Interview: Yes talk about Harrogate's connections to band's early success in 1970s and pay tribute to Alan White who has sadly passed

A key member of legendary 70s prog rockers  Yes has told the Harrogate Advertiser the band's early years playing iconic live venues such as Harrogate’s Royal Hall created the foundation for Yes’s worldwide success as he prepares for a new tour taking in Yorkshire.

By Graham Chalmers
Tuesday, 31st May 2022, 5:50 pm

Guitarist and songwriter Steve Howe told the Harrogate Advertiser, though the group had grown accustomed to stadium tours, they hadn’t forgotten shows in traditional theatres such as the Royal Hall where he performed with Yes performed on May 23, 1971.

“I learnt my craft as a musician in English theatres such as Harrogate’s,” said Steve. “They have a grandeur and a history all of their own and the audiences are very honest.

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Legendary 70s prog rockers Yes are bringing their new Close to the Edge 50th anniversary tour to Yorkshire next month.

“As a band we still feel at home there.”

In a few weeks Howe, who is now 75, will be taking his version of Yes out on a British tour, which will go ahead despite the sad passing of drummer Alan White earlier this week.

The band will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their 1972 album Close to the Edge by performing it in its entirety on the tour which begins in Glasgow on June 15, and also includes the Royal Albert Hall on June 21 and York Barbican on June 22.

When I ask the musician, who at one point won the title of the World’s Greatest Rock Guitar Player five years on the trot, whether he missed being on stage, the veteran star replies: “Tell me about it.

The current line-up of legendary 70s prog rockers Yes led by Steve Howe, pictured left.

“I’m really looking forward to performing again. We had planned to play all of Relayer when the pandemic struck.

“But we felt it was too big an ask to tackle Close to the Edge and Relayer on the same tour.

“We want to perform at the level Yes fans expect from us.

“Close to the Edge was where we first stretched ourselves with songs 20-plus minutes long.

"We had already done 10-minute epics but with Close to the Edge we just took it a stage further and I’m very pleased we were brave enough to do that.”

“I’m very proud of the album.”

For the new tour, Yes will be performing the album in its entirety plus other classic tracks from the band's extensive catalogue in a new adaption of the twice-rescheduled Relayer album Tour.

The show boasts a full production and a high-definition video wall directed by Roger Dean who will also be joining the tour with an exhibition of Yes-related art.

Once derided by music critics for their ever-changing membership, the current Yes line-up, which also features Geoff Downes, Billy Sherwood, Jay Schellen and Jon Davison, is now one of the longest versions on record.

“One reason we have kept changing members is Yes have always had the hard nosed rule that the music tells us what to do," said Steve.

“It’s like an orchestra rather than a band.

“It was so sad when Chris Squire passed a few years ago but the band never sits on its laurels; we still set ourselves a very high standard.”

Having first picked up a guitar in earnest in 1963, Steve Howe is used to the highs and lows of rock n roll.

Though it was a long time ago, he says he feels sympathy for legendary 1970s band Wally who were meant to support Yes on a US tour but never got the chance after their mentor Rick Wakeman left Yes -or so the story goes.

“I’m sorry the Wally thing didn’t happen,” said Steve.

“I don’t remember all our support bands, though the Eagles did open for us before they were famous.

“Rock n roll sometimes has its own momentum.”

A tribute to Alan White by Yes

It is with deep sadness that YES announce Alan White, their much-loved drummer and friend of 50 years, has passed away, aged 72, after a short illness.

The news has shocked and stunned the entire YES family.

Alan had been looking forward to the forthcoming UK Tour, to celebrating his 50th Anniversary with YES and their iconic Close To The Edge album, where Alan’s journey with YES began in July 1972.

He recently celebrated the 40th Anniversary of his marriage to his loving wife Gigi. Alan passed away, peacefully at home.

Alan was born in 1949 in County Durham. A number of health setbacks, since 2016, had restricted Alan’s time on stage with YES on recent tours with Jay Schellen filling in and Alan joining the band, to great applause, towards the end of each set.

Alan was considered to be one of the greatest rock drummers of all time and joined YES in 1972 for the Close to the Edge Tour.

He had previously worked with John Lennon’s Plastic Ono band after a call, in 1969, to play at the Toronto Rock Festival.

Alan continued working with Lennon including on the Imagine album and with George Harrison on All Things Must Pass.

He also worked with several other musicians, over the years, including Ginger Baker’s Air Force, Joe Cocker, Gary Wright, Doris Troy and Billy Preston to name but a few. Alan White was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of YES in 2017.

YES will dedicate their 50th Anniversary Close to the Edge UK Tour in June to White.

YES June 2022 UK Tour Dates

15th June Wednesday Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

17th June Friday Manchester Bridgewater Hall

18th June Saturday Nottingham Royal Concert Hall

20th June Monday Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

21st June Tuesday London Royal Albert Hall

22nd June Thursday York Barbican

24th June Friday Birmingham Symphony Hall

26th June Sunday Newcastle O2 City Hall

28th June Tuesday Dublin Eire Vicar Street

29th June Wednesday Cork Eire Opera House

For full details and to book tickets for all shows go to each venue's website or http://yesworld.com/live