Forty years strong, guitarist Steve Howe is still soaring with prog-rock prototype Yes

Yes and Peter Frampton
8 p.m. Tuesday
Lucky Star Casino
7777 N. Highway 81, Concho

Steve Howe's name is revered in the pantheon of progressive-rock guitarists. He made Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest with these words of acclaim:

"Howe brought jazz, country, flamenco, ragtime and psychedelia into the mix for prog-rockers Yes," according to the magazine. "The ringing harmonics that open 'Roundabout' may be Howe's best-known moment but 'Close to the Edge' shows his range, from acoustic delicacy to high-octane riffs."

Howe joined Yes in 1970, bringing his Gibson ES-175 to new heights in the band's classic era of the 1970s. So what can Yes fans expect from a concert Tuesday at Lucky Star Casino?

"One of the regulars is always going to be 'Roundabout.' We never think the show is really ended properly until we've done 'Starship Trooper,'" Howe said of the set list. "For the most part, the wealth of it comes from 'The Yes Album,' 'Fragile' and 'Close to the Edge.' "¦ We feel those songs are pretty eclectic of what Yes is supposed to be about. I don't think Yes is about 'Owner of a Lonely Heart.' I think Yes is about 'Relayer' or 'The Gates of Delirium.'"

Although Howe didn't originally perform on "Owner of a Lonely Heart," he said he's learned to accept the ubiquitous 1983 hit single, which was penned primarily by South African guitarist Trevor Rabin.

"Basically, the agreement now is that we play songs from any corner of Yes before I joined or when I wasn't in the band," said Howe, who belonged to supergroups Asia and GTR in the 1980s. "I think that's a good idea. Yes is Yes. It isn't only Yes when I was there. It isn't only Yes when (singer) Jon (Anderson) was there."

The current touring lineup includes three longtime members " Howe, bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White " joined by former Yes tribute vocalist Benoît David and keyboardist Oliver Wakeman, the oldest son of former member Rick Wakeman.

So why isn't Anderson touring these days?

"Jon obviously did a tremendous amount with the band," Howe said. "Then he got to a point in 2004 where he wanted to stop touring. He said just for a year, then it was two, three and then we got to four. Well, you see, the game is up then.

"We didn't think we'd find somebody as compatible as suitable. (David) hasn't come on with an ego ... he's a very understated sort of guy, but he's also incredibly professional."

How does the new vocalist compare with Anderson?

"There aren't that many people who even sound anything like Jon," Howe said. "Jon Anderson has a very unique voice. Without trying, without forcing something, Benoît has a very close sound to Jon, and range as well, and the ability to remember all those crazy words."

Regarding the spawn of Wakeman, Howe said he'd worked with Oliver and recommended him for the lineup.

"(Oliver) never said to me, 'Oh, I want to join Yes,' or anything like that, but I could tell by the way he played that he had a great deal of his dad's stylistic approach," Howe said.

"He's not just playing Rick; he's playing Patrick Moraz, he's playing Tony Kaye, he's playing Geoff Downes. His role is not to interpret his dad's work primarily " although a lot of it is his dad's work, but I think Oliver is a good opportunist, and he was secretly maybe waiting for this opportunity to come."

Being a prog-rock prototype makes you a target. The "Rock and Roll Creation" concert scene in "This Is Spinal Tap" " in which bassist Derek Smalls gets stuck in a pod " is based on an incident that occurred with White during the "Tales from Topographic Oceans" tour, according to Wakeman. Meanwhile, Kaye reportedly auditioned as a Hammond player in the 1984 rockumentary.

There's a bit of Spinal Tap in all rock music, Howe said.

"If you look at rock 'n' roll in that sense, the whole (over-the-top nature) of it, and the facts that guys wear high boots, paint their faces, dye their hair and wear stupidly tight spandex trousers can look quite ridiculous," said Howe, now 63.

"Although I like to look smart and feel good in my clothes, I don't bend toward excess or that kind of stuff. I think a guitarist running around the stage is pretty much a dumb, dumb thing. I move when I really feel inspired by that. If you do it every night, you do the same thing, you kneel on the ground and doodle on your guitar, I think that's really, really boring. But it's part of what we are. Rick sometimes likes to point out that there are some stupid things about Yes, just like there are about other bands. But I would say there's a difference if you're a musician." "Rob Collins

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