Following the success of their US Tour in 2019, progressive rock heavyweights Yes has released a new live album captured during the final days of that leg of the tour.
‘The Royal Affair Tour: Live From Las Vegas’ was recorded at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas on 30th October last year. The album features 10 live tracks including a cover of “Imagine” which features shared vocals by John Lodge from The Moody Blues.
HRH Mag recently caught up with Yes keyboard player Geoff Downes to find out a bit more about the band’s latest concert album, their US adventures, and the plans going forward for both himself and Yes.
You’ve got a new live album coming out which was recorded during happier times when you were out on tour in the US last year. Have you always found that the audiences out there have been receptive to the music of YES?
Well, yeah. It was great from my standpoint because we also had Asia on that bill along with John Lodge and Carl Palmer. So, it was very much a family affair in some ways. It was great to be working with John, I’d not met John Lodge before. I’ve always got on well with Arthur Brown who was on the bill along with Carl. So, I got to know a lot of people that I’d studied years ago when I was sort of an A-Level student. Bands like the Moody Blues.
It was a bit of a trip down memory lane from my standpoint, but certainly, it was a good feast of progressive music, albeit some of it was based in the sixties and seventies. But, at the same time, I think having Asia there as well was something great for me because it was very much a band of which I was one of the founding members. So, they were great times.
I think that when we got off the airplane coming back from the States on August 1st, I think it was last year, I don’t think anyone could have predicted what might occur since then. I think the album is a very nice memory of that tour particularly. I think that we are very excited that this is finally coming out and people could at least get some feel of what the live show was about.
What was so special about that night in Vegas, in particular, as opposed to the rest of the shows on the tour?
Well, I think it was because it was towards the end of the tour and by that time, we had honed down our craft in a way. When you first go out, in the first couple of shows, generally those are not the ones to try and capture. So, the Vegas show was pretty much towards the end, maybe the third or fourth show before the end. I think that everyone was absolutely in great form then and I think that it was a really nice show to capture that.
Looking at the tracklisting, it represents the vast body of work that Yes have produced over the years. But the curious thing for me was also looking at covers that are on the record, like “Imagine”, and also, “America”. What was the idea behind including those tracks rather than adding a few more Yes original songs?
Well, I think the thing was, that it was nice to have a nod towards some of the things that the various members had done in the past. I think that in the case of Alan being on the original “Imagine” recording in John Lennon’s band – that was a nod to Alan in a way. And there were other elements in there, I think we did a tribute to John Wetton in the Asia set. We did some ELP with “Lucky Man”, so I joined in on that one. So, I think there were tributes to all of the individual members who are like a big sort of progressive rock family, or certainly a lot of mainly English musicians from that era.
This Yes lineup has been together for a few years now. You’ve got Billy Sherwood and I know Jay Schellon has been playing some of the shows on drums. Jon Davison has been with the band since 2012. How does it feel as a group now? Does it feel like all of the parts are moving in the right direction so to speak?
Yeah, I think they are a lot more relaxed. When you go into a band, particularly a band like Yes, it takes a while to put your feelers out and get comfortable in the role. I think Jon Davison, when he joined in 2012, you know, initially it’s a bit of a formidable challenge. And then, I wasn’t sure myself when I first joined in 1980. But I think as time goes by, you put your feelers out and you start to feel comfortable and you bounce off the other musicians in the band and you become much more natural and comfortable in the roll.
When Billy came in, when Chris died, he was sort of a bit similar. He had to kind of find his own space in a way. He was a very tough act to follow Chris. He was a pioneer of a lot of things that made Yes a great band. So, I think that now we’ve had time, maybe the last four or five years with the same lineup, it’s felt very natural and I think that everyone is really happy with the way it’s gone, and hopefully, we will go when we can get back out again.