Aftermath is going to preface this review by saying that going into Wednesday night's sold-out show - way sold-out show - at House of Blues, what we knew about Yes took up less space in our brain than those three letters do on your computer screen. We knew "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and "I've Seen All Good People" from the radio (who doesn't?) and that the band had some pretty bitchin' album covers back in the '70s. That's about it. But when the reviewer we originally assigned had to back out, Aftermath decided we'd fall on this particular prog-rock grenade more out of curiosity than anything else. And everything we suspected about Yes was pretty much dead on the money. Don't get us wrong: You'd have an awful hard time finding a bigger lover of rock and roll or classical music - and we've been falling back in love with the Houston Symphony in a major way lately - than Aftermath. Strangely enough, though, any time the two cross paths it sends up a big red flag. And although Yes scored some major points with us by using the "Berceuse" and "Finale" from Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird as their intro music, the rest of what we saw Tuesday did nothing whatsoever to convince us otherwise.
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A large part of the reason, we suspect, is that Yes' sound is rooted in two genres we've always more admired from a distance than actually loved: Jazz fusion and Pentangle-style British folk. The rest of it is that while we can take quite a bit of instrumental fireworks when we're sitting around at home (cough) relaxing, we never thought it was that appealing to watch live. And there was a lot of it Wednesday, enough that Aftermath's eyes kept wandering upward to the props suspended above the stage that resembled giant teeth. So, to a more-or-less complete novice, Yes came across like a UK version of the Allman Brothers, only with every last bit of blues surgically removed from the sound - which is where they really lost us. We were in the minority, by the way. Some people actually stood up and cheered after a couple of especially finger-twisting solos. If you want to get technical about it, there was lots of doubling, counterpoint and that sort of thing, enough that it made us wonder if the members have to take out carpal-tunnel insurance because they really should. If you don't want to get technical about it, "pass the bong, man" will do just fine, or one of our favorite lines from Dazed and Confused: "You couldn't handle that shit on strong acid, man." The show did also make us wonder how many Yes albums are lurking in the collections of modern groups like Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors. We bet there's more than a few. But then again, Aftermath doesn't much care for those bands either - at least now we know why.