27 years, 3 months and 4 days ago
Wednesday, March 6, 1996
San Luis Obispo, California
Edward's Fremont Theater
they added another night, and we jumped right on it.. the show was just as good as the night before, maybe even a little more energetic. big fun!
My wife and I made our way up the California coastline with friends to SLO from LA. The winter rains left us with beautiful countryside. My wife, being an avid whale watcher, spotted a pod of Orcas a few hundred yards offshore. We stopped, and were awe sticken by their sport. As blown away we were at their presence, our evening at the Fremont Theatre took us HIGHER.
It was wonderful to make many new friends both out in front of and inside the theatre. We missed the lottery for our seats on Tuesday, only to find that the luck of the draw put us SECOND ROW,CENTER!
We had seen Yes many times before, from the Spectrum in Philadelphia to the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa, but this took us HIGHER. My wife and friends were pinned.....no, riveted to their seats.
Sure their performance was incredible as hopefully we can all enjoy it via a video release, but I have one personal experience that I must recall. Making eye contact with Chris throughout his performance was really cool but when he looked right at me during one of the improvisational musical breaks between lyrics towards the end of "Roundabout" and played the riff From Sly Stones' "I Want To Take You HIGHER" I felt as touched as any other listening musical experience as ever!
Chris, if you ever read this, DID IT REALLY HAPPEN?
Some general impressions of the theater... It's about the size of our average first-run theaters in SF. The seats are nice and plush, and truly every seat would give you a good view of the stage. Actually, the theater would be able to fit more people if there was a balcony, but that's not the case here. I was in the middle section, Row "H", which is about the same place that I'd sit if I were watching, say, Toy Story at a movie theater. For once, Yes does not look like performing fleas. They're actually people-sized from my vantage point.
The "programs" were free, a little folded cardboard sheet with some black and white pictures of the band in the centerfold. The outside is graced with a simplified Roger Dean Yes logo. The "program" was designed locally by Cal Poly. Unfortunately, the little programs were probably produced in a last-minute rush, as the colored inks were not sealed. Folding, bending, scratching and abrasion all caused the inks to flake. But, hell what'dya expect for free?
The stage was relatively small, and the only decorations were three Roman columns. Otherwise, the stage was filled with instruments and speakers.
The show starts off with a taped "Firebird Suite". Once that finishes, Yes walks onstage and starts blasting "Siberian Khatru". I'm surprised, but by the first song, I'm already digging it! Doubts of whether or not Yes can deliver the goods vanish... Yes plays with finesse and power. Here we go again, flashback to the much-beloved shows on the late 70's!
Jon's voice is in good shape. He's not straining anymore (re: Talk tour), and he's singing in his comfortable range. Steve, Alan, Rick and Chris don't miss a note.
Jon has lost some of the excess weight that he was lugging around back in '94... for a guy his age, he looks good. He's had a haircut, getting rid of the ridiculous "hippy 1978" 'do. He looks quite a bit like he did during the ABWH tour. Jon is wearing baggy, flowing white pants and shirt, and white robe-like-thing that's about knee-length. Looks like the high priest of Zongo.
Steve is wearing a nondescript white shirt and pants. They don't look like LeatherPants (tm). His hair is long and tied back into a ponytail (the same way that he's been wearing it for the last few years).
Chris is wearing a billowing white shirt, black tights and a pair of knee-high, tan boots, folded over at the top. He looks more like a retired Musketeer than a wrestler. Chris has also slimmed down somewhat. His hair is the same length as it was in '94. Chris has a goatee (again) these days.
Alan is balding at the top, and he's wearing his hair a little longer in the back. Alan is wearing a sleeveless black shirt.
Rick has his hair short, and is clean-shaven. He's wearing a white shirt, and a black jacket and pants.
Next song is "Close to the Edge". I'm beginning to miss some of the old three-part harmonies... Steve is fairly silent and Chris is under-miked. Steve disappears during the "I Get Up" section, but returns a bit later with some killer guitar playing. Jon is singing "Seasons of Man" is a lower key, probably to avoid the risk of not hitting the right note(s). Anyhoo, that's fine with me!
It is at about this time when I decide to put Kleenex into my ears. The high-end is a little shrill, especially Rick's electronic keyboards and Steve's guitar. Much better! The Kleenex is muffling some of the music, but it's also getting rid of a lot of the distortion that my unfortunate ears are picking up.
"I've Seen All Good People" follows. Seems like we just can't get away from this song! At least we don't have to put up with the "magic guitar that plays all by itself" crap. Yes, at this time, is a four-piece band with vocalist. No apologies, no pretending. At the end of "All Good People", everyone stands up and dances. Some people were boppin' in the aisles.
"Time and a Word" is next. It has a new arrangement, with a keyboard intro. It does not resemble the ABWH arrangement, or any of Yes' previous versions. Steve is playing some instrument that resembles a really small guitar, but sounds like an electric mandolin.
"And You and I"- Ahhh, here we are, back to the 12-string acoustic intro, just like ABWH in '89. This feels GOOD! Jon looks like he's honestly having a good time.
"The Revealing Science of God" - Worth the price of admission. It's been over twenty years since Yes performed this, and it's magical tonight.
"Going For the One"- What's THIS doing here? Ahhh, I guess I can sit through this, but was there SO MUCH demand for this song that it needed to be part of the show? Come to think of it, aren't they going to perform "Leaves of Green" (from "The Ancient")? "GFtO" is less shrill than it was in the old days. Jon is not trying to song over-the-top.
"Turn of the Century"- Beautiful 12-string guitar playing by Steve. Well, to be absolutely honest, I think Jon needs to brush up on his lyrics. Mebbe he needs to have the point-size increased on his lyric sheet. I don't think he has it quite right here.
Just a comment about this unique venue: probably due to the smaller-sized gig, people were NOT treated like cattle here, like they are at stadium shows. People were not frisked, and they even allowed camcorders and photography. This *IS* a first. Of course, since this show is being recorded, it's bootleg value would probably be minimal, once the official video comes out. Still, this could be a promising sign. If Yes starts allowing recording devices and pictures (like the Grateful Dead did), this could cause an upsurge in good-feeling towards the band from their hard-core clientele. The people attending were primarily over-30, mainly Caucasian.
"America"- what can I say? It's good to hear this little rarity unleashed from the vaults. Steve, who has been standing stock-still for most of the show, finally breaks into a little dance. Great fun.
"Happy Birthday"- dedicated to Chris Squire.
"Onward"- this song also has a new arrangement. It has a LONG intro, and I found myself humming the melody, but not quite placing it. Finally, it comes into focus. Highlight is Steve's 12-string acoustic playing.
"Awaken"- Chris is playing a triple-necked bass, and a steel-pedal guitar is moved back onstage for Steve. The first section, "High Vibration" is played on steel-pedal. After the harp solo, Steve roars back with a Fender Telecaster. "Awaken" gets a standing ovation.
The lights come back on. The audience shouts for an encore. What will it be?
"Roundabout"- Encore #1. Another go 'round of this. We've heard this all before, but at least this sounds better here tonight than it has been for the last few years.
"Starship Trooper"- Encore #2. Who didn't guess this one? Jon is wearing an acoustic guitar. Hopefully he's not faking it this time. Again, on "Disillusion" it strikes me- Steve is NOT singing harmony vocals. Hmmm.
And now, the show is over, I think. (examines the program) Hmmm, well looky here. Here's a picture of a chalkboard with songs written on it. But wait! Yes did not perform "Leaves of Green" or "South Side of the Sky". Minor bummer.
Okay gang, I'm convinced, Classic Yes is back! No more substitutions, no more adding additional musicians onstage, no more making excuses for hauling dead-weight around, no more avoiding their best material because the personnel can't cut it... Like Madonna sez: "Don't go for second-best, baby". Yes is no-longer second-best, or haunted by the ghost of their past. Yes has now embraced their past, and last night, the past became the present and perhaps, a beacon to the future.
If Yes never records another album of new material, I won't mind, really. If Yes becomes a "nostalgia act", catering to hardcore fans who want Tales and GFtO, I won't mind. We've been through some 15 years of Yes having an identity crisis, unable to decide what they are, who they are, and what they represent. We've seen the Yes name smeared with God-awful bargain-bin fodder like Union, and Yes' high-minded principles set to music diluted by the likes of "City of Love" and "Rhythm of Love". Yes has been wavering between Top 40 teeny-bopper appeal and the proggy/cosmic appeal of their Classic phase. Choose one, and choose wisely.
Welcome back, Yes. They're not flawless, but at last, the band is worthy of the name.
Many thanks to Gary and Dave, my companions on this little journey, Yes Magazine and Alex Scott, who supplied the ticket. YesMan, YesFan1046 and Steve Surly... nice meeting you guys at last!
Mind you, I'm writing this after waking up at 11:00 AM Thursday. I'm still flushed with excitement. I haven't grammar-checked this, nor have I carefully checked my use of present tense. This document is subject to change and modification, after I ahhh, examine some of the audio and video that's bound to be floating around soon.
A thousand thanks for a great, memorable evening.
Tickets came through Saturday night (thanks, Mike!) to allow me to attend the 3rd of 3 Yes shows in San Luis Obispo last night featuring the "classic" lineup of Anderson, Squire, Howe, Wakeman & White. The shows were held at the Fremont theater, a very nice restored movie house downtown. There were about 650 seats per show @ $50/seat. Security was light, they allowed in still and video cameras (I made a few contacts!), surprising since they were filming and recording for a commercial release.
Driving down to SLO is a 3-1/2 - 4 hour affair. We had 2 false starts, when _neither_ of my friend Dave's cars' stereos would cooperate, so we drove back to Burlingame to get my car, which survived nicely. (No way I was driving 8 hours round trip to a Yes concert without music!)
We got into SLO about 5:30, and found parking directly across the street from the theater, in front of Boo Boo's Records, a very good new/used record store (I knew this would be an expensive trip!). After getting a bite to eat in a sub place that was _sooo_ collgetown, we headed to the theater. I got my tickets through an online subscription to Notes From The Edge, and our tickets were handed out about 20 minutes berfore showtime. As they were given out, it seemed that most of the subscriber seats were in the 1st ten rows, center; but when I got my tickets, they said Row KK, Left. Well, I shrugged, figured there were no bad seats and we went inside. Row K was in the back of the theater and when I asked for help finding KK, I was guided to the 7th row on the aisle! Yow!
Jon: In _excellent_ voice. The size of the venue made it possible for him (and the band) to deal in greater subtleties than has been possible for them in a _long_ time; he didn't have to SCREAM everything in an upper register! He also was able to give some lengthy introductions to many songs, engaging the (mostly) respectful crowd nicely; he was even fairly coherent. For him, anyway.
Steve: Top form, an "on" night. Played Gibson ES355, 175LTD, Fender telecaster, Steinberger electric, electric sitar, Martin D-18 acoustic, 12-string acoustic, classical, vaichellia, electric mandola (kind of an electric 4-string mandolin), Fender pedal steel, Sho-Bud lap steel (for 4 bars in Awaken!) (I think that's everything), through 2 Fender Twins.
Alan- Solid as usual, very diverse setup- kik, snare, 6 or 7 toms, 5 or 6 main cymbals, bells & percussion setup, no electronics as near as I could tell.
Rick- 2 minimoogs, Korg T-1, Kurzweill, at least 4 other keybords, some of which I can't say I ever saw him actually play. No grand piano, no real organ. I wasn't thrilled by their synthesized replacements. His playing ranged from adequate to very good, although he spazzed out on "Awaken" (probably due to limited rehearsal time).
Chris- He was there too. =%^)
OK, his playing was it's usual outstanding solid self. He even smiled occaisionally (sp?). His costuming was interesting, though- if he had an eyepatch and a parrott, he could have been an extra in "Cutthroat Island." And the belt upon which hung his transmitter pack resembled nothing so much as a truss.
Jon and Chris had music stands up there to help them remember the lyrics. (That's OK- Burchill has probably sung some of these songs more often than they have over the last 20 years.) The set was simple, several Greek columns with the theater's movie screen for a lighting backdrop. There were no extra fancy lights or effects. Fine with me- these shows were about the pure music, not about spectacle. I came to see them play!
SONG LINEUP: (All performances excellent unless otherwise noted.)
Siberian Khatru- Great guitar solo on rideout.
Time And A Word- Very nice new arragement, piano based and featuring Howe's electric mandola throughout. Jon started to sing 4 bars early!
And You And I- The acoustic 12-string arrangement, thank God! Nice to hear it this way after the butchered YesWest version on YesYears. I've seen song done at almost every Yesshow I've ever seen (tonight makes 14, counting ABWH but not counting solo shows) so it almost falls into the same category as All Good People, Roundabout, etc; but this is one song that cannot be overplayed!)
Revealing Science of God- worth the price of admission. For most of you: hearing this put me right back in the Montreal Forum, 1973. Listening to it, I felt I was home. I went to the men's room during the 1st encore (Roundabout, of course) and met up with a guy whose only words to me were, "Well, now I'm ready to hear the rest of Topographic" (which, BTW, we did in the car on the way home).
Going For The One- Best I've heard it, probably because Jon didn't have to push his high register too much. Rocked nicely.
Turn Of The Century- great song, glad they chose to do this.
America- Great version of the only song in the set I've never seen them do live. Howe was a madman!
Onward- Completely different arrangement, long Howe intro. He managed to keep up an arpeggio throughout the entire song, while most of the melody came from Wakeman.
Awaken - Kind of a disappointment. Rhythmically wonderful, but Wakeman tripped himself up badly more than once, and this song really needs a better church organ sound.
Jon said, "The new material is coming!" For those who haven't heard, there is a planned fall release of a 2-CD set, 3/4 of which will be live from this series of shows (with an accompanying video), the rest being new studio material that is being recorded in San Luis Obispo, where Jon lives. The new material is said to be "epic" in nature (in the "long" sense, anyway). They are also said to be looking for some small, outdoor venues to play in the spring (Art Park, anyone?)
Overall, this was a lovely, unique experience (the second I've had in the course of the last 6 weeks- how does Patrick Moraz in a Palo Alto living room with 47 other people strike you?). It was more intimate even than the December 1971 show in the gymnasium in Plattsburgh (before Fragile came out). I hope I've been able to send a little piece of the feeling to all my east coast family. The only negative feelings I had the whole night were that you all couldn't join me.
[In regards to complaints of the $50 ticket price] Well, what are you comparing it to? If it's to see a tired band playing the same watered-down show that has seen 125 other too-big, stinking beer-soaked venues with a crowd that includes jerks who can't keep themselves from shouting "HEY WAKEMAN, DO A SOLA" (this actually happened, in Oakland 1977) during the opening vocal portion of "Awaken" while you're so far away from the band they look like a flea circus (especially when the motors on the round stage kick in), then absolutely right, it's not worth $50.
However, to see the band getting excited about performing music that you (and they) love, that excitement not being watered down by too long a tour, in a beautiful, comfortable setting (with cup-holders in the armrests) with maybe 750 other people who love the band and respect the music as much as you do- well, I guess it's a matter of how much that is worth to the individual.
Aram Adomian and Elliott Rosen
My friend and I, both hardcore YES fans, were fortunate enough to attend the final night in SLO. Driving all the way from Los Angeles, neither of us had tickets or money, just hope of catching a glimpse of the true band. Arriving at ten o'clock things looked grim.
However, our prayers were answered by an elderly couple who were leaving the show early. They generously handed us a miracle, two tickets.
For the price of NOTHING we got to hear Turn of the Century through the end. We would like to thank that wonderful couple for giving us a night we will never forget!
Thank you for all your hard work and making a dream come true for me! I used to live in SLO while attending Cal Poly in the mid to late 70's. During that time period, I always used to travel to San Francisco or Oakland to see Yes perform while on tour.
It was over 21 years ago that I saw "Yessongs" at The Fremont and I believe it was the last movie I saw there (either this or "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", which is also appropriate ;) ). I recall sitting in that theatre seat wishing that someday Yes would play SLO! I have always felt that SLO County was very surreal, beautiful and the perfect place for a Yesshow.
Well, my dream has finally come true! It is truly amazing that they not only played SLO but played in that very same theatre that I had made this wish! It was a truly a wonderful experience for me being able to share the emotion and wonderful moments with friends and people that I care so much for. I convinced my friend of 27 years to attend the show on Wednesday; it was his first Yesshow. Midway through "Awaken" he looked at me and said "This is really magical." Then midway through "Starship Trooper" he said, "I have not seen anything like this in all my life!" I gazed at him and his awestruck smile and said, "Yes indeed, this was the show of shows, the stuff dreams are made of!"
David M. Tratt
Same drive north, yet different. Instead of storm clouds obscuring the hilltops, the sun illuminated wispy cirrus suspended in a pale blue sky.
The setlist was exactly the same as on the 4th, but the performance was _far_ tighter. To pick highlights from such a show would be almost impossible, but if pressed I would have to say Awaken and Starship Trooper once again. The latter was an especially stunning display of instrumental interplay and prowess, with Steve and Rick repeatedly alternating lead duties, seeming to cue each other by instinct for the most part. The timing problems that occasionally beset the Monday performance had been all but eliminated by this time, and the whole band were very obviously having a great time.
Watching this show convinced me as never before that, despite whatever difficulties these guys experience (real or imagined) in a group context, they belong together. I hope the new material bears me out on this.