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Rock band Yes back on tour with old songs, new ideas

Legendary British rock band "Yes" performs in Bucharest in this file photo taken March 25, 2000. Reuters
Legendary British rock band "Yes" performs in Bucharest in this file photo taken March 25, 2000. Reuters

By Iain Blair

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Yes, one of the pioneering British progressive-rock groups that thrived long before disco, punk rock and rap pounded from subwoofers, kicks off a new U.S. tour on Friday.

Joining such other indestructible '60s-era war horses as the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and The Who, Yes take to the road in West Wendover, Nevada with a new twist on some of their old classics.

So what can fans expect from the band whose grand, symphonic style, cosmic lyrics and arcane album titles (think "Tales from Topographic Oceans") helped define the late 1960s and 1970s?

"Something completely different - and a first for us," said bassist Chris Squire, who co-founded the band in 1968.

"We don't have a new album, so instead we're going to perform three of our classic albums - 'The Yes Album,' 'Close to the Edge' and 'Going for the One,' all in their entirety, at each show. And the fans all seem to love the idea," Squire told Reuters.

Squire, who is hitting the road with guitarist Steve Howe, singer Jon Davison, drummer Alan White and keyboardist Geoff Downes, admits that the concept is ambitious.

But he notes that the original vinyl releases were each about 40 minutes long.

"It's not that staggering in terms of length," Squire said. "Each show will be about two hours - far shorter than a Bruce Springsteen concert."

Choosing three albums from a catalog of some 20 releases spanning five decades was not so difficult, Squire said.

THREE ALBUMS

"We looked at all our albums, and it was obvious that these three worked well together and really represent the band," Squire added.

"'The Yes Album' was the first to get us recognized on the world stage, and 'Close to the Edge' was the first time we did one track that lasted the whole side of an album, so that was a landmark. And 'Going for the One' was the first time we recorded outside the UK, so that had its own unique flavor," he said.

Yes last toured in support of their 2011 album, "Fly from Here", underlining the continuing appeal of 1970s-era classic rock.

Squire has several theories about the reasons for the band's continuing popularity in an age where commercial music is dominated by rap and pop.

"First, it was such a musically creative period, and the songs still hold up," he said. "We still get radio play, so I think that keeps bringing in new, young fans, as well as the older diehards. And then, there's the survivor factor.

"When we began, none of us ever thought we'd still be doing this 40 or 50 years later. I remember when we first formed Yes, and I thought, 'The Beatles - 1963 to 1969. That's a long career! Hope we can stay together that long.' And here we are - 45 years later."

Squire, who turns 65 next week, said that, like the rest of the band, he still loves touring.

"It's really one of the best jobs you can have," he said.

"Unlike an athlete or sportsman, where you often have to retire in your late 20s or early 30s, you can keep doing music 'til you finally keel over on stage. Look at Mick (Jagger) and the Stones," Squire said. "They're all around 70 now, celebrating their 50th anniversary, and still going strong.

"I'll never retire, as long as people want to see us play," he added. "I'll never forget going to see Yehudi Menuhin play violin when he was in his 90s. What an inspiration."

(Reporting by Iain Blair; Editing by Eric Kelsey)

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