For those who were concerned that this tour was going to be like the Symphonic Music of Yes CD with the orchestra out front and the band subdued, fear not - Yes ROCKED tonight and blew the roof off the City Center Pavilion in Reno.
First things first. A set list, since this is the first show of the tour:
Overture (sadly, not a live rendition of Firebird Suite) Close To The Edge And You And I Don't Go (not sure I got the name right) In The Presence Of Gates Of Delirium Wonderous Stories Perpetual Change Long Distance Runaround Ritual Starship Trooper (first encore) Roundabout (second encore)
As you can see, this is basically Masterworks 2001 + orchestra. It's late, so I'll stick to a series of observations about the show.
* The orchestra was very much in the background. It was often hard to hear them in the mix, and the orchestra left the stage entirely during Wonderous Stories and Perpetual Change. It was actually a shame they were so subdued in the mix because the orchestral arrangements really complemented the band and added great richness when they could be heard, e.g. during portions of AYAI and GoD. The arrangements were also TOO careful to avoid duplicating Symphonic Music of Yes and missed what I thought were some great opportunities to use the orchestra to the fullest, such as the opening to Starship Trooper.
* There was a marked difference in the two new songs premiered tonight. The first one, Don't Go or something like that (Jon's introduction was distorted over the speaker system), was a shorter and less interesting song. It reminded me of some of the material they recorded during the ill-fated '79 Paris sessions just before their first really big breakup. The second song, In The Presence Of, was more of an epic piece - I didn't time it but guess somewhere in the 12-14 minute area - and truly wonderful. Yes music has so many layers that it usually takes me four or five listenings of any new songs to fall in love with them, but this song touched me immediately.
* For a first night of the tour, the band was really on tonight - a major improvement over the opening night of last year's tour, which also occurred in Reno. Chris appeared to get annoyed with some overhead lighting and just stopped playing early in his bass solo in Ritual, but other than that and a few normal hiccups, the quality of music was phenomenal.
* Tom Breslin, the new keyboard player, did a credible job. I can't say he measured up to either Rick or Igor, my two favorite Yes keyboard masters, but he held his own on solos and otherwise blended well with the group.
* The venue largely sucked. The acoustics were bad, sound system was distorted at times, and for some reason the first row of chairs were set back about 30 feet from the stage so there was unnecessary distance between the band and the crowd. The only good part of this arrangement was when hundreds of people (myself included) rushed the stage at the end of Ritual; we had room to stand right next to the stage and rock during the two encores. Jon seemed to get a kick out of this, although he kept peeking over to see that his wife Jane was OK as her front row seat quickly became a 20th row seat behind a wall of dancing fans.
* Surprisingly, no tour merchandise of any sort was out for sale. Hopefully this is corrected by the next couple of shows. I'm bringing my eight year old son to the LA Hollywood Bowl show - his first major concert - and would be very bummed if I couldn't send him home with a T-shirt etc.
* The crowd did Reno proud for a change. Except for some guy in the second row that just had to jump up and dance/gyrate constantly throughout the show, people in the front sections (I was in the 9th row center) were respectful and enjoying the music during the songs, and loud in their appreciation after each song. After Roundabout, the band left the stage but most of the front