In late 1999, the "Ladder" tour started, and of course, the setlist for the shows could be read on the internet. I thought the setlist combined most of the new album's highlights with some of the most brilliant pieces from Yes' long history.
So I decided to go and see Yes for the first time in my life (only started listening to Yes about 3 years ago and couldn't see the OYE tour). The show I attended took place yesterday, March 11, 2000 in Offenbach, Germany.
Jon Anderson had been ill the previous week, a few dates in Italy were cancelled - but, lucky me, the tour resumed two days before "my" show.
Yes played a slightly shortened setlist this night, probably because of Jon's recent illness:
Missing songs were "HEarts", the "Yes Jam" and "Roundabout" was shortened - the quiet bit in the middle was missing.
I stood a few meters from the stage, on Howe's side. I could see all the members very well, except for Billy Sherwood - but from what I did see of him, that wasn't too big a loss.
Highlights of the show were, for me, "And You And I", "Awaken", "Yours is no Disgrace", "Perpetual Change" and "Homeworld". Awaken was pure magic, "And You And I" is simply beautiful - and the two "Yes Album" pieces sounded incredibly fresh to my ears.
Downers were (for me) "Lightning Strikes" and "Owner of a Lonely Heart".
A few funny things occurred:
After John introduced Igor, he played the intro to "Awaken", and there were a couple of wrong notes there. After the song, Jon introduced White and said, without him counting, they couldn't start singing. So White counted "1-2-3-4", the band started "I've Seen All Good People" - and had to stop a few seconds later. So Jon shouldn't introduce the members anymore, I guess :-))
At one point, Jon talked about "The Ladder", and said "In German, it's called - 'The Ladder'!". Someone from the audience shouted "Die Leiter" (the correct translation) and Jon seemed very amused - he couldn't really tell the difference between "Ladder" and "Leiter"...
The playing was, except the mistakes I stated above, absolutely great. Of course I can't compare this show to the classic Yes shows, because this was my first one, but I was extremely impressed, especially the difficult vocal harmonies sounded so perfect right at the beginning of "Your is no Disgrace" that I wondered, for a minute, "is this really live?" (of course it was).
Jon Anderson was in extremely good form this evening - he seemed to enjoy himself a lot, and of course his vocals were beyond criticism. I noticed, however, he had the lyrics to a few songs written on paper.
Steve Howe didn't look happy - as some others have commented, he seems to concentrate on his guitar playing, which was perfect.
Alan White was reliable as ever (judging from the recordings I've heard). He's no Bill Bruford, but then, only Bill Bruford is Bill Bruford.
Chris Squire's playing was great, too - but sometimes it seemed he didn't take the music too seriously, he also seemed to drink alcohol at least two times during the show. As long as it doesn't harm his playing, I don't have a problem with that.
Igor was great (except the Awaken intro). Great choices of keyboard samples, great playing.
Billy - I didn't hear too much from him. Most of the time he seemed a bit lost on stage. I won't comment on his interpretations of Rabin's solos, because I never really cared for the original anyway.
Seeing Yes for the first time, I was blown away by their playing. Maybe they were better in the 70s, as some of you say. I don't care - I'm simply glad I was able to see them with Steve Howe back in the fold. I also didn't miss a complicated stage - I believe I speak for all of the attending fans when I quote form the "Keys to Ascension" booklet: "It was the pure _music_ of Yes that carried us to new heights".