I've waited almost four years (actually, 3 years, 8 months and 17 days - thanks, Pete...what doesn't this website do?) to review this show, as it was perhaps Yes' most controversial tour since 1980.
I was one of the people that voted against the idea of the orchestra on Yesworld - in fact, I absolutely hated it. To me, this seemed to be the surest sign that Our Band had finally given up being a living, breathing entity, and was now going to settle into the long, dwindling spiral of nostalgia. The Masterworks tour the summer before had featured no music newer than 26 years old - now they were touring with an orchestra? What was next?
The venue was sparsely filled when the opening orchestral piece (which we now know was the opening of 'Give Love Each Day' - at the time, "Magnification" had not yet been released) began. If the venue formerly known as Fiddler's Green seats 17,000, then I'd guess, by the end of the night, there were maybe 7,000 people there. I heard that they were virtually giving tickets away in the parking lot that night. I was feeling pretty discouraged as the show began.
But, with the opening bird and water noises of "Close To The Edge," all was forgotten. At the time of the show, I felt sort of disappointed that the setlist was so similiar to the Masterworks tour of the year before - in retrospect, having seen the video and listened to the audio boots numerous times, I must say that I feel lucky and grateful that they played the classics that they did with orchestra. Instead of completely turning over the songs to bombast (paging the Moody Blues), the arrangements were tasteful and thoughtful. In a concert full of highlights, the absolute peak (for me) was the "I Get Up, I Get Down" section of "Close The Edge," with it's haunting, ethereal orchestral backdrop.
Of course, what would a review of a Yes concert be without a few nitpicks? For starters, WHY did they choose "Don't Go" and "In The Presence Of" to represent their then-new album, "Magnification?" At the time, the tunes seemed pleasant, if unspectacular - now, I see that they chose the two weakest tunes on the album! It's too bad they never played "Give Love Each Day" in its entirety or the title track "Magnification" at this show (we did get to see it at the following year's tour, sans orchestra)...
I appreciated the extended length of the show, though, I would've liked to have seen a few different tunes from the usual summer tour choices (OK - I love "Wonderous Stories," "Starship Trooper," and "And You and I," but, ENOUGH, already, guys). But, saying that, "Perpetual Change" was a nice addition, and "Ritual" really benefitted from the orchestral touches - in the end, I can't really complain about such a great show. Having seen Yes 11 times now, from 1988-2004, I must admit that this may have been the greatest performance that I personally have witnessed. Too bad more people didn't get to see it.
Went with my friend Mike, one of the few Yes fans I could find in town to go. Very excited about the symphony. My son, 23 and daughter, age 8, went at the last minute and sat in the grass where she could dance along. We were sitting in the upper level second row close to a guy with a couple of women who felt it necessary to talk loudly through any song longer than 5 minutes. They were the only negative.
The highlights were Gates and Ritual. The new song "Deeper" was good though couldn't make out the lyrics. Mike thought the other new song, "Don't Go" sounded like a Moody Blues tune. Sound was pretty good, though the orchestra was often underwhelming in the mix.
Towards the encore, we started dancing and one of the security guards starts pointing at us. He calls us down to the main aisle..."you guys want to go up front for the encore..." "Sure" "they let us bring about 10 people up front to join the crowd up front." So he takes us down to the second row in front of Jon Anderson and we get to dance with the diehard fans to the encores.
Last Sunday I was given Comp tickets to see YES at Fiddlers Green in Denver Colorado.
I was a fan of their music in the Seventies, and was thrilled to drop everything and go to the concert with my 16 year old daughter. When I arrived I was really disappointed to see that Fiddlers Green was only Half filled. This made it hard to convince my daughter that at one time People would have died to get into sold out shows for YES. As I ranted on and on about how great the music of the band was, I began remembering, and telling her about a period when the band members drifted in different directions, and I began wondering how many of the original band members were going to play. I frantically examined the stage for hints, I saw eight guitars already on stage a sure sign that Steve Howe was still a member. The only thing that seemed amiss was the small keyboard setup. I warned my daughter that we probably would not see Rick Wakeman. When the show began, the YES SYMPHONY began as YES took the stage. I was right, Rick Wakeman was missing, Steve, Jon, Chris, and Alan were there.
What a great show, I knew there would be favorites they could not play in one night but they played enough of my favorites to keep me singing in the car for weeks. I was so impressed by the technical ability of Steve Howe, he is truly a master of the guitar, capable of creating his wondrous melodies without a Studio. Chris Squire Rocks like a 20 year old, and Jon's voice is still exactly, note for note the same as it was 30 years ago. But as I looked at them on stage it was obvious I was seeing a much older YES, then looking around I noticed a much older crowd. My daughter seemed entertained, yet unimpressed. When I got home and looked in the mirror I realized - I'm much older now, but the music of YES was a part of my LIFE, a great part of my life. I loved the concert.
PS Jon mentioned that 2 of the songs were from their NEW album, So I have something more to look forward to from them.
From the Rocky Mountain News—Dated Saturday August 4, 2001
Yessymphony: A big band is born By Mark Brown
It’s something Yes fans have dreamed of for years.
The classic core of Yes—singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White—is paired with a 45-piece orchestra for the Yessymphonic Tour, hitting Fiddler’s Green on Sunday.
Despite the band’s volatile history, “we’re very committed to each other in more ways than one,” Anderson says from band rehearsals in Reno, Nev. “It’s getting more like group therapy every day. We’ve known each other for so long that (the focus is on) just the musical thing now.”
The band has broken up, reformed, and lost and added members along the way, but Anderson says there’s little animosity in those changes.
“There’s always going to be an element of frustration, any business you’re in, whether you’re an artist or a dancer or a builder or a bank manager,” he says. “You’re never going to get on with everybody. There’s always time for change.”
The band’s evolving membership “is a natural event, and unfortunately, people would get very upset because someone would leave the band and someone else would join,” he says. “To us it was natural. If the music is inspired and the drummer wants to leave like Bill Bruford did, he wants to leave. If Rick Wakeman wants to move on, he does it. Me and Chris are really the yin and yang of the band.”
A new studio album, Magnification, is due out this month. “That was just the four of us jamming,” Anderson says of the album’s genesis. “Everyone comes in with at least a dozen songs and you get down to the best parts of four songs and jam them together with Super Glue. That’s called Yes music.”
The band is always writing. “It’s a constant flow of energy, something we’ve all learned to work with. Alan White has come to the forefront with his compositions,” Anderson says. “The four of us wrote all the music, and I tend to be the lyricist. Steve comes up with great chorus ideas, Chris comes up with great bridge parts. It’s a big hat in the middle, where everyone throws stuff in and we keep picking stuff out.”
For this tour, the band’s first with a symphony, composer Larry Groupe made the arrangements based on the band’s music. “He doesn’t jump all over them, just performs along with them, to give them that extra color,” Anderson says. “They were actually written with Rick Wakeman as the orchestrator. He’d play strings and flutes and brass on keyboards now we have the joy of working with 45 people every night, performing that music with us.”
The band has always tried to remain adventurous, even if some fans were dismayed that they went techno for a while.
“We were trying to have fun with modern technology in that period,” he says of the early-‘80s era that brought the very un-Yes-like hit Owner of a Lonely Heart. “There was a lot of sampling going on. There was a lot more to the music than just the songwriting elements. But that kind of thinking, from an artistic point of view, can only last a certain amount of time.”
The band has been best-known for its longer excursions and instrumental dexterity, producing classic hits as Roundabout and Your Move. Fans love them; critics often find them pretentious. “Long-form pieces are very adventurous,” Anderson says. “That’s basically why we do them. We don’t do them to (tick) people off. They’re exciting to do, and sometimes you can bring music out that’s very subconscious, very spiritual. So why not try? (People will say) at least they did it, you know? At least they tried to do something a little bit other than the norm.”
And Yes finds that the influence is far and wide. “Seventy percent of the orchestra wanted autographs because they’re Yes fans,” Anderson says. “A lot of them say, ‘We wouldn’t be in music if not for you and groups like you.’”