Yes, October 29th 1999
Union Hall, Phoenix AZ, USA

By Fred Hunter


So there I was in Phoenix to see Yes - a one hour flight from LA. The venue was a very traditional looking theater in downtown Phoenix called 'Union hall' - wonder how it got its name? The security in and around the building was noticably softer than in LA which was great since it allowed the very enthusiastic local crowd to really enjoy themselves.

The band hit the stage around 8.15 to the strains of the Firebird suite which always gets the audience 'fired' up! A huge screen behind the band showed old pictures of the band which each in turn sent the crowd nuts - rather oddly the photos mostly seemed to come from the Topographic / Relayer era, material which the band still ignores when playing live...very sad.

Anyway they kicked off with a very strong Yours is no disgrace that Howe shined on immediatley during the central solo section .The sound was crystal from the start and the vocal harmonies were clearly audible - its never been one of my favourite songs of theirs but as a start song ( just like the Union tour of '91) it works wonders!

After a short acapella version of Time and a word by Anderson the band then slid into the opening track on The Ladder, Homeworld. It was much better than the CD version, the vocals being especially strong . The crowd gave the band a standing ovation after the quiet end of this great song -this would be the first of many tonight..

Surprising everyone the band then went straight into Perpetual change playing all of this wonderful song for the first time in many moons. The middle section of this song was especially incredible with Billy Sherwood playing the repetitve part along with Squire as Steve Howe soloed, this was definitely an improvement on any previous live rendering of this tune because of the presence of two guitarists.

Anderson then greeted the audience with his usual "wohs!" and we were treated to two new songs Lightning Strikes & The Messenger both were played perfectly and as with all the other new songs seemed to way outdo the studio versions. Chris Squire's playing in Lightning Strikes was unbelievable! Listen to the song and then try and imagine it live -unreal... Steve also played acoustic guitar on the whole of this song while Sherwood handled the electric parts.

A very short Nous sommes du soleil was then sung almost acapella as an intro to And you And I this as usual sent the crowd wild - personally I would much rather hear a rarer song in place of this piece (Sound chaser or South side.. we can dream about!) but I seemed to be firmly in the minority on that issue..

Shockingly (judging by the previous setlists of the tour ) the band then went headfirst into Close to the edge. As always this song was amazing, but it really did seem stonger than any recent tour versions of this classic. They seem to have got back to the 1972>76 speed of the song which is so good to hear.

Another standing ovation followed and the band launched into It'll be a good day another strong new song that went down very well. It was immediatley follwed by Face to Face which sent the already crazy crowd absolutley nuts - by this time many were dancing in the aisles and hardly anyone was sitting down- which for a Yes gig here is unusual!

The first real surprise was next as the band started Hearts from the 90125 album. Billy Sherwood handled Trevor Rabin's parts very well as Steve Howe added some wonderful slide guitar parts to the song to make it one of the best of the night.

Next was the big one!! ...Awaken. You only have to imagine how good it can be and it was better I assure you! Chris Squire delivered the insane bass parts from his famous Wal triple-neck bass and Igor khoroshev easily copied Wakeman's parts perfectly, Anderson strummed the harp in a dream-like state in the songs middle section then the whole thing was capped off by that epic slide guitar solo by Steve Howe over the bands crashing chords- it doesn't get any better than that!!

The band then closed the show with the obvious I've seen all good people medley a great sing-along end to the gig...

Of course the guys returned a few minutes later after rapturous applause with Anderson and Howe curiously absent... Alan Whites pounding drumming signalled the start of the surprising choice for an encore Cinema -I've always loved this little energetic piece - once again Sherwood handled Rabin's guitar parts well as (not too surprisingly..) the song went into Owner of a lonely heart -the crowd went berserk at the start of the song. I actually like the song and I guess if the people want to hear it (and they seem too!!) then this postion in the show is probably it best spot.

After another ovation the band finished up with the shorter version of Roundabout although I'm utterly sick of hearing this song ( many radio stations here still play it all the time..) it always seems the 'right' end to a Yesshow. And so it was!!

All in all a very strong show and at almost three hours very worthwhile seeing. Maybe they didn't pull enough surprises out of the bag for this old Yes fan but they delivered enough oddities and more than enough new material (which was all good..) to send me driving back through the streets of Phoenix with a big smile on my face.

Setlist:

Intro (Firebird Suite)
Yours is no Disgrace
Time and a Word
Homeworld
Perpetual Change
Lightning Strikes
The Messenger
Nous Sommes du Soleil
And you and I
Close to the Edge
It'll Be a Good Day
Face to Face
Hearts
Awaken
I've Seen All Good People

Cinema
Owner of a Lonely Heart

Roundabout

 

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