Just another excellent concert performance Saturday night by Yes on their ongoing ( OYE, 30th anniversary) tour along with some support from the Alan Parsons Project.
First, a few words about the Alan Parsons Project. They played surprisingly well for the 50 minutes they were on stage, particularly Guitarist Ian Bairnson, who coincidently played on one of Jon Anderson's solo albums years ago! Mr. Parsons himself played acoustic guitar, keyboards, and sang backup vocals, while quietly reminding the audience who's the leader of the band. They benefited from the DTS Surround System for their set.
Now for Yes. What more can we say? Another great show from the band. It's hard to believe that it was just over 8 months ago I saw Yes in the same venue (on Dec. 6, 1997 to be exact along with review I posted previously). The Yesmen delivered once again, even though the setlist is pretty much the same for the 1998 leg of the tour with APP. Yes only used the DTS for a few songs (YIND+CTTE). Highlights including Jon Anderson singing as beautifully as ever while showing a sense of humor in between some songs, especially when getting into an air guitar duel with Billy Sherwood along with introducing him as the native son of Las Vegas (he was born here) who could play a mean game of blackjack. Steve Howe was playing very smoothly all night while showing a smile on occasions, particularly during his solo spot when he played Classical Gas, Mood for a day, and Clap, the one tune he jokingly said he couldn't get away with not playing tonight! The Rhythm section of Chris Squire and Alan White played splendidly all night while showcasing it on the predictable, yet more than satisfying Whitefish section (Fish/Tempest Fugit/Soundchaser) with White pounding away his drum solo from Ritual in between. Enjoyable to watch indeed. As for Igor Khoroshev on the keyboards, He played with a great deal of confidence and flair while getting the job done. Yes should make him an official member of the band since it seems unlikely that Wakeman will return anytime soon (though I wish it was possible) and Patrick Moraz is content working on private gigs and other projects. Besides, Igor is a young talented player who is looking for more challenges in playing music. Heck, he played CTTE tonight and RSOG last December. Yes can present him this, especially if they do more new epics. Last but not least Billy Sherwood did a fine job in providing strong backing vocals while playing leads to ROL and Owner, the latter which went over very well with the predominently Trooper audience. All in all, another great show!! Let's be grateful in spite of everything Yes is still going strong. That says it all.
Steve Howe never quite got it together all night, with the exception of his solo spot. That was clean, controlled and pleasant to listen to. On just about every other song, though, he was tripping over himself at every turn. Is there something wrong with him? I can remember a time when speed, precision and passion came from him without his even concentrating. At the Phoenix show, he was struggling for every note. Siberian Khatru was particularly bad, though he started to pull it together a little bit during Yours Is No Disgrace. He did execute Close to the Edge very well, however. (Close to the Edge was the highlight of the night, especially for someone who had never seen them do the song live. What a treat!)
A couple of other comments: aside from Howe's weakness, this had to have been the *best* Yes show I've seen since 1978 (the year of my first Yesshow)! They had incredible energy. One observation: one could almost have called the 7/26 show "The Chris Squire Show." The stage was his entirely from the moment he took it. The man has no limit to his energy and antics. He was really hamming it up!
Igor was incredible! I could have listened to him for days. I can't wait to hear how he meshes with the group later on when they write and record new songs. Many have observed how he seems to be an ideal meld between the styles of Rick and Patrick. There did seem to be an obvious blending of classical chops, rock passion and jazz quirkiness often missing from Rick's performances of late. Also, all of the sounds he had programmed into his keyboards were full-bodied and appropriate to all of the songs. I hope Igor flourishes and continues to make his voice ever more prominent in the group.
And I wish they'd *finally* make him an OFFICAL Yes member!
Poor Billy. He really is very good, but seems to have trouble finding a way to fit in. Personally, the way Howe was playing that night, I was wishing and hoping that Billy could have jumped in to help him more. Above all, his voice was really essential to the tightness of the backup vocals.
Guys, use Billy more onstage, OK?
The DTS-sponsored sound system was *incredible*! It was the single best sound mix I've ever heard at a Yes show. They used the surround speakers both subtly and overtly, all to great effect. If I had never looked at the stage and saw Chris's cavorting, or the cool lighting effects, the sound alone would have been enough to captivate me all night. I hope that maybe someday they'll film this show and make it into a DTS surround sound DVD or LD. That would be a true treasure.
Finally, the most surprising aspect of the Phoenix show was...
The Alan Parsons Project! They were the perfect opening act for Yes. While they didn't quite have the same overall stage presence as Yes did, they played with energy and precision. Those songs *needed* to have been played live. It was about time they got out of their padded, safe studio walls and played for real people! They really seemed to enjoy it, and so did the crowd, who enthusiastically called the band out for an encore.
I'm looking forward to seeing Yes next year to see what they've added or dropped, to see if they've gotten tighter, or if they are jest getting tired. Either way, it will prove to be, as always, an unforgettable experience. And guys, keep the sound system and your sound engineers; they are the best you've ever had!
And if Alan Parsons comes back for his/their own tour, I'll go see them, too! They've created another fan who will start spending money on their product. I'm sure they'll enjoy that...