Due to the "standing room only" policy at the House of Blues gigs I decided to make the hour+ drive (dependent on traffic) from Los Angeles to Anaheim. I tend to like to get lost in the music and since I thought they might play either Awaken or CTTE I wanted someplace to sit down and float during the dreamy parts.
They did CTTE last year at Universal Ampitheatre so I really wanted to see Awaken, not that CTTE would disappoint.
I got to Anaheim at 5pm, an hour early, for my 6pm appointed dinner time. I also thought it might be cool if we got to see some of the stage set up or sound check...but most of that was already done. The gates didn't open at 6pm due to the fact that the band was being interviewed so the growing crowd hung out and started swapping YES lore. I waited in my car for a while listening to a tape I had made of the songs from the most recent set list and then joined the line.
As we were standing there a group walked up which included a man with the longest dreadlocks I had ever seen, and a tall man with long curly pepper and salt hair who looked like he was late for a Hell's Angel confab. I heard him inquiring at the ticket window about comp tickets and say that his brother was in the band. When the group started talking about "Billy" it confirmed that the Hell's Angel was Billy's brother so I started looking for a resemblance. Michael is a lot larger framed than Billy-more in the current Chris Squire range but the resemblance was there. I thought it amusing since Billy had been joking with DJ Bob Coburn on Rockline about having to "comp" Michael.
So around 6:20 we migrate in to the Sun and towards the vending table. My one complaint about the YES end of the show was that they only had large and XL t-shirts. I am a very petite 5'2 and I look like I'm wearing a night gown. Nonetheless I bought 2 of the shirts and proudly wear them because they are such beautiful Roger Dean designs.
As for the Sun Theatre...it is a beautiful venue with great accoustics but the idea of serving dinner and the seating needs to be rethought. Dinner service took forever and waiters and waitresses frequently blocked the view of the stage during the show. All this being said I tend to let the music take me where it will and block out the venue anyway. While waiting for dinner we were serenaded with the strains of Igor and Billy's solo work which I thought was cool. A little advertising for the new kids.
Some critic once said that if the Cistine Chapel made music it would sound like YES...YES put on one of the top five concerts I have ever been to and that is coming from someone who saw Tales, Relayer, GFTO, and Tormato tours as well as a bunch of Pink Floyd, ELP, and Genesis with and without Gabriel. The band was tight last year but this show was tight *and* fun.
The thing that made this show great was that it was obvious the guys were enjoying themselves, including Steve which wasn't always the case when they looked more serious back in the "classic" days. I guess they are old enough to have decided to enjoy the show too.
The fact that I had a seat turned out to be moot because I and the rest of the crowd were on our feet most of the show anyway. At my table was a woman who was obviously not a YES fan who had been dragged there by her SO and by the halfway point she was standing too.
Adding to the evening was the fact that the Sun had two big screens set up on either side of the stage so that the graphics projected behind the band could be clearly seen. They also interspersed close ups of each member at strategic times so it was very easy to see facial expressions and what everyone was doing with their hands. The graphics added to the effect. It was almost too much to take in.
Everyone played and sang magnificently. The band played every song with such energy and emotion that you couldn't help but stand and dance with the music.
I've read all the com
My tendency is to compare this show to the last one I saw, which was the Open Your Eyes tour appearance at the Desert Sky Pavillion in Phoenix AZ in July of '98. Perhaps my ears are now lo-fi from being punished at 30-odd years of rock concerts (and playing just a little bit myself), but I was right up front at the OYE show, and the sound was pretty damn good, the energy was high, and technique was largely superb. In contrast, the Ladder show had somewhat muddy sound, quite a few missed notes by Steve Howe, and there was far more energy in the crowd than on stage.
John seemed to be hitting the high notes with relative ease, but why did he switch to a lower range part on some tunes, especially when neither Chris nor Billy were picking up the high parts (...if the summer change to winter...)? I could most clearly here Professor Howe's guitars, but I would say his playing was spot on only about half the time, and the quality was uneven-he didn't seem to start off slow and then get into the groove; he just seemed to hit and miss all night long. I brought along my 25-year-old son-in-law (he was also there for the OYE concert), who liked it, but referred to Steve alternately as "skeletor" and "bag o' bones." However, I will say that when Steve was hitting on all cylinders, he brought a tear to my eye.
Chris was energetic and personable as usual, but he has packed on more than a few pounds in just the last year or so, and it seems to have dampened his mobility. Also, his bass sound seemed to lack its familiar seismic clarity. Only the bass pedals moved my guts in the manner to which I have become accustomed. He was though, and still is, one of my favorites.
Alan was competent, not flashy, but kept impeccable time. I could hear Igor much better than at the OYE gig, and I truly enjoy his onstage antics as much as his playing. He seems like a truly likeable guy.
Billy, Billy, Billy. I am so jealous! He is an able and competent musician, but I could do his job just as well, and I am old and fat and gnarly enough to blend in with the others better.
Vocals were okay, but with the extra man and 21st Century technology, they could be better. It needed to be louder, or more dynamic, or something (lo-fi ears, remember?).
Everyone (but maybe Steve) seemed to be pretty relaxed and having a good time. The audience was made up of mostly Yeslovers such as myself, and so the atmosphere was charged with peace and love and sharp distance. I met an old friend with whom I had not seen in years, the famous Roxi and her husband Michael, after the show.
Well, that's it. I know I may sound hypercritical, but I've seen these guys a bunch of times in the last 25 years or so, and I've heard them sound better--and worse. I love 'em like a bunch of older brothers, and I give thanks to the Cosmic Muffin every time I get to see them play live. You know I'll be there for the next time
THE HOUSE OF YES
Twas the nite before Halloween And all through the room Every creature was stirring Even the video camera boom
The band in the wings DJ Bob Coburn on stage From those who don't know BC He's quite the radio sage
He announced the band And the audience raved With a jump and a saunter YES hit the stage
As always, it's thrilling But, at this time of year It's especially chilling When it's Stravinsky you hear
As the intro climaxed The Firebird Suite The audience went wild And jumped to their feet
And with instruments ready Jon with microphone embraced They proceeded to render Yours Is No Disgrace
It was perfect, that song As was the rest of the night From Homeworld to Awaken And, of course, Lightning Strikes
On Jon, on Steve Go Alan, go Chris And a big Yo! to Billy And Igor, a master pianist
The show was superb And to top of the evening Was the grande finale We knew no one was leaving
First Owner, then Roundabout Though, we've heard them in abundance The encore really rocked the house Not a seated person among us
So, why do we love YES Why do we continue to follow They're simply the best of the best Of what progressive rock has to offer
Thanks for the show guys!
P.S. I know this is a bit silly, but it was a great show...
Scott Ponce de Leon
Words alone are not enough to describe the magic of YES. They are a gift from God. To be in their presence is to taste the divine nectar from heaven. There's no doubt.
The band was in good spirits tonight. The crowd reflected this energy back to them in the form of frequent and furious applause. Jon Anderson said that they play the way they do because of that energy they get from us. I don't doubt that either.
There were some nice surprises at this show. Close to the Edge for one. Igor's wonderful work in Awaken. Billy's endearing stage presence (what's with the chewing gum)?
This was a generous helping of YES nirvana. An infusion of pure energy. A direct transmission from a higher region. At this intersection of time and space the heavens opened up an showered us with grace.
The Sun Theatre is a new venue. It obviously has't worked all the bugs out of its system since it opened in early Sept. The seating arrangements are mostly tables except for a few rows of chairs in front of the stage. People at the tables are required to buy dinner. Some people had to wait quite a while before their food arrived (unfortunately that was after the start of the concert). The tables were arranged the best they could be but unless you were sitting at the end closest to the stage you probably spent the evening craning your neck to see around the people who were. If you're going to design a new concert hall, why make it hard for the fans to see? Also, don't make it a big box-like building -- you don't want the music to sound like it's in a big box. Duh! (Am I the only one who thinks these things are important? Hello?!! Anybody listening?!!)
Back to the good stuff. Jon, Chris, Steve and Alan. Need I say more? Anyone who doesn't avail themselves of this precious opportunity to see these living legends has missed the boat.
The new stuff was superb, and received a loud, positive reaction from the fans. "Homeworld" in particular was astonishing. Chatting with a handful of folks before the show, I found that the majority of them had heard the Ladder and liked (or loved) a lot of it. Hopefully their performance will sell some more copies, especially here in Los Angeles, where there as been barely any airplay for The Ladder at all.
Overall the sound was great, a little quieter than at other shows I'd attended on other tours (this was my 13th show since BG), and although an occasional muddiness occurred, one could clearly differentiate for the most part who was doing what in the guitar department. (At least from where I was sitting, of course).
The band were professional, tight, full of energy, and they truly sounded revitalized. Steve Howe gave perhaps the best performance I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. He was absolutely on fire, especially during his break on "Yours Is No Disgrace" and "Perpetual Change". All of his other solo breaks were nearly, if not just as, strong and beautiful. He's not as manic as he used to be, but there's a certain grace, maturity, and musicality about his playing that few (if any) other guitarists seem to attain. Billy and Igor especially shone this evening as well. Sherwood was flawless and seemed to bring a bit of his own personality to the Rabin material this time, instead of just merely recreating those guitar parts. "Hearts" was a standout for him, both vocally and in his guitar playing. Likewise, Igor was amazing as well. Hate to say it, but he reproduced (and embellished) Wakeman's parts on "Awaken" better than I've ever heard Wakeman do (aside from the studio version!).
We didn't get Leaves of Green, or Nine Voices (a bit of a disappointment), or Howe's acoustic medley. What we got instead followed "And You and I".....the lights stay dim, and we see instruments scurrying around, and out of thin air the opening atmospheres appear........it's "Close to the Edge"!!!!!!!!!!!! Stunning. And to have CTTE and Awaken in the same show...my wife, friends, and I were all speechless. Overall this was one of the best-balanced Yesshows I'd ever attended, set-wise.
Also, for those who have read thus far, Steve also threw in a bit of (what sounded like) "Astral Traveller" at the end of "Roundabout/Blues Jam"...It looked like he was trying to get the others' attention with it...too bad it didn't work out!
Another note of interest is that a video crew from DIRECTV was there taping the show. Obviously the footage will end up in their November 25 broadcast as reported on Yesworld.