Standing in line at the Riviera is not something I would normally pay $80 for the privelege to do. I was one of the lucky ones who had very warm clothing - even though the night was mild by Chicago (or even midwest) standards. I was thankful that there were Southsiders there who had previously "run the gauntlet" and could give me good advice.
I took the backpack for YesChef, so he could rush down and grab some seats without being searched - turns out, however, I got to 2nd row center before he did - to find the Aussies and Brian and Milwaukee Mike arriving there at about the same time (I also found a cat fight about "who got here first," one woman knocked onto the ground, which was really ugly - Chicagoans are not known for their politeness, are they?) I'm hoping that the GA at Detroit runs more smoothly than this. The security was lax so that $10 ticketholders could - if they were sneaky enough - sit right next to $80 ticketholders - even though they were supposed to be in the balcony. Milwaukee's security was more totalitarian, but I was thankful for it.
So we've got the whole second row left - and we're ready when Firebird starts up. . . it's the same setlist as Milwaukee - and the same all 3 nights in Chicago.
As individuals, the band was in fine shape. I especially watched Steve - to check his energy level, to see if he's enjoying his job. More on that later. Jon's voice was a golden bird - the level of emotion in his intonation has matured incredibly, and he is always on pitch, always pure tone, and often puts in subtle shifts to emphasize emotion. Chris was a monster - not only was he hopping around having a marvelous time, the Squiretones were INCREDIBLE! Each tone he chose was perfect, each phrase, each bend, each guitar - PERFECT! AND - to top it all off, he was having a good time. It's great when a man enjoys his job. Alan was consistent and had lots of fun doing it, as well. Igor wasn't as crisp as he could be - and I will say more on that in a minute - I'll give him the benefit of the doubt - in the 2nd row, the sound isn't the best. Billy had his moments, too.
They went from Firebird into YIND. And Steve is playing different solos for each show. He's mixing it up, improvising. He's playing fresh. He looks thin, he looks haggard, but maybe that's just part of the Steve Howe package. It occurred to me that maybe his work is more inward at the moment, and we are privileged to see into it via his guitar. Several times throughout the evening, Steve blew the top of my head off. His playing was sublime. It seems as though he is in a kind of Divine pain - like a prophet who is thrown into convulsions to relay the word of God. But his guitar work is searing, spectacular. This girl is not complaining!
During Steve's YIND solo - I noticed some rhythmic play between Igor and Jon - Jon on cymbals and Igor on cowbells. Kind of a friendly rhythmic debate going on behind Steve. It seemed like Igor was taking a lot of keyboard "shortcuts" - like playing glissando's instead of chromatic runs. Playing chords instead of interludes. I know he has a lot of material to cover, but it made his work seem blurry, not very fresh, not crisp at all. I know he's got it in him. Why can't he live on the edge like Steve? All he has to do is jump in with all of his heart and skill, and he would shine.
In the Messenger, Steve brought out this teal/blue "keyless" (???? what would you call that?) guitar - and his playing on that guitar was absolutely sublime. Kind of a cross between an electric guitar sound, and the slide. He never used a slide on regular guitars that I could see - got these sounds with his fingers on the frets. Again - his tones, his choices of lines - outstanding!
It'll be a Good Day - in the "We Make Our Own Heaven" section, Chris and Billy launch into a reggae rhythm underneath Jon's vocals. Funky! And fun! I managed to catch Chris' eye during this segment - letting him know
It was another wonderful evening of Yes! The set list was unchanged but there was a nice surprise during "Awaken", a giant confetti shower at the climax. It was also great meeting other Yes fans including the guys from Australia and Scotland,Paolo from Brazil, and Jan Carol. I was also happy to meet other fans at the Green Mill after the show for Kurt Elling. A great show for a $5 cover!
I took advantage of the $10 balcony seating for this show. I never did get a good look at the main floor to see if they opened the $10 balcony seats out of necessity (because they were sold out on the floor) or out of necessity (because they couldn't sell any tickets on the floor at an exorbitant $72.50.)
The Riviera is an old theater that has certainly seen better days, but it was still good listening. The balcony gave quite a good view--it would have been ideal, were it not for "Union boy", a guy in a Union T-shirt who I believe thought he was the star of the show, and stood and gestured to the ceiling more or less throughout the show. Union boy was about six rows directly in front of me.
As for Yes: I've seen this lineup three times now in Chicago (late '97, mid '98, and now) and overall would have to say that this was the weakest show of the three. Now, it was still a good show, especially for the money. But the projection screen graphics were mostly iffy, the stage design was plain, and the setlist a little dubious. I understand the band's interest in being "steeped in history but rooted in the present", so they played a fair sampling of the tunes off the recent album. The OYE tour was essentially a retro setlist, so they felt they'd been there and done that.
The problem is that overall I think The Ladder has some extremely boring songs, and that really dragged the evening along. Homeworld and Lightning Strikes were the only Ladder songs I truly enjoyed, the rest were tolerable but not interesting.
I've never seen stagehands so involved DURING the performance of songs. It seemed that a tech was coming out every other song to help Igor (including setting up a small fan to cool him off--his silk pajamas obviously don't breathe very well!) There was more than one occasion where someone ran on and fixed Sherwood or Squire's cabling.
There was a fair amount of wandering around inbetween songs. Billy Sherwood wandered off sometimes for half a song at one stretch (I know he's the insurance policy for the future, but they really need to get him more to do on stage in the meantime!), and Igor had to hold up finishing the intro to Awaken so Chris Squire could get back to the stage with his triple-necker (and even then, Squire missed a few measures.)
Awaken was probably my biggest disappointment of the evening, although I was prepared for it from the Internet broadcast. They just don't seem to be "sticking" it very well, nowhere near as well as it sounds on KTA. Igor's synth choices may have a little to do with that.
And Jon Anderson's extraneous harp was really, really annoying. The only time he actually played it was just to strum it up and down, and it sounded awful.
That sounds like a lot of complaining, but it was a fun show. Everyone looked to be having a pretty good time, the songs I HAVEN'T complained about sounded very good, and I'd certainly pay $10 to see them any day. For $72.50, I think would have been doing more complaining.
Audience note: I can't tell if this particular patron was heckling or complimenting (my money is on heckling) when he kept shouting "Wakeman!" at Igor during some of his solo bits.
"Take a bow" note: You'd think that six guys with a combined total of nearly 200 years of stage experience could orchestrate the traditional stage "link hands and bow in unison" bit. Alan White tried his hardest to get it to work, but it never quite came together. The worst part was when he tried to do it and Igor chose that moment to turn around and talk to a stagehand...