If you've read my review of the December '97 show at the Warfield, you'll understand that when my hard-core Yes-friend asked me to get the tickets, I made sure I was first in line long before the doors opened. When they did, I was straightaway at the ticket counter. Hello; yes, I'd like two tickets for Yes at the Concord Pavilion ... ah yes, and where are those seats .... second-row center down in front!?!?!!! But I knew I'd have to be farther back to enjoy the surround-sound ... ah, the heck with it! Second-row center it is! And so this was destined to be a special show from the start.
I'd been a fan of the Alan Parsons Project since 1979 ... that is, until 1982, when 'Eye in the Sky' seemed a bit too eager to be bought by teenage girls. And since when do they play concerts? No matter; the hired guns played tolerably well and Alan himself got to play rock star. I guess enough money does buy a lot of things.
Waiting for Yes, we settled in our seats, chatted a bit with others. The lady next to me wondered if she ought to risk a run to the restroom, talking to another woman in the seat behind her. Not to worry, I ventured; Revealing Science was on the menu, and she might run off then. She seemed to take this suggestion thoughtfully, which would make sense only later.
Then they came out. Woo! We were charged. Although this was a much larger venue than the Warfield, we were much closer. Usually there is some distance even from the first row to the performers, but not here -- only the front row separated us from the stage. Personalities were distinct, so much so that I was largely unaware of what the songs were, fascinated by the musical interaction. Perhaps it is this way for any show of theirs to those up close?? Interestingly, it seemed as though each band member had his own area, untrespassed by any other. In fact, it seemed very much like a two-part band: on the left, Jon, with his guitarist & keyboardist of choice. On the right, Chris with his guitarist/vocalist of choice and the drummer who it would be hard to imagine Chris without. You could draw a line down center stage, three guys on each side, none venturing over. Curious.
This certainly didn't affect the music -- they tore up Owner and Rhythm just as they had eight months before; in fact the playing had deepened. Steve seemed much more comfortable, and Jon sang with strength and beauty as always. Igor showed he could invoke the Wakeman and then some, and do it with panache, and easily drew crowd approval. Not be outdone in his own band, Chris Squire entertained with class during his solo section. I didn't notice any sloppiness on Alan's part, but then Chris's amplifier seemed to be aimed square at us -- I might just not have noticed the drums too well.
As they worked out Yours Is No Disgrace, it seemed they were not going to play the same setlist, but this proved to be only about 20% true -- dropping Revealing Science, and adding Yours and Wonderous Stories -- plus one more.
When you end a great show, you should do it in high style, and Close to the Edge is all that and more. Absolutely the high point you'd expect it to be -- even more than it had been on the ABWH show at the Shoreline. I expect this was the one to really hear in surround sound -- I wonder if it made a difference.
The only note against this seeming-perfect show was the large similarity of the setlist to the earlier show, but that's hardly a complaint with material like this. The band had passed through a phase of great uncertainty and met the challenge successfully; clearly, they were ready to put their stamp on the next step.
===================================================================== A side note: At one point early in the show, Jon graced us with a pleasant comment directed to his special lady, who waved back & smiled ... from the seat behind the lady next to me. That's right folks, just before the show, the woman I had told that R
Despite being a Yes fan for twenty five-years, I was ready to give this re-leg of the tour a miss. I'd just seen them in Sacto and SF six months ago and enjoyed it, but didn't really think I needed another dose, despite the mild lure of the DTS sound. But the insertion of CTTE and Wondrous Stories, and a friend's gentle reminder of how rare the future chances of seeing them, pulled me in.
But what a very different show it was.
First off, Concord is a much bigger venue than the two in Sacto and SF, and Yes is NOT a club band. They are about ethereal mood in size and scale and work better the bigger the venue. I think much of what didn't work last time was due to this. The Firebird just doesn't fly in a club...
It seemed to me that on the last visit, Squire seemed to feel he had to try to carry the show himself with antics exaggerated even beyond his usual standard, as though he thought everyone else just showed up to do their thing. He's always been the real showman in the group, but it appeared he felt like an athlete whose team in behind and needs someone to step up, and went over the top. And, never exactly a precision player to begin with, his bass playing suffered greatly. He also clearly appeared to have been drinking heavily, which didn't help. Once the consummate cool, sleek stage presence, he became just downright hammy and even bordered on sheer buffoonery.
Six months ago, Howe was proficient as always, but was tight and somewhat ill at ease, even by Howe standards.
Last night saw the re-balancing of these two and the show was greatly improved as a result. Howe was simply brilliant, the best I've seen him since the 70s. Not only was he right on every note, but his runs sparkled and his trills and hammer-ons had life in them. He seemed to have more confidence in, or at least feel more a part of, the set and the band. There was actually a sense of humor in many of his double time riffs, and he moved around the stage with much more ease. Though always deminutive, he was once again a commanding presence. He even smiled. Repeatedly.
Squire, on the other hand, was much more dignified and his presence leaned back more to the regal than the roadhouse. His posturing worked to accentuate the music rather than simply to mug and animate. Though his solo was as sloppy as ever, especially the bits from Soundchaser, it was much shorter which served everyone.
Jon was just Jon, the wonderful and charming, if unassuming, frontman he has always been. It's hard to tell sometimes when he is serious and when he is poking fun at us all, but that has always been part of his somewhat impish charm. His voice had a bit of a rough edge, but it really is remarkable how well it has held up over the many years. All notes seemed effortless. Even Heart of the Sunrise rang clear, and Wondrous Stories were just that.
Igor seemed more relaxed and to be having more fun. Though he lacks the stage presence of Wakeman and the technical brilliance of Moraz, he is a very serviceable and likeable addition to the group.
The only sore spot was Alan White, who just simply cannot keep up anymore. He is a wonderful person, and a personal favorite of mine, but the show did suffer from the lack of inspired drums. Sure, he's an older guy who's been on tour a long time but his meter phased in and out and he was stale. He was flat and the few fills he did were the textbook spots where everyone in the hall knew the riff. An Igor equivalent on drums for the next tour would be good for everyone...
The highlight of the evening was Close to the Edge. From the opening sounds of the birds swirling around us, we were all trasported for a precious few moments to drink from the well of timeless artistic brilliance. THAT's when it all came together- all parts joining to make the brilliant whole. It was as fresh and vibrant as the colors in Van Gogh's Sunflowers so many years later. And it was during CT
Greetings all, just back from a rather long day. I drove over to Concord from Stockton early to be at the meet and greet thingie with Jon at Tower Records. He was supposed to be in-store from 2-4 pm, but due to a late flight in to Oakland from Reno, he did not make it to the store until a little after three. I got my Keys 2 booklet signed and asked Jon if we could expect Igor to be a full member by the time the next album comes out...he smiled and said "yes, we think so". I had been waiting awhile in line, so I said thanks, have a great show and moved on. Jon seemed to be very accomodating, signing everything and posing for pictures for those that wanted them.
Next, it was off to the pizza parlor for food, drinks and conversation with fellow amy'ers and a few non-amy'ers who just happened to be there. It was great to meet Sandy, Wendy, Jeff, Tim, joe, mikey and of course Anthony. To the rest of you, it was great meeting you as well, I'm just terrible at remembering names :)
As for the show...I was rather impressed with APP...I know most of their "hits" but even the newer stuff was very good. The little slide thing Ian did during Prime Time (I think) was fantastic. Crowd seemed to like them very much as well.
As for Yes.... same setlist, no surprises.
A few observations: My seat was roughly 10 rows back on Steve's side, good view of the stage, although not the *greatest* from a sound standpoint..with that in mind...
The sound was very good right out of the box this time, unlike last year in Sacramento where it seemed like it took them until about halfway through RoL to get it right......Steve *does* look bored playing RoL, although the pedal steel part near the end was very good.
RoL, and OYE got the least applause.
Steve played Classical Gas, Mood for a Day and Clap for his solo section...crowd went nuts.
Owner was the only song some people stood up throughout, dancing around. (Yawn)...Steve's jam at the end was very good though, seems like he is trying to make the song his own :)
I thought they absolutely nailed &YAI and CttE. Not having seen CttE before, I was very impressed. Harmonies, Igor, Steve, Chris...again, crowd went nuts.
I can't give a crowd estimate because I do not know what the seating capacity is. I guess if you took all the people on the lawn and put them in the empty seats, you may still have had some left over seats.
I left my seat right after CttE and watched about half of AGP from the top of the first section, checked out the video monitors, and them made my way out the parking lot to beat the crowd. I love Roundabout, but I thought getting out of the parking lot quickly was more important than seeing it again :)
All things considered, a well spent 12 hours.
Igor was pretty good - not perfect, came in late a couple of times, but then this is live music - Squire makes an act out of coming in late on HotS, eh? When he's playing classic yes without embellishing, he's fine. Some of his special treatments are goofy, some are mildly inspired.
I did not observe that the band members were at all aloof toward each other. They're not up there hugging and kissing all night long, but they appear to be getting along fine, have at *least* an amicable relationship - to me, they looked like buddies. Steve is not scintillating or terribly charismatic, so I'm guessing that a lot of these posted comments about him looking bored or pissed-off are a matter of reading-the-book-by-its-cover.
There were a couple of times that Steve Howe did not receive enough volume in the mix. (I was sitting up front, on the Squire/Sherwood/White side.) It didn't happen much, but it was distressing! Steve Howe is the man. This is a great band, but Steve Howe stands out as some sort of Uber-Guitar-God among them. Yes without Steve Howe is a good band, perhaps a great band. Yes with Steve Howe is a life-altering, mind-and-spirit-expanding experience.