It has been a long time since YES has played a club date. And it is rather obvious that they will not be doing any in the future. However, Friday May 3 in Kalamazoo, Michigan was perhaps as close to a club as it gets for YES. They played Wings Stadium. Wings is a small stadium primarily used for hockey. For concerts it typically seats 6,500. Since YES was in the Round seating was expanded to the grand total of 8,000. There wasn't a bad seat in the house. Luckily for me my seats were better than just good they were approximatelty 20 feet from the stage with an unobstructed view. (1st row off the floor)
This was YES's first show since their short layoff due to Jon Anderson's laryngitis. Going into the show I was concerned would the layoff affect the band's performance. After watching the show I would have to say that it did...........FOR THE BETTER.
The show started at precisely 8:15 to the strains of the Firebird. As YES played along to the final strains of the Firebird you could tell that the band was chomping at the bit after a layoff. Chris Squire was checking all his equipment as he fingered the opening notes to the first song and just staring at Alan White as if to say "let's do it no more waiting" And then Alan counted out 4 and the band was off and racing into Yours Is No Disgrace.
The crowd was in a frenzy as Steve Howe was masterful soloing over the masterful drumming of Alan and Bill, and then it was Trevor's turn....What can be said. Trevor was on fire. And then as a treat towards the end of his solo he and Alan did the opening riff to Owner of a Lonely Heart. The entire crowd was standing and already YES had the first of many showstoppers during the night.
Next came a suprisingly good version of Rhythm of Love which ended with a great keyboard duet by Rick and Tony. Tony would play the base riff to Rhythm and Rick would answer with one of his patented arpeggios. And they repeated that for several minutes.
The set was basically the same as throughout the tour though the band has been refining the arrangements as evidenced above on Rhythm of Love. Also they extended Lift Me Up. They added an a cappella section at the end (only accompanied by Bill's percussion)
Also Tony Kaye did a nice piano solo preceding Changes. Changes and Lift Me Up were interesting songs. Trevor seemed to be intent on enjoying the concert with the fans and forgot that HE was the one supposed to be singing. He missed the start of the second verse as well as just plain got the words wrong on Changes. And then sang a wrong verse on Lift Me Up. But even these errors couldn't affect the concert. The band was as tight as I've heard then in a very long time and several of the instrumental passages were truly inspiring.
Additionally as Jon mentioned they are recording Your Move/All Good People. The crowd was standing and singing the entire song. Its an incrdible feeling to be in an arena with 8,000 people all singing and cheering for YES.
And then there was Awaken. Perhaps it was just the intimacy of the arena. I can't really say....but I have never heard the band sound so good as I did on Awaken that night.
And then just when you thought it couldn't get any better YES came back and gave an inspired version of Roundabout.
It was interesting. YES gave such a superior show that despite the lack of Starship Troopers I did not feel let down at all. Rather I was uplifted at having seen such an incredible musical performance.
When I saw Yes in Kalamazoo in 1991, it was one of those extraordinary circumstances where an event transcends physical life. The crowd was so totally into it, the band fed off it and together created a magical experience. During And You and I, people were screaming for joy as if the darkness in their souls was being purged and replaced by pure light. To me, that piece is a manifestation of what I feel on the shore of Lake Michigan: it's a song of freedom, a celebration of life, and never before had it been so powerful on stage.
When they played Awaken for the first time in 12 years as the climax of the show, it was a spiritual journey to the farthest reaches of the Universe, the middle section alone was like seeing a thousand sunsets. It was a stunning visual and musical presentation. Those two songs were so beautiful, powerful and magical that I cried as they were being played and cry now virtually every time I hear those songs.
That's what the Yes magic is all about. See ya at the next show.