It has oft been pointed out that less is sometimes more. Well, sometimes it isn't, as evidenced by the Alan Parsons Project (or Alan Parsons' New Project, or Alan Parsons' Touring Project, as it variously seems to be named) at the Backyard. A tight combo that played their set with the utmost professionalism, the APP couldn't stir up excitement with an electric spoon. Admittedly, they were at somewhat of a disadvantage as a live act; it would have added to the thrill of seeing a band that never tours if the average fan:
a) was aware of just what Parsons looks like, and b) knew exactly what it was he *did* in the band.
As it was, Alan might just as well have sent along a good cover band. Unfortunately, their set was mostly limited to an obvious selection of radio-friendly hits like "Games People Play," serving mainly to obscure what was unique about the Project and making them sound no more interesting than any other Eighties electro-pop band.
On the other hand, when the members of YES took the stage, the difference was like night and day - literally. As the sun had gone down between sets, concert-goers could actually pretend they were at a huge arena show during the band's heyday (Parsons and company were at a disadvantage, since in daylight, the Backyard has all the atmosphere of a Shriners' picnic). Missing only original member Rick Wakeman, the otherwise intact art-rockers put on a larger-than-life show that tempered the innate pretentiousness of the band with emphasis on the actually pleasant melodies that their intricate songs are built around.
The orchestration of the songs in YES' set was so heavy that it was difficult to tell the Seventies classics apart from the newer material, but the balance of bombast and genuine friendliness (front-man Jon Anderson has managed to raise the craft of between-song patter from "Hello, Austin!" to a genteel conversational art) made for an enjoyable evening, aided by the change in mood level brought about by having guitarist Steve Howe break things up with a solo mini-set on acoustic guitar. The only time the Austin audience seemed to be at all disdainful was during the band's "official Eighties sellout" number, "Owner of a Lonely Heart", wherein little patches of bobbing, excited younger attendees stuck out like sore thumbs among a sea of older "you don't *dance* to Yes!" types.
I'd have to give YES total credit for performing an impressive show, even as someone who's only familiar with about four or five of their most well-known songs. (Of course, as far as getting your money's worth goes, a "mere" four or five songs by Yes would add up to somewhere around three-and-a-half complete Ramones concerts!) - KL ______________________________________________________________________
NOTE: This review has been slightly modified from the form in which it was first published, in "The Austin Chronicle" Vol. 17 #48 (08/07/98).
Back in May I couldn't believe I had scored front row seats for this show (this was not a Ticketmaster show - otherwise I wouldn't have had a prayer), but I was blown away when we were led to the very center seats of the row! My best friend didn't know how lucky he was to be a friend of mine! We were almost too close, as we had to crane our necks over the edge of the stage to see Igor and Alan. Not that I'm complaining! The Backyard is a great place to see a show, aside from parking in a pasture. There are several multi-level balconies and several Dean-esque trees inside the venue. Unfortunately the fold-up seats they brought in were so narrow we had to practically turn sideways to clap (or air-guitar(-:).
Chris was in our faces all night long swinging his Rickenbacher like a samurai sword. He seemed pleasantly surprised at so many younger fans in the audience and was jumping around as if he were one of them. Of course his playing was spot on and he was obviously having fun. Jon was his crystal clear self. He kept commenting on the energy of the crowd and we certainly were feeding off each other. I told him we would be there and he recognized us and waved several times - thanks Jon! We got to see Steve's strained look of ultra-concentration up close and personal. He did appear very comfortable, though, and interacted with the crowd more than I remember in November. His solos this time were Mood, Sketches & Clap, and were immaculate - he seems to be playing Clap faster than ever. Billy is obviously talented but I wish he could contribute more on stage. My wife took an immediate liking to him at the November show when he pushed aside two bouncers at the end of the show to let two little girls give him flowers and then gave them a pick in return. We couldn't see much of Alan and Igor but they sounded great. I would have liked a longer solo from Igor, though, because I liked what I heard!
The highlight of the show had to be Close to the Edge. The power and majesty of that piece of music came across intensely that night. You could feel the band and audience tightly connected, musically, emotionally and spiritually.
Shows like these are the reason this band is still together and people like us are fanatics. CHEERS TO YES!!!
After finding a front row ticket here at amy, (Thanks Matt!) I flew into Dallas from Pittsburgh and drove four hours to Austin The venue was "The Backyard" which was a small bar 15 miles west of Austin Texas. This place had a dirt floor "amphitheater" which was FULL and seated 2500 maximum I was told by some of the staff there. This place was out in the middle of the woods basically - acres and acres of trees all around. The theatre was enclosed with wood, and included a fitting canopy of the leaves of the surrounding trees. There were also many trees inside the theatre and many branches snaking through the walls. It reminded me of Roger Dean artwork. Excellent atmosphere. The temp was like 100. I sat in Row AA, seat 14, front and center at the feet of the magnificent Chris Squire. This was a HAS (Howe Anderson Squire) concert!
Steve Howe did the clap among other ballads. He was sensational. Chris Squire put on quite a show. He was all over the stage and also performed fabulously. Naturally, Jon sang beautifully. This was a night to remember. I kinda felt sorry for Billy Sherwood, but at times I wondered if his mike or guitar was even on. Igor and Alan White were good, but this was a CLASSICAL YES concert (90% oldies) and the crowd went WILD with standing ovations after each song, except when they did a newer tune that I guess many did not recognize. (They got some applause....) This reminded me of a Fragile or Close to the Edge concert from the 70's. They NAILED every tune flawlessly in my humble opinion. Hello again to Bonnie who was in seat 13 and who told me she is following YES for their next seven shows! Enjoy Bonnie! (I think she said her name was Bonnie - well you know who you are - drop me an email tell me how it goes.) The guy who sold me the Ticket went backstage to meet YES at the Dallas show - Hey Matt, email me the pics! Those of you going to a show on this tour, you will be VERY pleased! Long live HAS! This is the BEST show I have seen out of seven in my lifetime. Of course I was never front and center before. Never ever will I sit anywhere else! This truly was life changing.