oiled machine and there is no question that Yes is Steve Howe's band; nobody said a single word to the audience all night other than Steve. Being a warm up show there were still a few gremlins for the band to contend with on stage, with various frantic hand gestures mostly directed at the monitor engineer. After Does It Really Happen from the Drama album Howe then gets to do a little solo acoustic piece that starts off as a little improvisation and then morphs into the better known Clap.
The band reappear for Wonderous Stories, and you've almost forgotten that the show is based around Close To The Edge, although that's not really that surprising as it forms 40 minutes out of the two-hour show. New songs The Ice Bridge and Dare To Know are introduced. These fit into the set as well as anything from the 70s to be honest, which is really where this tour is at. There's nothing from the band's hit albums of the 80s and although I may be in the minority here, as great and groundbreaking 70s Yes is, something like Rhythm Of Love would have been a fine nod to the bands most successful era. I’d wager we will probably never hear Owner Of A Lonely Heart in the Yes live canon ever again.
Heart of The Sunrise from Fragile takes us back to the 70s, and into the Close To The Edge section, which flows almost faultlessly despite a false start, leaving Howe to quip ‘That’s what we were doing in rehearsal’! And almost in a flash we get the whole of one of the seminal prog albums in full! Rapturous applause follows with a room full of people who can't quite believe what they have seen. The first time that Yes have performed in a small club in South West of England since the Van Dyke club in Plymouth over 50 years ago!
The band don’t leave it there and we get Roundabout and Starship Trooper as splendid encores. Howe has a few more gremlins with one of his guitars, but it was dealt with swiftly - again, that's what tonight's show was for. Maybe now some other groups might decided to pop down to the finest county in England and do some warm up shows here. We’re all up for it! It’s a testament to Angela and her staff at The Wharf that we have a great home for the music that we love here in Devon.