23 years, 7 months and 3 days ago
Monday, October 25, 1999
New Orleans, Louisiana
House Of Blues
My 7th YES show, and the one closest to my home (100 miles, all you spoiled metro-dwellers). Monday-night-football sights and sounds were blasting all around the club during the concert which really bothered me. If a bar is going to serve as a concert venue they should suspend regular activities for the night. The band was excellent, but Steve Howe's super-ego partially spoiled the show during "Hearts". He added some beautiful steel-guitar work to the refrains of this gorgeous song, but for the rest of the time He WENT OFFSTAGE. As much as I admire Howe I couldn't help thinking WHAT A JERK!
In the Howe-Anderson configuration, any YES show is bound to be excellent, and the New Orleans show on October 25th at the House of Blues (HOB) was no exception. One couldn't help but to experience some cognitive dissonance, though, due to the juxtaposition of the grandeur of Yes' music and musical style against the HOB's tiny physical dimensions and acoustic limitations.
Almost anywhere in the HOB very small bar-theatre was excellent visually. Hence, there was an eye-contact-driven performer-audience intimacy very non-characteristic of YES shows---an intimacy with which even the band seemed somewhat unfamiliar and uncomfortable, particularly at certain moments early in the show.
Paradoxically, the small size of the HOB that made it excellent visually speaking, simultaneously made it problematic acoustically. Namely: the HOB is a bar in the old-west "saloon" fashion; not a proper theatre, where concessions and performances are segregated. As a result, there were never any silent moments during the show when the audience's quietness corresponded with that of the band's performance. The constant sounds of bottles and glasses clanking on to the bar, people talking, and bursts of laughter permeated the too-small hall. The band was visibly frustrated by the inappropriate atmosphere (and, likely that their fans were such pigs that they couldn't or WOULDN'T transcend the setting's inherent limitations). At certain moments, I was personally a little embarrassed for the human species as a whole.
By historic YES standards, the show was short---only about 100 minutes, all pauses and encores included. Trademark virtuosity in the performances of Howe, Squire, and White clearly showed that the YES bands musicians have endured time far better than many of their "50-something" counterparts from the 70s rock world. In a strange and remarkable way, the addition of a second extremely talented "lead & rhythm" guitarist (unfortunately I did not get his name) lent added depth and legitimacy to the now 30-year old YES ensemble. By not attempting to obscure that they could be improved by adding a talented guitarist to supplement their sound, it set the stage for many interesting and extremely pleasing "conversations" between he and Steve Howe's guitars. These---I believe--- stimulated Howe, made him enjoy playing the show more, and thus improved his performance. On the other hand, one might (perhaps quite aptly) guess that the "other" guitarist was only present because of Steve Howe refusal to play riffs written by former YES guitar-frontman Trevor Rabin during the song "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (which---by the way---upon it's opening notes, raised a muffled moan of disapproval from the crowd).
Jon Anderson's singing voice was extraordinary---some would say even better than 30 years ago! Squire and Howe's voices have faired less well; thus, their ability to harmonize with Jon has diminished. Khuroshev---the keyboardist---was either: 1) under-showcased, which is to say talented, but harnessed in terms of his freedom during performance; or 2) outclassed, which is to say, YES should simply find a better keyboard player. I say this because Khuroshev "cheated" (or, perhaps, held back) on far too many important keyboard licks, playing chords where notes belonged, or sweeping the keyboard, where more precise interpretation would have been appropriate. In general, his volume was too low in the mix. Khuroshev's work certainly did not detract from the show, but it highlighted the absence of a more talented Rick Wakeman or Patrick Moraz, completing this very important musical component of the YES band.
Song selection was (unfortunately) very limited, likely by the relatively short length of the show and DEFINITELY by the rowdy social atmosphere in the tiny venue. As compared to their most recently preceding US tour of 1997, there was no performance of "The Revealing Science of the God," no "Gates of Delirium," no "Ritual,
P. M. Bellocq
This has been only my eighth time seeing Yes in 25 years, but this was the best that I have ever seen since the 1979 In The Round Tour. Back then, the marvel was how each musician went off onto their own tangents, but somehow always sounding very much together.
This time, it was six truly great musicians all playing together and sharing equal stature. All were fantastic, especially from our vantage point of being only 10 feet away from Jon Anderson, who we all sang Happy Birthday to. The stage was so small, that Steve Howe was 15 feet to our left and Chris Squire was 15 feet to our right. Billy Sherwood played to the far right and did several great solos, with one being only about five feet away. Steve also did his usual fantastic solos. Alan White and Chris Squire were having a blast! Jon's voice was truly incredible!!! Igor makes me wish that he had been born 25 years earlier and perhaps avoided all of the bickering during the Wakeman years. This is truly the best lineup that I have ever seen, and I hope they keep playing together for several more years.
The House Of Blues was packed like a can of sardines with 1000 people. It actually did not sell out untill the last minute, as many rock fans in New Orleans are spoiled rotten by all of the free casino concerts that we get. Sixty bucks to see Yes in a SRO setting was a bit much for many. Despite the very crowded situation, the comraderie of everyone where we were standing was incredible! This was like a religious experience, with Jon Anderson as our priest. This was a extremely emotional experience, as usual for a Yes concert.
At first, we were all upset that Awaken was not on the set list, and New Language would be replaced by The Messenger. I was almost ready to go home before it started, but we really wanted to see the new material performed live, as well as everyone else's reaction to it. After all was said and done, we really did not miss these songs. Even the 90125 material was good enough that I did not want to use those songs for personal breaks as I usually do. It was a truly flawless two hour set, with the highlights being And You And I, Homeworld, Perpetual Change, and Face To Face.
I've done my ranting, so here are two cool things about the show last night.
First, there was this hilarious part, during "I've Seen All Good People." Steve is over there playing, in his usual quiet mood, not looking up too much. Well, then Chris walks over to him and really jams right next to Steve, getting really close to him. Kind of like Squire and Rabin used to do.
Steve looks up and is completely surprised. He just gives Squire the funniest look I've ever seen--as if he thought Squire was absolutely nuts for doing that. Then Steve had to smile. By this time, Squire was back on his side of the stage, and Steve was trying not to laugh. You could tell that he just thought it was hilarious that Squire had come over there.
The second thing is this. After the show, there was the famous Howe Mercedes parked on the corner. Just as we were walking up, the driver was leaving (without Howe--guess he would come back later). On the sidewalk next to the car was: a parking ticket. I now have Steve Howe's very own New Orleans Police Department parking ticket for parking too close to the corner ($25.00). Shall we start the bidding? Or, shall we start a Steve Howe Defense Fund?
Yes is fantastic! They put on the best show! It was more than I ever expected and I could have listened all night long. I never wanted the show to end, even though the venue was the worst I have ever been in. The cigarette smoke was so bad and the drunks were obnoxious. Yes needs to be seen in an auditorium, not a bar. I went to the balcony to get a seat and found the last seat on the right side of the stage, with a very poor view of only one half of the stage. I had a perfect view of Steve Howe and could see all his footpedals, guitars and wonderful playing. Jon Anderson kept looking up our way because his wife was seated right in front of me. The band was in a great mood and I think with it being Jon's birthday it made the evening more special.
I really wanted to hear Awaken, which they had been playing before, but Hearts was my highlight of the evening. Igor was excellent. He doesn't have Wakeman's style, but he could play everything perfectly. Everyone always complains that Steve Howe never smiles, but I believe its because he is such a perfectionist and takes his playing so serious. He seemed to be having a great eveing and was smiling toward the end of the show. Like I said the stage was blocked from view on the right side, so I couldn't see Chris or Billy very well. Billy's guitar solos were splendid. I could have listened to him wail away for hours. He is great. Alan White did a tremendous job! I can't say enough about what a great show they gave. Jon's voice sounded a little rough at one point, but sang wonderfully though the night. The last time I saw Yes was at football stadium in Michigan in the 70's. The sound was much better at the House of Yes!
I have a lot of negtive things to say but they are all for the House of Blues. It's just a shame Yes works bars - 30 years into it! Only one negative thing to say about Yes: they gave us no anthem tonight! No Awaken. No CttE. Jack squat! Jon's voice sounded a little tired at the intro to the show. I wonder if he took it easy because it's his birthday (one of the privileges of being your own boss). We'll be in Houston tomorrow, and it's a larger venue, so I expect something that will impress my son (he is quite familiar with the melodies of both Awaken and CttE). Finally they found this fine little gal to bring Jon's cake onstage. I was sitting by the backstage entrance so I got a good view of her and all the other lucky people there. The way I see it, I've already met the band, give someone else the chance, you know? No one mentions the video effects on the screens - mostly fractal & Dean - they're really cool.
For those of you who only want to hear positive things about Yes, read no further. I will not play Emperor's New Clothes with this Yes tour. I am going to tell it like it was.
Let's start with this lovely fact: Yes dropped "Awaken." The show, including the encores, was just a hair over two hours. This, after I almost went hoarse--after all of us at the very packed House of Blues almost went hoarse--screaming for Yes before the show. Yes responded to our great enthusiasm by playing the same tired setlist, minus "Awaken."
By prearrangement from some devoted fans before the show, the entire house broke into "Happy Birthday" to Jon after the first song. He didn't so much as acknowledge it. Who does he think he is, Pink Floyd? Never once in the evening did he even utter the words "New Orleans." The show was about as personalized as a generic video we could have watched of them performing.
Yes is my favorite band in the world. I didn't fly down here so I could write a bad review. I flew down here to see a great show by the band I love. But I saw what I saw.
Seeing Yes live standing up is like seeing Nine Inch Nails sitting down. It's ridiculous. Who in the hell thought of this brilliant idea? I'll see Yes standing up again right after I see an orchestra in the same format. It just makes so much sense.
Let's talk about the new album. I'm sorry, but sometimes an album sounds great in the studio, but not live. I yawned all the way through most of it. Again, I think it's a brilliant album, but "It'll Be A Good Day" sounds pretty crappy live, in my opinion. Do they ever think before they do anything?
Oh, here's something else. Right before "Good Day," Jon seemed annoyed that people were talking. He made some comment, asking if he'd have to sing over other people's voices. What do you expect when you play The Freaking House of Blues?!? I mean, of all the assinine things . . . to book yourself at this sort of arena, and then to complain because people are too loud? You don't bring your kids to MacDonald's and ask them to behave as if they were at a Five Star restaurant.
In the same way, "Nine Voices" had no place at this sort of general admission show. It just sounded forced. At a nice theater, great. The Saenger Theater, where STYX played and recorded Caught in the Act in 1984, is just down the block. I guess Yes couldn't make as much money over there.
And, of course, instead of playing "To Be Over," "Sweet Dreams," or "Tempus Fugit," we get . . . why, Steve Howe playing a surprise song: "Clap." Astonishing. Why haven't they thought of that before?
Back to my biggest thrill of the evening, the absense of "Awaken." $60.00 per customer wasn't enough to convince Yes to play it. Guess they figured, "Well, we've already got the suckers' money; screw 'em, we'll go home early." As much as I've always loved Yes, as far as I'm concerned, they can go home early every night. They've lost my support . . . unless they change their act. What I saw tonight was disgusting.
I'm angry, even hurt in a way, that all the cheering I did before and during the show was returned with nata. Jon Anderson really pissed me off.