Going to one of those giant outdoor sheds is not the ideal venue to see Yes, and add in the appalling hot, humid weather in Houston in August, and the famously over-aggressive security at this particular shed, and you get the picture. The band was nominally touring on the awful "Union" patchwork album, but really this tour was about seeing what kind of re-arrangements of the material would flow from having that many members on-stage together. Plus, how would Howe behave with another guitarist up there (he's cranky about such things)?
Well, there were some real highlights to the show. There were enough members on-stage at any given time who were into it and keeping the energy up so that the overall show was enjoyable. Having them play "Awaken" was stunning, although we seemed to have so many Houston chuckleheads around us being loud and drunk that it almost spoiled the experience. Of course, people being loud and stupid during the quiet parts is a phenomenon that's unfortunately not rare at Yes shows, but this was the worst case of it that I've had to contend with in all my years of going to Yes concerts (from '79 to the one I'm going to tonight in Austin, in 2013). Still, I'm glad I went to see what was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime line-up of the band. It's certainly the last time Wakeman demonstrated in interest on-stage in the musical goings-on.
In 1989, I discovered who the early Yes was. I had missed the ABWH tour by a week or so, but had just purchased King Crimson's Discipline. I noticed they shared the Bill Bruford, and Tony Levin on bass (who would play his last US show with ABWH in Houston). When a commercial for the PPV Shoreline concert played the song "Long Distance Runaround", my mind flashed back to when I was a small child. My dad's brothers owned Fragile and played it all the time. I had no idea it was the same band (brand name anyways) as the band who did "Owner of a Lonely Heart" which played constantly on MTV during my junior high school years. I then traded my copy of Yellow Submarine Soundtrack with a friend for a copy of Fragile on cd. He thought I was crazy, but this album brought back memories of being little. I was an avid ABWH fan as much as a King Crimson fan.
Two years later, the Union concert was coming to Houston on my 20th birthday. My friend Scott, from college, couldn't make the show with me, and we were both big prog rock fans. One of his co-workers, Hebert, decided to go, and it was quite a match since he was a huge Trevor Rabin fan and I was a huge ABWH fan. This tour gave us both something to look forward to.
At the time, I owned Fragile, CTTE, ABWH, and Union. After this show I would get the Atco Box Set. I had almost the entire King Crimson catalogue so I was excited to see Bill Bruford.
I wore my King Crimson "Discipline" tshirt that night, to see if anyone would recognize it, and also as a tribute to Bruford. Our seats were right in the center of the reserve section, so we had an excellent view of the stage. I'll never forget:
1.How the crowd was split between the two Yes factions. You could tell by the insane cheering, almost like the audience was in competition with each other.
2. Bill Bruford leaping down to the front of the stage during "Owner of a Lonely Heart", wearing a backwards painter's cap and hitting himself in the face with a tambourine to the beat of the song. The whole band was in hyseterics.
3. Hearing "Awaken" for the first time. We wondered what this song was until someone near our seats told us. The lights were fantastic. Blew us away.
4. Hebert saw what I liked about the ABWH Yes.
5. "Molly's Beard" got the crowd going nuts.
6. Some rowdy dudes next to me saying, "Yo, that mutha____ Rick Wakeman is a badass!" We had some good talks about music.
7. Hebert almost passing out due to all the alcohol he was consuming.
8. While waiting for the shuttle bus, a Montgomery County deputy not at all amused by the playful nature of one fan. He was only joking with the guy, and the deputy threatened him with arrest.
9. Once on the bus, I got into a conversation about King Crimson with some fans, that turned into a lecture about prog rock to practically the entire bus while everyone listened.
10. The only thing I would've liked is to have seen them in the round, like maybe at the Summit back then. The stage setup was a lot like in the Japanese dvd for the Union concert from Shoreline.
An excellent birthday! The first Lollapalooza, which I also went to, was only a couple of weeks away as the alternative boom was about to explode. I saw an ad for the Talk tour 3 years later, almost to the day (Aug 1). It appeared not long after the Pink Floyd tour came thru town. When I saw the lineup on the Talk tour, which was posted in the ad, I decided to pass. Apparently I wasn't the only one. The year after that, I finally got to see Bruford (and Tony Levin)in King Crimson.
I hope to catch them on the 40th anniversary tour. I haven't seen the band since this show.
Steve Howe can't say no to Yes By Marty Ranine Houston Chronicle
This gets a little complicated.
In only their ninth or 10th installment, Yes has returned to the touring wars, in concert tonight at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands.
The new lineup consists of eight of the most prominent members who have wandered in and out of the band's convoluted history: Jon Anderson (vocals), Chris Squire (bass), Trevor Rabin and Steve Howe (guitars), Rick Wakeman and Tony Kaye (keyboards), and Bill Bruford and Alan White (drums).
Although some of the eight have carved equally sterling reputations in other projects - Wakeman most notably in the '70s - they had not all appeared on the same album until the current Union. Nor had they ever toured en masse until now.
It more or less signifies a reconciliation. Several years ago there were two Yeses - Yes and ABWH, for Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe. The latter played The summit, employing their own material and that of the Yes songbook, which dates back to 1969.
Now Howe, who played with three groups in the '80s, is out with his own album, Turbulence, and he's likely to tour on that after the Yes tour.
Got all that? Just say yes.
So what does it all mean. Steve?
"Yes is a collective energy," Howe said.
"It's had 13 or 14 different members, In the past my own groups have had a priority. Now I'm twisting that around a bit. I put so much into Yes in the '70s, and we achieved so much, in a way I'm saying thank-you to the fans and the guys."
If he is to ever step out on his own - "playing in two bands at once is a difficult trick," Howe said - he has three ghosts haunting him: Yes GTR and Asia, the '80s pop supergroup which sold in the millions. The likeness, though end there.
"Yes musically had more of an effect, brought more change into the music business," Howe said. "Yes is far more important to me."
Indeed, Yes, for better or worse, was a leader in the art-rock movement that grew out of the excesses of the '60s.
The Beatles had shown how to expand three-chord, 12 bar rock into fantastic new shapes and sounds. The experimentation continued into the early '70s, when Yes, Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, the Electric Light Orchestra and even Pink Floyd constructed keyboard-based rock symphonies that fit the psychedelic tenor of the times.
Some argued that that wasn't rock 'n' roll at all - it took disco, several years later, to return listeners to the dance floor - but art-rock's place in rock's evolution is as valid as, say, psychedelia or heavy metal or any other mutated form.
"In the '70s we were breaking new ground," Howe said.
Grand compositions such as Roundabout and And You And I defined the Yes sound, and they were perfect for the album medium of FM rock radio until the late '70s.
When FM did tighten up, Yes, in other incarnations, became a singles band. It wasn't their best work, but it kept the good ship afloat.
"I left at that point," Howe is quick to point out. "They had to have hit singles. It was a new period for them, where they jumped from just being and album group."
But even today, he said, the group is on "a constant quest for this imaginary, illusive, perfect combination of integral rock that has commerciality. We're always searching for it."
The latest search led to Union. Released three months ago, it wasn't recorded like any other pop album.
"I'm not going to lie - the record was done in two camps," Howe said, with each camp accountable to Arista (Records) and each having separate songwriting and production teams.
"There were able to work relatively hard on our own individual parts. On tour, of course, that's not how we're doing it. We're playing each other's parts. But it's not as if anyone's asking me to talk Russian for three hours.
"But I can play guitar with anybody. I enj
It was hotter than hell. Typical August night in Houston. The sun set after the show started, which was about 8:00. Jon was in fine form tonight. He has never been funnier. The band sounded great. The audience was really into it. It was a rowdy crowd. Jon egged us on. A fight broke out between two guys over a girl during the quiet part of Awaken. Go figure.
The pavillion is situated in a planned community called The Woodlands, which is named for - you guessed it - the pine thickets that characterize the area. The parking lots for the pavillion are situated some distance from the theater, so that on the way in and out we had to walk over some wooden bridges spanning large drainage ditches, politely known as "bayous" in this area. Along side our path was a clearing and then a large thicket of pine trees with big lights aiming up from the ground into the branches. As we crossed, the crowd spontaneously began stomping on the bridges and singing the march of the witch's soldiers in The Wizard of Oz - "O-re-oh. O-oooo-ooo." As we marched a couple of fans, caught up in the moment, raced along the edge of the trees and mooned us in the huge lights. Clearly the spirit of the evening was upon us all.