Concert Review Archive

 

Yes

Wednesday, 16th November, 2011
Colston Hall, Bristol, the UK

Article By Jez Rowden

Yes really have a lot to answer for. For me personally the band has had a huge part to play in the whole of my adult life and I cannot stress the impact their music has had in making me the person I am today. My wife can vouch for that! Yes will always be special – in a good way of course – to me and right at the top of my listening pleasures, one of the two real constants, along with King Crimson, that have been with me for nearly 30 years and not diminished. I am still beaming after the show in Bristol, they totally delivered.

Yes are always a tricky business; the struggle of the devout vs. the naysayers, the ups and the downs continuing ad nauseum. I am squarely in the supportive category and happy to have this most classic of bands still together with a historically viable line-up after 43 true summers, here and, all but Alan, laughing too. That said if there was any criticism to be made I wouldn’t hold back from making it but from the start things were markedly better than the 2009 show which I enjoyed at this same venue. I won’t go into lots of detail regarding the show itself as this has all been covered in the excellent reviews by Alison and Basil from earlier in the tour and rather than provide Yes overkill regarding the minutiae of the shows I would rather consider the wider view of Yes in their fifth decade.

The traditional Firebird intro of old always gave me goose bumps but the use of the fugue section of Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is just spot-on for the band as they are now, Purcell’s majestic theme emerging from chaos and almost acting as a metaphor for the band itself. Majestic is probably the best way to describe this gig. Unusually for Yes they were on fire from the very start with a kick ass rendition of Yours Is No Disgrace. In every single one of the dozen or more Yes shows I’ve seen over the years it has taken them a song or two to settle in; not tonight. The sound was great, Howe initially very low in the mix but that was rectified within minutes. The set was much the same as elsewhere but no Owner Of A Lonely Heart (not a problem) or Machine Messiah (a shame) and Howe played In the Course of the Day as part of his solo spot in favour of Clap which I have heard almost every time I’ve seen Steve perform so it was a nice change and beautifully played. The tempo was very slightly slowed for Yours is No Disgrace and Tempus Fugit but certainly not ¾ speed and otherwise just fine for the rest of the show.

There were one or two flubs but nothing serious and all of the performances were top rate including a resounding “welcome back” to Alan White. I have worried about his capabilities over the last few years but despite appearing while playing to be a strong contender for ‘Most Miserable Man in Rock 2011’ I did catch him smiling a couple of times and I’m sure he was positively beaming inside with how well the band played. Whether he has taken note of his critics, got fitter and put the work in or been inspired by the recent Levin/Torn/White album who knows but he played with real fire and as well as I’ve seen him in a number of years.

Benoit David has been the focus of most of the ire of Andersonists since joining but he sang beautifully and added to the fun atmosphere with his Dad Dancing, twirling and hand jive things. My friend Nige, attending his first Yes gig, was blown away by the whole thing and said that a few times he shut his eyes and you wouldn’t know that Jon was not present. There is a difference in their voices and Benoit was more confident perhaps with the new material but overall he was excellent and despite a slight wobble on one of the peaks in Wonderous Storie he put in a quite unbelievable performance during a magnificent Heart of the Sunrise. He even showed us his bongos during the Fly From Here suite which was good of him and made a change from seeing Chris Squire’s as he had this time gone for trousers instead of the all too hugging lycra leggings [shudder].

The thing Benoit does not bring to the table is Anderson’s aura and he never will. This may be seen by many as an important part of the Yes experience and a tragic thing to lose but I for one am happy with the current state of the band and the opportunities it gives them to play a more varied set while producing new music. Fly From Here is not as good as Close To The Edge, The Yes Album, Drama, Going For The One, Topographic, Relayer et al. Who cares and why should it matter? It is much better than Open Your Eyes, The Ladder, Talk and the studio stuff from the Keys to Ascension albums. The point is that Anderson does not automatically equal good material. Benoit now sings the old stuff really well and has made the new material his own giving the band a whole new future that is markedly different from the one they would have had with Jon. It would be a foolish man who would say that Yes and Jon will never come together again but for now this is good and it works. Yes history is filled with change, more will no doubt come, but not only does the band continue to exist they have also put the work in to ensure an excellent performance and I couldn’t be happier.

Geoff Downes did a fine job, particularly with the new material, his less fussy style giving Steve Howe more scope to explore and dazzle. I much prefer his playing and style to Oliver Wakeman and as much as I love Wakeman Snr. do I miss him? Not at all. The Keytar thing is a cheesy bit of fun but it gets Geoff out from his keyboard nest to strut his stuff.

Steve Howe has been on fire over the last few years and played like his life depended upon it. Sometimes he makes life hard for himself by trying new things on the fly but he and the whole band hit their marks while trying new stuff and looked like they were enjoying themselves. Except Alan of course! Also, Steve’s guitar tech at first glimpse resembled our very own Jonno which was quite bizarre and caused me an initial double take!

Chris Squire is revelling in his role of master of ceremonies but it is his fluid fingers, thundering bass pedals and wonderful backing vocals that make him a true original. Maybe not the best bassist around but unique, awe-inspiring and the main reason for my love of the bass guitar, raising it from a support instrument to a lead and opening up all sorts of possibilities for other players to explore. Tonight he was simply fantastic and all I ever want to see from him. He seems to have lost a bit of weight and was very sharp. Maybe he’s drinking less; maybe he’s drinking more! Who knows but thank you Chris, it was a total pleasure tonight and one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from you, a joy to watch.

Some of the instruments have become as familiar as the players. Howe’s myriad guitars included old friends such as his Gibson ES-175 and lap steel and Squires cream Rickenbacker and green Mouradian amongst others. He also had a bass on a stick which he played like an upright on the Sad Night At the Airfield section of Fly From Here. Not seen that before.

The power is still there, technology now allowing the band to sound better than ever. Alan and Chris, despite looking drained by the end, are much sharper and the band playing better than in a number of years. The set was a good mix of old and new and Yes are not, and have never been, a nostalgia act. It isn’t 1973 anymore and it would be wrong for them to wheel out Close to the Edge every tour but it was a brave move to play so much of the Fly From Here material which fortunately works well and gives the band a vitality and currency that keeps them up among my favourite live acts. That said a smoking Starship Trooper, the aforementioned stunning Heart of the Sunrise, a wonderfully emotional And You and I and an exuberant Roundabout kept everyone smiling. At the end Squire thanked the audience for their loyalty, an appreciated and humble gesture from a man who had just played a blistering two hours plus of magical music. The crowd responded accordingly.

The expectations of some of their more sceptical listeners, however, need to be changed. Not downgraded, just modified. The band, as I believe the young people would say, brought it. They then proceeded to nail it and kick its arse all over the stage. This gig was a complete vindication of the decisions they have taken, for right or wrong, over the last few years. Yes, I enjoyed it.

Setlist
Yours Is No Disgrace
Tempus Fugit
I've Seen All Good People
Life On A Film Set
And You And I
Solitaire / In the Course of the Day (Steve Howe Solo)
Fly From Here
Wonderous Stories
Into The Storm
Heart Of The Sunrise
Starship Trooper

Roundabout

Links

Yes Official Website
Yes Myspace

DPRP's Review of "Fly From Here"

Colston Hall

 


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