Sitting about two-thirds up the loge on stage left of the Long Beach Arena, I caught my first glimpse of the classic line-up of Yes performing a bravura set from its Fragile, Yes Album and yet-to-be-released Close To the Edge recordings. Yes had piqued my interest since my first exposure to the British import lp of Time and A Word at the original Moby Disc record store on Victory Boulevard in Van Nuys, California during the summer of '71.
Then as now, Yes had a lot of superlative musical elements going for it. Jon Anderson's supple tenor voice and uplifting presence meshed perfectly with his bandmates' combined instrumental chops. It didn't hurt that Rick Wakeman took an adventurous solo two-thirds of the way into the set that featured some snippets from his Six Wives of Henry VIII album. Steve Howe and Chris Squire sounded every bit as good live as they did in the studio while I was fooled into thinking that Bill Bruford had played drums that night. I didn't find out until the night of Yes' performance at the Universal Amphitheatre in September of 2002 during a fan club reunion at Wolfgang Puck's that Alan had just started touring with the band barely a month after Bruford had departed to play with King Crimson. In other words, his drumming had already meshed seemlessly with the band's repertoire.
While their sound system was fairly lackluster compared to today's PA's, you couldn't help but take notice that Yes wasn't a flash-in-the-pan prog rock group making an obligatory tour to bolster their FM airplay. From this point onward, my love for the band really blossomed. Even though more than 31 years have passed as of this writing, they are still a treat to hear live.
Billboard, Sept. 2, 1972:
YES EDGAR WINTER EAGLES Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, California
Far removed from the mainstream of contemporaneous rock lies a musical oasis so unlike anything preceding it as to be termed revolutionary. The group is Yes and they put on a show that is an overwhelming affirmation of the potentialities of rock as an art form. Each member of the group is a virtuose performer and the fusion of their unique talents is indeed a rare and beautiful thing. From the moment they ascended the stage bathed in the mini-glow of thousands of matches, until their departure an hour later, there was not a moment that was not filled to overflowing with the glorious texture of their melodies. Jon Anderson's small boy's voice is winsomely plaintive, weaving enchanting harmonic patterns that weave into a rare oneness with the instrumental passages. Bassist Chris Squire (cloaked in an amazing multi-tiered cape) leads a magnificently flamboyant visual note, while guitarist Steve Howe plays in an irresistibly meticulous fashion. Rick Wakeman's extended moog introduction to 'Roundabout' provided the audience with a glimpse of that rare edge of excellence that so distinguishes the group as a whole. Special note should be made of the more than capable percussion work of Alan White who has been with the group barely two weeks. The set includes flashes from the 'Fragile' and 'Yes' albums and two songs from the soon to be released 'Close To The Edge' LP.