Members of Yes took the stage to perform two of their best-known singles, “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Friday. Rush‘s Geddy Lee, who helped introduced the band, chipped in by playing bass on “Roundabout.”
“Roundabout” is the opening salvo from Yes’ 1971 album Fragile, and the song unfolded gradually onstage just as it does on record. Steve Howe began the tune with tenderly picked, exploratory lines on guitar, and the whole band lurched into action when the rhythm section arrived, goosed by Lee’s forceful, cinder block-sized bass notes. The band brought “Roundabout” to a close with a round of harmonies, steady tambourine shaking from lead singer Jon Anderson and one final, filigreed riff from Howe.
Following “Roundabout,” Lee left the stage and the remaining players turned their attention to Yes’ biggest hit, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” This track is well-suited to arenas, with sawtoothed guitars, a resistance-flattening backbeat and vocals that seem to float elegantly above the action.
Yes’ rendition at the Barclays Center did not disappoint: Alan White’s drums landed with the rude force of a thunderclap, and Trevor Rabin’s riffs curled and snapped. Anderson pushed his voice into its most urgent register, leading the band through the single’s undeniable call-and-response chorus. By the end of the performance, several band members were playing their instruments in the middle of the crowd on the floor of the Barclays’ Center, including Rick Wakemen, who came out from behind his embankment of keyboards and picked up a keytar.
Yes have been eligible for the Rock Hall for over two decades and finally entered on their third ballot. “Rick used to joke that we’d come out in wheelchairs,” Jon Anderson told Rolling Stone last year.
But Anderson didn’t sound overly troubled by that prospect. “My mantra always is, ‘It’ll happen when it happens,'” he added. “You can’t presuppose that you’re supposed to be in the Hall of Fame. It’s not something that I lose any sleep about.”
In recent years, there have been two different Yes-affiliated outfits touring and playing songs from the band’s back catalog. Howe led the group that held on to the Yes name, while Anderson embarked on a tour with Wakeman on keyboards and Rabin on guitar. That unit dubbed themselves ARW.
Unusually, both Howe and Anderson seem content with the inter-band split. “Basically there’s room for anybody to play Yes music,” Howe explained during an interview in December. “We love to hear other people play Yes music. [ARW] have quite a bit of credibility to do that and they are outstanding musicians, so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t go out and play.”
Anderson expressed a similarly open-minded sentiment. “So many bands are out there playing Yes music, and Steve’s band is one of them,” he said. “Over the years I’ve had ups and downs with Steve,” Anderson added, “but he’s still my musical brother.”
Both men appeared at the induction ceremony on Friday. Wakeman, who delivered one of the night’s funniest, most profane speeches, initially expressed skepticism about showing up. “I’m so disgusted with the way that prog rock and Yes have been treated I’m not sure whether I’d turn up,” he told Billboard in October after the Rock Hall announced that Yes was once again on the Hall of Fame ballot. “I might be washing my hair that night.” His hair appeared clean, and his keyboard playing onstage at Barclays was colorful and energetic.