The Record (Hackensack, NJ) cover story: April 12, 1991 by Barbara Jaeger, music critic
Several years ago, Rolling Stone magazine noted that "the Yes genealogy is as convoluted as anything Alex Haley ever dug up for 'Roots.'"
Indeed, it would take a mural-size canvas to paint the Yes family tree. But, while longtime fans have come to expect personnel changes from the British band, the latest lineup is unique even by Yes standards.
Eight veterans of the group, whose affiliations span a number of Yes incarnations, have joined forces for what drummer Alan White refers to as "a big band-- a Yes orchestra." They'll play concerts in Atlantic City and at Byrne Arena this weekend, two stops on a grand tour with a grand title: "Yesshows '91: 'Round the World in 80 Dates."
"The sound is very big and dynamic but very clear," White says. He is joined in the expanded lineup by original Yes members Chris Squire (bass), Jon Anderson (vocals), Bill Bruford (drums), and Tony Kaye (keyboards), as well as keyboardist Rick Wakeman and guitarists Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin.
On the eve of the kickoff of Yes' world tour in Pensacola, Fla., earlier this week, White discussed the reunion, which came about only after the settlement of creative differences and legal difficulties.
The reunion seemed unlikely months ago. Two Yes factions-- Kaye, White, Squire, and Rabin in one; Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe in the other-- appeared to be going their separate ways.
"There was some animosity in the beginning," acknowledges White, "but the whole thing was overplayed by the media and, to some degree, management."
The "thing" White refers to is a federal lawsuit that materialized more than two years ago. White, Kaye, Rabin, and Squire-- who hold rights to the Yes name and were, at the time, under contract to ATCO Records-- sought to prevent references to Yes' heritage by Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe, who had come together for an album and tour.
The U.S. District Court in New York in June 1989 ruled that Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe-- which is how the quartet billed itself-- could refer to Yes' songs and history in promoting its selftitled Arista Records album and 1989 road trip.
While the various members have kept in touch, it took a meeting between Anderson and Rabin in Los Angeles earlier this year to set the wheels in motion for the reunion-- or, to use White's term, "union," which, coincidentally, will be the name of the new Yes album due April 23.
"Reunion seems sort of forced and calculated," says White. "Union implies more a meeting-of-the-minds attitude, more permanence. It's a much more intimate term that is more suited to our present situation."
Anderson had traveled from Europe to work on vocals for the second Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album. When he arrived in Los Angeles, he called Rabin, who seized the opportunity to play for Anderson some of the songs he was working on. Anderson offered to add his ethereal tenor to the tracks, as well as to songs Squire, White, and Kaye had written.
The harmonious spirit that surrounded these sessions led Anderson to invite Squire to add his distinctive voice to the already completed tracks for the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe project. Ultimately, it was decided that the eight musicians would pool their talents for an album that would recall not only the group's musical heritage of orchestral-style arrangements underlying rich vocal harmonies, but the leaner, cleaner sound that characterized Yes' Eighties breakthrough "90125," the collection that yielded the band's first No. 1 single ("Owner of a Lonely Heart").
"Our [recording time] was short compared to the typical Yes album," says White. "The other guys had begun work on their album about a year ago. We only put our tracks down in the last three months. But there was tremendous give-and-take, and we had the artistic license
Wow. What an experience. This particular show was very special. I had read a lot about the "Eight Man Supergroup" and was eagerly anticipating this tour more than any up to this point. This was one of the few concerts I ever went to alone. But I wasn't lonely - I was with eight of the musicians that had become great friends over the years. No, I don't know any of them personally, but I (as with most Yes fans) feel a connection with them that transcends simple fan admiration. Yes, these guys were my friends.
I arrived at the casino quite early, as I wasn't sure how long of a drive it was to get there. I wasn't into gambling, so I just hung out in the lobby for a while. While hanging with fellow Yes-heads and waiting for the doors to open, I noticed someone out of the corner of my eye that I recognized. Before I had time to respond, swarms of people converged upon Chris Squire as he made his way from the lobby to the hotel. He graciously signed autographs, but was obviously in a hurry. I simply observed from a distance, content to be so close to one of my musical idols.
They finally opened the doors and we filed inside. The venue was relatively small. I remember entering the room and walking right up to the stage. Everything was quiet. I slowly walked around the stage and inspected all the equipment. Two drum sets. Two keyboard risers. Two guitar positions. I was finally able to compute in my head that this was actually happening.
The show was no disappointment, either. Many folks have written show reviews, so I will refrain. Suffice to say that it lived up to all my expectations. For me, this was one of the highlights of Yes history.
Very small "arena". About the size of a typical college *gym* (*not* a 15,000 seat college arena). I'd say it seated about 3,500. With "in the round" seating, this place got even smaller. I counted 7 rows of floor seats before our elevated seats started.
The round stage revolved (both clockwise and counterclockwise).
The guitar players were typically facing outward, the drummers were facing inward. I think Kaye was facing outward and Wakemen with his army of keyboards was facing inward. Anderson stood in the middle and constantly changed his direction.
On to the concert (assume all musicians are on stage AND playing unless noted otherwise)...
"Fanfare" I don't know what this was, it was something pre-recorded that was played as they walked to the circle in the center of the room. Maybe someone else will recognize it.
Yours Is No Disgrace Played absolutely *perfect*. I doubt if Yes has *ever* played some of their old material this well. The extra musicians on stage allow for freedom that hasn't been there in the past. I was very glad to see that everyone was playing well *together* (especially the two drummers). I think Rabin took a solo towards the end of this. Other than that, this arrangement was true to the old album.
Rhythm Of Love The non-90125/Big_Generator did not leave the stage for this.
Shock To The System (new) Sounded like 90125 type material.
Heart Of The Sunrise Once again, played perfectly. Even better than during the Anderson, Bruford, Wakemen, & Howe tour.
The Clap Just Steve Howe, the others hid *underneath* the stage. Howe stood in the middle during this song and continually faced our direction for the whole song (turning himself ever so slightly to compensate for the stage's movement). This probably frustrated those looking from the side of the arena.
Owner Of A Lonely Heart The 90125 lineup plus Rick Wakemen and Bill Bruford (Bruford joined in very late). The only musician missing was Howe. Rick Wakemen took a nice solo near the end.
And You and I Anderson: "Some of our old songs just seem to get better" Some guy in the audience: "Just like Bill Bruford!" Ruined only by some idiot girl who wandered onto stage near the beginning of the song. She was up there for a good 25-30 seconds before security got her.
Bill Bruford & Alan White drum "solos" I didn't recognize this. Maybe someone else will. Bruford tended to play the electronic drums behind and above him. Alan White was impressive the whole night (I wasn't impressed by his drumming during the BIG GENERATOR tour).
Hold On Steve Howe played acoustic guitar - not doing much.
Tony Kaye playing a bebop piano piece Once again, I didn't recognize this. Anderson at one point sang "It Don't Mean A Thing, If It Ain't Got That Swing". Kaye's playing here was actually impressive. I haven't had a high opinion of kaye, but this changed my mind.
Changes Jon Anderson played guitar. Steve Howe on acoustic.
Trevor Rabin on acoustic guitar I didn't recognize this. Tony Kaye was the only other musician who played with Rabin but he left the stage midway through the piece (and then returned towards the end). The only lowlight of the night. Trevor can sure play *fast* but this thing was boring.
Long Distance Runaround (demo) John Anderson told a story about how he wrote this song. He played a short bit on guitar and said he took the song to four friends of his and "this is what they did"...
Long Distance Runaround Anderson with Bruford, Wakemen, Howe, & Squire (others absent). Very impressive. When was the last time we got to hear these five musicians play this song.? The contrast between the demo and the finished product was amazing.
The Fish Steve Howe played the intricate guitar link between Runaround & The Fish and then
That was a show I will never forget. I went that evening with a close friend named Jeff. Jeff's grandfather told him that he went to the Taj Mahal several times to gamble. He said that he had seen lots of entertainers there because in order for them to go up to their rooms, they had to exit the arena and pass the bar to get to the elevators. Being 21, Jeff and I had no problem hanging out in a bar for an hour or two. About a half hour after the show, we were sitting in an almost empty lounge, when Trevor Rabin and Tony Kaye came in with a few other people and sat at the bar. I went over to Trevor and commented on how good the show was. I also mentioned that I had seen him a few months before, on his Can't Look Away tour, at the TLA in Philadephia. That sparked some interest, and we talked for about 10 minutes. Trevor said that he had enjoyed that show, because it was crowded for such a small place. I had explained that I was one of the many who had to stand in the aisle (at that show he walked around with a wireless and shook everyone's hand who was standing, while playing one of the cuts from his album-he later signed copies of the album at a local music store). Later, Jeff and I were leaving, when all of the sudden about a dozen people rushed toward us. I wasn't sure why, but when I turned around, Jon was standing about 2 feet behind me. I shook his hand and thanked him for the great show. He said thanks, then told everyone that he was tired. He got on the elevator and went upstairs. A truely incredible occurence, which you don't normally experience in a stadium show.
I just got back to Pittsburgh after seeing both shows at the Taj Majal in Atlantic City. I stayed at the hotel for those two nights and had some interesting encounters. On Saturday I passed Trevor as he was coming out of an elevator and said 'Hi.' Sunday morning I was on my way down to the lobby when the elevator doors opened up and there was Steve Howe! We had a little chat on the way down about the shows. I asked him why they played one encore song the first night and two the second and he said they wait 'til the end of the show to decide what to play, depending on the time. As we walked into the lobby we passed Rick. After checking my bags at the bell counter I went back and said Hi to Rick and complimented the band's performances. When I returned to the lobby (Still in awe of my chance meetings with the Yesmen) I spotted a short gentlemen with a pony-tail wearing a long black trenchcoat. I walked up and said "Hi Jon", shook his hand and told him how much I had enjoyed the concerts. I told him I'd see him again in Cleveland and then we went on our ways. It was a weekend I'll never forget.