Within the progressive rock genre, striking a chord that resonates with a mainstream audience is rare indeed. Leading more than one such band to chart-topping, era-defining success is like lightning striking the same place twice -- or like Steve Howe. The godfather of classic prog rolls into the Station Square Amphitheater on Tue., July 21, with Yes and Asia, two groups of which he's both a key member and guitarist.
While Howe says he was initially inspired by Les Paul and Chet Atkins, he has crafted a distinctive classical-influenced jazz-rock style through 50 years of constant playing. This instantly recognizable sound may be the tie that binds Yes and Asia, but Howe notes that, "On the guitar-playing level, Asia's got quite a bit more heavy, pounding guitar whereas Yes is much more linear, smooth.
"On another level, Yes is all about not knowing what's going on," he adds. "But with Asia, it's more accessible, toe-tapping and not so weirded out by time signatures that you wonder where you are."
While Asia will perform with its original "Heat of the Moment" lineup from 1982, Yes was forced to recruit an "understudy" last year when founding vocalist, Jon Anderson, became sidelined with a respiratory illness. The band used what is fast becoming the most efficient modern A&R tool: YouTube. Bassist Chris Squire discovered high-pitched Canadian crooner Benoît David online, singing for a Yes tribute band -- the same way current Journey and Boston frontmen were recruited to fill in for their dream bands' seemingly irreplaceable lead singers.
You'd think a score like this would have Howe singing the praises of the Internet, but he's quick to point out its nefarious impacts on his art as well. "The hurtful bit is the thousands and thousands of pounds I've lost because people steal our music," he says. "It's a great shame the copyright control has gone out the window. But the upside is that the Internet has created a new market and I'm in admiration, I'm about to dedicate more time to it."
With attention spans shortening to the length of a blog entry, one wonders how the innovators of the epic 21-minute art-rock song will fare in an era when even the full-length album is lumbering toward Jurassic status. But whether you're a casual summer-concert buff or a lifelong devotee of songs of Tolkien proportions (this writer included), this Yes show promises both 'DVE evergreens like "Roundabout" and "I've Seen All Good People," as well as some deep cuts like "Machine Messiah."
Yes with Asia. 7 p.m. Tue., July 21 (doors at 6 p.m.). The Amphitheatre at Station Square. $35.50-49.50. 412-434-7600 or www.ampstationsquare.com