Does anybody remember the "pot machine"? Someone, about 15 rows in front of us, had what looked to be a section of an oil drum filled with the stuff; they worked it like an Indian smoke signal fire by using a tarp or a blanket. Talk about a contact high... Fantastic show, especially Steve and Bill interacting on Yours Is No Disgrace.
A huge venue, as the above stat shows, and in the round -- or rather square, as it were; they were perched upon a large cubic stage ... think of one of those towers poking out of the Death Star & you have an idea what it looked like. Pretty tall, actually, I have to wonder if those up close could really see what was going on up there [I was farther away and up one of the banks of bleacher-type seating]. It was mostly stationary, but periodically lurched around 90 degrees before resting for another 15 minutes. Something like watching one of those 100-year-old turtles move at the zoo on a hot day ... but I digress.
Many long-time fans will tell you that the best YES experience is to have seen them back in [fill in blank with pre-Buggle date of choice]. But the NEXT-best YES experience is to have STARTED with 90125 [having heard the classic era, and appreciating both], and then watching the band improve over the next decade or two. By 1991, I'd seen my fill of 90125 & marveled at the impossible-to-believe ABWH reunion. Then came this, defying all understanding but delighting those who wished to see Anderson, Squire, Wakeman & Howe on the same stage again. It didn't matter which drummer you preferred, because both were present.
The bandlist and setlist tell you all you need to know: essentially a YES revue, with performers hopping on and off stage (or rather disappearing into it -- perhaps I should have compared it to the Jawa crawler?) as each song required -- not so much a union as a hodgepodge -- or even a battle of the bands, the prize being rights to the name. In that way, it was faithful to the album, which had no track containing every 'member'. (Will the real YES please stand up?)
I did like the occasional cross-pollination; if memory serves, Wakeman sat in for 'Owner' and lit up the outro with his slash-and-burn solo style -- Wakeman and Rabin playing together is nothing to dismiss! A true delight. But the show bogged down in the usual solo sections -- if you thought they were a bit much before, imagine it two times over. And two drum solos, well .... fill in your own thoughts.
All that being said, it was a lovely show ... in pieces. And some other pieces were well-done but seemed out of place: 'Lift Me Up', for example, sounded like it should have been a Starship song [and I don't mean Trooper].
And there was a great potential in this band. Where ABWH had been a good band with some great musicians, this was definitely up more than a notch. Especially when both guitarists were on together -- I mean, Steve Howe hardly needs a second guitarist to help out, but if he WAS to have another in there ... my oh my is Trevor amazing! You couldn't ask for a better guitarist: he could play anything Steve sent his way. I wish I could remember better now just exactly what he did that night, but now I only remember being mightily impressed. Too bad there wasn't a way to keep both of these stellar musicians; we got only a bare hint of what might have been, and that largely toward the end of the tour.
High points in my memory now, over a decade later, were the Wakeman solo on Owner, a lovely And You & I [well, isn't it always!] with a stunning watery lighting effect, but especially the return of 'Awaken', played by the five men who recorded it back in 1977. It sang, it soared, it brooded, it roared; for one who had answered the call issued from a battered copy of Yessongs but had to settle for 90125 in concert, this was the prize reward. Whether or not it would last [and in what form] remained to be seen, but I had experienced Rick Wakeman in Yes playing 'Awaken', and nothing would ever take that away from me. Had they never performed again, i would not have felt cheated :-)
Jon had an acoustic guitar and started talking about writing a song, and sang a slow snippet of Long Distance Runaround. He then discussed bringing it to the studio and how Bill, Chris, Rick and Steve (who were suddenly the only ones on stage) turned it into something else. It was the cleanest live version of the song I'd heard. The follow-up, The Fish, featured what I think is the best bass solo I ever saw Chris Squire play. I thought it was electrifying. It was pretty neat seeing those five guys up there together again.
Biffy the Elephant Shrew
I saw another Union show in the Bay Area, but this one was at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, where the security wore brown shirts and made sure the trains ran on time. We still had to deal with the odd songbird who felt like matching larynxes with Jon Anderson, but at least Kaiser Bill's Konzertpolizei kept the aisles clear and the air relatively free of missiles.