For a band whose name is one of the simplest words in the English language, Yes is a complicated arrangement of musicians and music.
The legendary British progressive rock band has been around for parts of six decades with their eponymous debut album coming out in 1969.
Though they have had pop success over the years ("Roundabout," "Owner of a Lonely Heart," "Leave It" and "Love Will Find a Way" are their highest-charting songs on the Billboard pop chart), they are most identifiable as a band that intricately blends instrumentation into long-form pieces.
A symphony of sorts, Yes' initial albums featured songs that routinely ran 15 to 20 minutes in length, or even longer.
In a nod to that past, Yes is on the road this summer playing one album in its entirety (1980's Drama) and sides one and four of their 1973 double album Tales from Topographic Oceans, along with some of their greatest hits. Playing albums in their entirety is a watermark of many classic-rock bands these days, though Yes has done this in recent years, with past tours spotlighting Fragile and Close to the Edge.
While Fragile includes "Roundabout" and "Long Distance Runaround," Drama and Tales from Topographic Oceans did not sell as well. Fragile went double platinum and Close to the Edge went platinum while Tales from Topographic Oceans went gold and Drama was their first album since 1971 not to reach gold certification.
That said, both albums sort of represent the different sides of Yes. Tales from Topographic Oceans wasn't received well by critics, but was popular whereas Drama was a critical favorite but did not sell as well.
The current tour comes to the Lynn Auditorium Thursday night (Aug. 4) and we had the chance to speak with long-time keyboard player Geoff Downes last week about the tour and the band's enduring legacy.
"The Drama album is the first album I did with Yes, so it has a lot of significance to me personally," Downes said. "The other album (Tales from Topographic Oceans) is one I played a lot. It's a fascinating piece of work with great big, long extravagant pieces. This is a nice thing for the fans to see."
Though many artists, including Bruce Springsteen on his current tour performing The River in its entirety, have adopted the concept of playing an album in its entirety, Downes said it's different when Yes does it.
"Playing them in sequence you get the feeling of a classical music piece. It has a logical beginning and a logical end," Downes said. "With Bruce Springsteen, you never see those as being albums in their entirety, but a group of tracks in an album. Yes music lends itself more than other artists to that treatment."
Because there aren't any single tracks on either Tales from Topographic Oceans or Drama that charted as a single, this tour is a good fit for the Yes fan who likes deeper cuts and has grown tired of the singles that are played regularly on classic rock radio.
"A lot of diehard Yes fans know that music inside out, beginning to end, and know every single nuance of the music," Downes says. "To them, they like to hear everything pretty much as it was."
Downes says the tour gives diehard Yes fans a chance to see how the music is made by the musicians who made it. "They get a glimpse of the intricacies of Yes music. I think the fans really appreciate these two albums because it's straight-ahead and not easy listening."
If you like Yes music and you want to see veteran musicians performing it (the tour features long-time guitarist Steve Howe along with newer members Billy Sherwood on bass, Jon Davison on vocals and temporary drummer Jay Schellen, who is filling in while Alan White recovers from back surgery), this is the show for you.