Yes' Civic Arena Show Again Rates 'Thumbs Up' By Pete Bishop
THIS is not to desprecate the gargantuan keyboard talents of Rick Wakeman, but yes, his former band, played at the Civic Arena last night and he wasn't missed in the least. One of Pittsburgh's favorite acts, Yes always has been primarily a group effort, and Wakeman's successor, Patrick Moraz, fit in handsomely, much to the delight of an almost-packed house (no seats were sold behind the stage).
To be sure, he's a humbler stage figure that Wakeman, but make no mistake - the man can play, his being in the company of four musical masters and having fallen heir to such marvelous material more adjuncts to his own abilities than crutches or foxholes in which to conceal any shortcomings.
Opening the evening was an imaginative quintet, Gryphon, featuring a mixed bag of woodwinds (recorders and bassoon from Richard Harvey and Brian Gulland. Much of their material is medieval - , baroque or renaissance - influenced: English country dances or Henry Purcell recorded at 45 and played at 78 to the rock beat of bare-armed drummer David Oberle.
"Ethelion" and "Midnight Mushrumps" were peppy dances and "Checkmate" a 10 minute work of varying tempos resolving into a fiveman battle for the lead. And how the crowd loved it when the ending "scat jam" became a breakneck "Sailor's Hornpipe" with Harvey's fingers zipping over the recorder holes.
Half an hour wasn't enough from these fellows, a perfect complimentary warmup for Yes. This is Gryphon's first American tour; it shouldn't be their last.
Yes started with "Sound Chaser" (a jazz-oriented cut from their new album). "Close to the Edge" (an old hit) and "To Be Over" (another new one), with white-suited Jon Anderson's clear, boy-soprano voice ringing over the superb instrumental mix and dominating the close three-part harmony.
"Gates of Delirium," as frenetic (but still controlled) as its title suggests, gave way to "And You and I," another old hit with lush mellotron from Moraz, swooping synthesized steel guitar from Steve Howe and a slumgullion of sounds (chimes, xylophone, a string of bells, a hunk of sheet metal) from drummer Alan White. Representing "Tales from Topographic Oceans" was the triumphal, majestic fourth movement, a true showpiece.
They brought their surreal sculptures back to adorn the stage, and as the "Tale" progressed, getting louder and wilder, both the "coral" or "elk's antlers" above Moraz and the "manta" over White's percussion apparatus lit up and opened and closed, the "manta" revealing a bloated mouth with severaly maloccluded choppers.
The 'Tale's" closing minor chord faded to a pianissimo, but the standing ovation was fortissimo in excelsis, and the fans - everybody up, every-body clapping along - were rewarded w it h "Roundabout," Yes' standard encore.
Actually, the rewards had been present all night. For those who will listen, Yes displays gorgeous intricacy, thrilling embellishment to the basic themes, with no distracting "hot-doggery" from anyone.
Just as they did last year here, Yes showed what the best of progressive rock is all about and once again rated the "Yes" sign - thumbs up - from everyone.