Perhaps no step the band could have taken would epitomize their claim to the title of “real-life Spinal Tap” more than the tour they’ve undertaken this year. With legendary lead singer Jon Anderson facing a long recuperation from acute respiratory failure, and longtime keyboardist Rick Wakeman no longer up to the rigors of touring either, the band forged ahead on the potentially dangerous decision to have Rick’s son Oliver fill in on the keyboard duties, and they (temporarily) replaced Jon Anderson with a guy named Benoit David, lead singer of a Montreal-based Yes tribute band that bassist Chris Squire discovered on the Internet.
True fans may see parallels between the current situation and the infamous period in 1980 when, faced with the abrupt departure of Anderson and Wakeman (Anderson’s first, Wakeman’s second), the band recruited The Buggles as replacements, because they happened to be recording in the same studio at the time.
Trevor Horn may be a great producer (may be), and he’s a decent enough singer. But he could never be a replacement for Jon Anderson, and not just because Chris Squire made him perform songs at Madison Square Garden after only having heard them on a cassette during the limo ride to the gig. (Does it really happen? It can happen.)
Although I have seen Yes live more than any other band (five times), I had no intention of seeing them on this tour. That may be in part because it would’ve required driving to Milwaukee, but I’ve driven to Milwaukee for a concert by a prog rock dinosaur before (King Crimson in 2000). Mostly, though, I was afraid of Benoit David.
Then I saw this:
Pardon the poor sound and picture quality. Apparently Yes is OK with having video from someone’s cell phone represent them on their official site. So be it. But the lack of visual clarity only helps to reinforce the message I’m trying to convey here. You wouldn’t know by looking (the white pants, the vest, the quasi-conductor dancing) — or by listening — but no, that’s not Jon Anderson. It’s Benoit David. And now I get why Chris Squire was so excited to bring him in as a substitute. Too bad teh interwebz didn’t exist 28 years ago.
And too bad we can’t shut up the tone-deaf holder of the cell phone.
Full disclosure of geekdom: 8 or 9 years ago, before Yesworld was established, I ran a Yes fan website — well, it actually poked fun at the band, song by song, album by album, but it was done out of love — and I was approached to be the webmaster for the band’s official site. It was not a paid gig, of course — I would’ve just been compensated with some merch, backstage passes, stuff like that. I decided it was too much work for too little reward; plus, it would probably mean I’d have to take down my own site. Which I eventually did anyway.