The last Yesshow in Poland was one of surprises, not all of them fortunate. It had all the makings of a wonderful night. The venue was just right (about three thousand people) and full, the sound was much better than in Katowice, and it had been a brilliant springday all around, with lots of sun, clear sky and the temperature about 17° Centigrade.
The "Arena" hall is a perfectly round building situated right in the middle of a large park. My train arrived early in the morning and I had over eight hours to spend in the city before the show. Since all shops were closed for Sunday, I had little else to do but walk around the park, take peeks inside the tour buses, eavesdrop on the Yes truckers' conversation and maybe hope to see the band entering or leaving the building. People were walking their dogs, families strolling, kids on bikes and rollerskates, very few of them aware that Something Big was just about to happen. The tech guys were busy wheeling equipment in and for a while I got to eavesdrop on the conversation inside the building through a half-open ground-floor window: I hoped it was the band inside, but the band came later in their limousines; what I heard was the chatting and the laughter of the crew members and they were listening to Zappa's Apostrophe, which felt rather cool. A green delivery van brought a supply mineral water and Polish beer, and as the evening approached the crowd of black-clad Polish security thugs was getting thicker and busier.
About 100 minutes before the show, the limousines arrived, but it was hardly possible to even see the band members inside the circles of their tight escort, let alone approach them and ask for an autograph... alas. And the first unsettling surprise that day was that the show began ten minutes early. I had barely taken my seat about 15 minutes before the scheduled time when Firebird was heard from the speakers and the light went down. Understandably, this caused some panic among the audience, most of whom had not yet entered the hall. When Siberian Khatru started, only about half of the people were in their seats, and the rest were trying to find their way in the dark. Many gave up, and chose to stand just wherever, but throughout Khatru there was a lot of shuffling and it was well-nigh impossible to actually concentrate on what was going on on the stage. Now, trains never leave ahead of schedule, movies do not start early - these things just cannot work that way. It is one thing to just call this unprofessional, but I find it impossible to imagine that the band were not aware of the fact they were beginning too early: in Katowice, when the ambient track was played to the end but not all the audience had already entered the hall, they actually restarted the track and began the show two or three minutes late. I'd rather not speculate on what the cause of this premature beginning might have been, but I do not think it was accidental: not at this level of tight organization that the Yes shows have.
I had a third-row seat, precisely center-stage. The sound was just right, clear without being deafening, and after the initial turmoil I could finally just sit and enjoy the show. The band seemed to be in perfect form. Anderson's voice in America was steadier and stronger than I'd ever heard before, and the rendition of And You And I must have been the best I know, in terms of performance perfection and of the focused emotional energy the song projected. After I'd spent the first two shows watching the band more than listening to the music, I was finally captured. The spell was on, and continued through Heart of the Sunrise and all the solo pieces. Alan White's Ritual solo sounded best of the three and actually got him a standing ovation (the only solo bit to be rewarded thus in any of the three shows I saw).
(Trivia point: there was a professional beta-system camera recording the show. I don't suppose it was TV, since TV people would have brought s
They dropped it [RSOG] without a replacement at the third Polish show. They also started the concert 10 minutes early and rushed out to the bus without a pause afterward; I suspect that the promoter screwed up the scheduling somehow (anyone been to any shows since that one?)