Over the edge 11/03/72 Chevron Newspaper Bob Mason
Now that the Yes concert is over, I could tell you that you should or shouldn't have gone, or if you did go I could relive with you the sad or happy moments, or tell you how you should have felt. But I won't. I will relay a bit of background information, talk about what I learned from it, and present some other people's feelings.
As often happens with big name non-Canadian groups, border hassles delayed the arrival of the equipment. The thirty-foot trailer load did not arrive until about seven-thirty, and it's amazing that the stage was ready when it was, at 10. The stage was ready, but none of the equipment was hooked up, and the hour between Tranquility's set and Yes' was spent hooking up the stereo sound system and the intricate lighting.
By time Yes go on, at midnight, 5,000 people, myself included, were at the point of screaming. But what can we do about that? If we demand that groups only do concerts every second or third day, then we will have to pay much more to see the group: the price for stretching out the agony that must be theirs for twenty hours a day during the tour. Perhaps the whole concert trip, the mass culture thing is fucked, and we should get into groups from Toronto, rather than Timbuktu.
Along these lines, perhaps we should demand more intimate settings. Yes had hoped to play in a more acoustically suitable setting, but they got the barn. From where I was sitting, the screaming reverberations coming off the was muddied the original sound to such an extent that often the main theme was lost altogether. Yes wisely chose to do only material off their records, and for me this along kept the concert from being a complete flop. Only because I knew the music well was I able to, for example, pick out Steve Howe's fine guitar work from the chaotic din of noise hitting me.
To those who were unfamiliar with Yes music, I can appreciate the sentiment that Yes lack any musical sense, for the Phys Ed building hit it well.
Over ninety per cent of the people stayed until the final bow at one-thirty - through the long, long wait - to give Yes the five minute applause necessary to get them back for an encore. They also encouraged Yes with applause before the numbers they recognized, and Yes responded to the enthusiasm as best they could. Most people I talked to really enjoyed the concert in spite of the problems, and for the few I have spoken to that did not, I can only suggest that, had the problems been rectified, and not the music different, they might have enjoyed it a lot more.
The person sitting next to me said, 'For four dollars, I could have bought their record and stayed home and listened to it.' Could have heard it eight times too, and generally much better music (from the studio rather than the barn). But live performances add a whole new dimension to the experience. The performer's personality and the integration of that personality with their music makes the live concert a much different experience.
Live performances are an important part of musical appreciation. But when circumstance mar that appreciation, then the situation is pointless. Remember concerts where you couldn't hear the vocals or make out the words, because the sound system had to be turned up to get the sound to the back. Remember the Cat Stevens concert last year where people were crammed into PhysEd like sardines, only to wait an hour while they tuned the piano. Remember sitting in Toronto, one of an audience of six or seven, and being able to hear everything fine but having to put up with a group that was pissed off because no one was there.
The present state of the music industry, which makes important the very things which destroy a live performance, is fucked. Though I enjoyed the concert I couldn't help but feeling ripped off, and I couldn’t put the finger on anymore. Bill Graham points to the large fees charged by the groups, Neil Young to the middlemen and Paul Williams to the advertising hypes. They're all part of something larger, something that makes money by ripping off our culture. And the energy Yes gave me from their performance makes me unsatisfied with just saying piss of it: It's time to put a spaniard in the works.