Steve Howe is, of course, the lead guitarist in Yes.  Although Yes were one of the main targets of the punk wars way back in the Seventies, the band has remained incredibly popular, despite line up changes and their own internal conflicts.  Even the sad passing of pivotal member, bass player Chris Squire, has not daunted them and the band will be setting sail once more, quite literally, as they headline their annual Cruise To The Edge cruise ship festival in February next year. 

You might think that after fifty years as a rock musician Steve Howe would take it easy in between Yes-related activities, but clearly not.  Here he is, out on the road on a small UK tour, despite not having an album to promote – evidently just doing it for the sheer fun of it.

Howe has drawn a small but enthusiastic crowd to The Queen’s Hall tonight, one that is, on the whole, familiar with his solo output as well as his work with Yes and the set list tonight draws on all aspects of Howe’s career.  The word in the bar before the show is that he’s not feeling too well and that the show was almost cancelled but if Howe I’d feeling poorly, he makes no mention of it and his playing is certainly not affected.

Perhaps his singing voice is not all it could be but, then again, even if he was fitter than Usain Bolt after after a five day work out, his voice would never be a thing of beauty.  Let’s be blunt: Steve Howe cannot sing.  If there were a bucket on stage, he would be unable to carry a tune in it.  But to his credit, he gives it a good go.  I doubt if there is a single person in the audience who would be disappointed if How had elected to stick to instrumentals but in the service of the material, he gives the vocals a fair crack.

Opening with Mason Williams’ acoustic guitar showcase Classical Gas, Howe moves on to Intersection Blues from his album Natural Timbre and then Mood a For A Day from the classic Yes album, Fragile.  In between songs, Howe tells us a little bit about his personal musical history and the guitars that he is playing.  At ease with the audience, he is a surprisingly comfortable raconteur, if not in the same class as former Yes-mate Rick Wakeman.

Howe takes us right back to the start of his musical career with My White Bicycle, a slightly psychedelic single from his pre-Yes band Tomorrow before bringing the set to close with a couple of Yes’s most popular songs I’ve Seen All Good People and Roundabout for which the audience are more than happy to help out on vocals.  The encore is, inevitably, The Clap, Howe’s tour-de-force from The Yes Album.  While a solo Steve Howe gig is unlikely to attract many people not already familiar with his music, tonight’s performance shows that he still offers plenty to please the fans.

John Scott

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