Yes, 12th December 2001
The City Hall, Newcastle, UK


By
Bob Mulvey


THE YES SYMPHONIC TOUR

The day was actually upon us, it hardly seemed that nine months had passed since I purchased my tickets. So it was up to my old stomping ground for many years now, The City Hall in Newcastle, a venue that holds many memories for me and has hosted many a legendary band and numerous world famous orchestra's. Now both elements together - how would it sound?

I had avoided reading any reviews about the tour and in fact left buying Magnification till just a week before. So the whole experience would be fresh and without any pre-conceptions.

We were all seated promptly by 8.00 pm at which point the Conductor led on the Yes Orchestra and after a few moments of fine tuning, the auditorium hushed and the music began. Many questions had crossed my mind - would they open with the "Firebird Suite", what might "Close to the Edge" sound like with a full orchestra? Both questions soon to be answered. It was not to be the "Firebird Suite" but the opening section from "Give Love Each Day". Surely this must be the most wonderful way for any band to be introduced onto stage - a fanfare played by a symphony orchestra - but no time to dwell as the first sighting of the musicians brought everyone to their feet and the second of my questions was answered as the band launched into "Close to the Edge" - which brought an even greater cheer from the audience. Need I say anything about this track, well yes, but only for the arrangement of "I Get Up I Get Down" this, with the orchestra was a truly magical moment and brought a lump to the back of my throat. (Let's hope this is captured on the DVD.) Without introduction from Jon Anderson and as if any were needed, the second track was another favourite "Long Distance Runaround" - the sense of excitement from the audience was electrifying. Again the band worked very well with the orchestra and the arrangements complimented both admirably.

Jon Anderson then introduced the Yes Orchestra and this heralded two tracks from Magnification. The jaunty "Don't Go" and "In the Presence Of". These two tracks most complimented the band/orchestra affiliation, undoubtedly because of the way in which the tracks for the album were written and arranged to include both elements from the very outset. At this point any misgivings I may have had about the "orchestral tour" had been dispelled and at this juncture the orchestra stood up and left the stage followed by Messrs Anderson, Squire and White - it was obviously the part of the evening in which Steve Howe plays unaccompanied. We were treated to two pieces - the first a classical guitar arrangement of a piece by Vivaldi followed by a ragtime tune. Sadly the titles of these two pieces were drowned out by an i***t behind me, who insisted in almost every quiet section to shout "Steve Howe is God". The pieces were of course played superbly in Steve Howe's own inimicable style.

The band returned to play "Starship Trooper" (without orchestra) which lead into Chris Squire's bass extravaganza the "Wurm" and at which point my good friend Dave Carr (at his 31st Yes Concert) leapt from his chair in rapture. Sadly this secton was slightly marred as Chris Squire seemed somewhat distracted by his sound which he had struggled with all evening and the ever increasing volume from the PA system which was soon to cause problems with the mixing of the orchestra's sound. Having said this, it did not seem to be overly distracting the vast majority of the audience from what was now a truly memorable evening and a one we may never witness again.

After a long standing ovation Jon Anderson introduced the third and final track of the evening from Magnification and indeed the title track. Sadly this was to be the last time the orchestra was audible above the band, which was a real shame, this track beautifully illustrates Larry Groupe's splendid arrangements from the album - and has all the hallmarks of classic Yes track.

"Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil" was the next track up, the longest piece from the evening, clocking in at just over thirty minutes and this served as the track to contain individual instrumental solo sections. Chris Squire enthralled and entranced the audience not only with his playing but with his theatrical antics as he strutted from one side of the stage to the other. The track as a far as the audience appeared to be concerned was climaxed, however, by Alan White's solo (playing in his native home town) it included not only the man's great dexterity but also featured percussion from the Yes Orchestra. As the the track reached it's crescendo - the applause rang out again and on and on it went - I mused how they might follow this musical extravaganza, however the rich vocal harmonies of Anderson, Squire and assembled musicians resounded out with - "I've Seen All Good People" - an immense roar emerged, the clapping began and this lighter weight gem carried the masses to the end of the evening. After nearly two hours Jon Anderson's voice was as clear as ever and rose above the now totally captured audience.

Before passing onto the final song of the evening I feel I must put right an oversight on my behalf and with a special note to Tom Brislin. To follow in the footsteps of Wakeman or Moraz must surely be a daunting task, however the keyboard sections were superbly represented and well worthy of those performances of the past. So after much stamping of feet, whistling, shouting and cheering the band re-emerged from the wings and from just a few harmonics from Steve Howe's guitar the audience rose in recognition of the final number "Roundabout". The icing on the cake for me as this one of my all time favourite Yes tracks - and by the look of the audience I was not alone.

This was truly a memorable concert and one I was glad to have witnessed!


Setlist :

Give Love Each Day (Opening Instrumental Section)
Close To The Edge
Long Distance Runaround
Don't Go
In the Presence Of
Steve Howe - Acoustic Section
Starship Trooper
Magnification
And You And I
Ritual
I've Seen All Good People

Roundabout
 


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