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Steve Howe (Yes) interview

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
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Published May 2nd 2020
Prog rock legends due to perform entire 1974 album Relayer
The global coronavirus pandemic may have brought a halt to live musical entertainment everywhere, but one of the founders and best ever exponents of 'prog rock' are still determined to hit the road at least one more time. The band Yes has been touring and recording iconic albums for the last five decades. They were shortly due to embark on a new UK tour performing one of their most influential and outstanding studio albums, Relayer, in its entirety. But unfortunately the virus has resulted in the tour, which was to have included a date at Birmingham's Symphony Hall on June 2, being postponed until 2021. Before the coronavirus outbreak, Weekend Notes caught up with long-standing Yes guitarist Steve Howe to talk about the tour and the band. So, how did the idea of full album tours first come about? Steve said: "We wanted a change. We were used to doing this song from this album, and that song from another album, but then we just thought about doing shows with just one album in its entirety. I don't realty remember who came up with the idea or whether it was a collaborative decision. We ended up playing three albums all together (The Yes Album, Close to the Edge, Going for the One). That's where it started. The advantage is you know where you are if you're playing a piece that's say 40 minutes long."

Steve Howe, Yes
Yes lead guitarist Steve Howe. Credit Gottlieb bros

Yes, who have also performed Fragile, Yessongs and Drama on previous full album tours, will play their 1974 release Relayer - the band's 7th studio album - on their new 8-date tour, alongside a selection of tracks from extensive and hugely successful back catalogue. So why the choice of Relayer? Added Steve: "It's a very popular album and we've been asked to play it a lot. We always knew we would play it one day. Close to the Edge has been voted the best prog rock album ever, but Relayer is more challenging. It's got a lot of ferocious and unusual playing on it, not as conventional as The Yes Album for example. It's more like a drama album, punchy and racy. I think we got stranger." So, how will the live performance compare to the studio album? "We are a live band and like to keep that going as much as possible. We take the album as a blueprint so, if it's not like the album when we perform it, we're doing something wrong. But if it needs a slightly different approach we will give it. It will certainly be good to play it again."

Yes to perform Relayer album in its entirety. Credit Gottlieb bros

Are there are any more album tours in the offing? Steve says: "We don't have any plans past the near future. We've done a lot of the 70s records now, but we still have most of the others. We are performers and, as a performer, you want to perform, so as long as it's physically and mentally possible to do so we will do it. It's been great that the career has been going this long. I didn't think it could." Maybe the various Yes tribute bands keep them going! "There's Fragile and other bands that play our music. I find it quite flattering." Steve, who was also a member of Asia, and was belatedly inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, has also been busy on solo projects, writing an autobiography entitled All My Yesterdays and producing a new solo album, Love Is, both due out this April. "Songwriting isn't something I could particularly stop, but I took my time on this album because I wanted it to be beautiful. I'm really pleased with it." Does he feel the need to consult lawyers when writing new material in case someone claims they created it years before? "I don't really think about that much because I think I have my own musical style and my own repertoire."

Yes, Relayer
Details of the 8-date Relayer tour

All My Yesterdays, the first autobiography to be published by any of the classic Yes line up, will see Steve tell his story in his own words for the first time. "I started it about ten years ago and did a chunk of it, but then did more in the last three years. I didn't really know I had it in me but it was very enjoyable. There were a lot of years to cover but I'm pleased I have finished."
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Why? Legendary prog rockers to embark on new album tour
When: June 2
Phone: 0121 780 3333
Where: Symphony Hall, 8 Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2EA
Cost: Tickets from 48 to 88
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