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Yes: Prog Legends Playing Mountain Winery

In Music
Veteran prog rock act Yes will keep playing after the death of bassist and co-founder, Chris Squire. Photo by Glenn Gottlieb.

Veteran prog rock act Yes will keep playing after the death of bassist and co-founder, Chris Squire. Photo by Glenn Gottlieb.

When Yes co-founder and bassist extraordinaire, Chris Squire, passed away earlier this year, many fans wondered what would happen to the legendary prog-rock ensemble.

The answer to that question came fairly quickly from his surviving band mates—who had learned Squire was ill in May, a short time before his death on June 27 from Acute Erythroid Leukemia at the age of 67.

“He asked me personally to carry everything on,” Yes drummer Alan White says, recalling his band mate’s request. “He said, ‘You’ve got to keep this thing going.’”

Speaking by phone shortly before a recent performance in Biloxi, Miss., White says Squire will be dearly missed. “Obviously it’s not going to be the same without Chris playing.” he says. “He was a great part of this band, but he wanted us to carry on, regardless of what happened to him.”

An influential and ground-breaking group, Yes have sold nearly 40 million records since forming in 1968, and have produced many memorable songs including “Roundabout,” “Starship Trooper,” “Heart of the Sunrise” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” The band had already booked their summer tour with Toto—which which comes to the Mountain Winery on Sept. 8—when Squire discovered he was sick.

The plan at the time was for Billy Sherwood, a protégé and friend of Squire’s, to fill in for him while he received treatment—a contingency that has remained in place since his passing. Considering Squire’s reputation as one of the most gifted bassists in rock, whose virtuosity on the instrument was one of the trademarks the Yes sound, some might question whether those very big shoes could be adequately and appropriately filled.

White, who joined Yes back in 1972, assures fans that they should be at ease with Sherwood taking Squire’s place on stage.

“We pulled ourselves together and we’ve got Billy Sherwood,” White says. “He was a good friend, and Chris was his mentor, so he grew up playing Chris’s material. He pretty much knows everything.”

Live performances have always been a strong point in the band’s legacy. They’ve released many live albums over the years, including their latest, Like It Is, in July. White emphasizes that these gigs are also acting as a loving celebration of the group’s history. Each Yes show on the current North American tour begins with a tribute to Squire—all of which, White says, have been moving.

“We think it’s only apt on this tour,” he says, “and it’s a great help to us to see the fans appreciating the fact that we’re still moving on. We’ve had really pretty great reactions at every show.”

Once the tour comes to an end on Sept. 12, Yes will be taking part in “Cruise to the Edge” in November—a five day cruise from Florida to the Bahamas and back, featuring concerts, parties, shore excursions and more. In April the band will head to Europe to perform two of their classic albums—Fragile and Drama—in their entirety, live.

When that string of gigs is over, White says that he and the other members of Yes—which includes fellow long-time member Steve Howe on guitar—will sit down and try to figure out where they want to go from there.

“We’re going to get through this next year and then analyze where we’re at, and see what we can do,” he says.

In addition to Yes, the 66-year-old drummer has performed with a variety of other bands and individual musicians over the years. White has played with Joe Cocker, Ginger Baker and George Harrison. He was also behind the drums for the recording of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” After nearly 50 years in the music world, and with all of his experiences and journeys, White sees this time period as a potential new stage in both his career and that of Yes.

“I played with Chris for 43 years, we had a Zen kind of relationship—and now I have to move on with the music.”

Yes are playing The Mountain Winery on Sept. 8 at 7pm. More info. Toto opens the show, so watch their video for “Africa” below.

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