Concert review: Audience just says Yes to celebrated lineup By TIMOTHY FINN The Kansas City Star
The problem with progressive rock these days is that most of the bands are fixated on being excessively gothic, percussive and industrial.
Tuesday night Yes, a 1970s British prog-rock band with a Beatles fetish, came to that place that everyone still calls Sandstone. The crowd that showed up to watch and listen was relatively small, but it was devout and in the mood to sit back for three hours and listen to a band that rarely compromised its steadfast principles: Be bright and melodic (unlike its successors), and be ready to perform prodigiously and precisely.
Yes has been famous for changing its lineups the last 34 years, but the version that performed Tuesday was its most celebrated: lead vocalist Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, drummer Alan White, guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Rick Wakeman.
Tuesday's show was long and satisfying, but it began inauspiciously. The opener was "Siberian Khatru," and the first five minutes of this 13-minute anthem felt a bit ragged and slightly out of sync, as if it were a dress rehearsal for the band, the sound engineers and the stage techs.
Everyone quickly found their bearings by the time the band rolled into its overarching cover of Paul Simon's "America." Anderson cheerily dedicated that tune to the spirit of our Heartland, but the song had other implications, especially when he sang: "She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy..."
The rest of the first set was devoted to older tunes that most of the crowd recognized immediately: "South Side of the Sky," from the 1972 album "Fragile," and "The Revealing Science of God," from "Tales From Topographic Oceans." Both were typical, epic Yes numbers: four refined musicians responding to one another while Anderson laid his frothy falsetto over their roiling, musical intercourse.
After two riveting guitar concertos from Steve Howe, the band broke for 20 minutes and then returned for more solo work: Anderson's "Show Me" and then a keyboard bonanza from Wakeman that included a few stanzas (with Anderson) of "And You and I." Although he is well into his 50s, Anderson's falsetto is nonetheless like his head of hair: sturdy and boyish.
One of the best hard-rock moments of the night came during the jagged and jaunty "Don't Kill the Whale," an urgent guitar anthem from the overlooked "Tormato" album. After that, Squire took the solo spotlight and grooved the house like Stanley Clarke, especially on the intro to "Silent Wings of Freedom" (another "Tormato" treat).
The night ended with a hefty one-two punch. First, an abbreviated version of "Roundabout" -- the "mainstream" tune that Yes is destined to perform always; and then "Yours Is No Disgrace," from the 31-year-old "The Yes Album," a record that -- like the band itself -- has aged respectably.
HC in Wichita
Alec summed it up quite well, so I will not try to add to his excellent and dead-on recounting of the evening except to offer the following brief thoughts:
'Heart of the Sunrise' and 'Awaken' were worth the price of admission and my 3 hour drive by themselves. Jon belting out the 'Sharp'....'Distance'...of H of the SR into the summer night was, for me anyway, the culmination of my desire to experience a Yes show under the stars like this for 3 decades. 'Awaken' is among the most lovely (and perfect) pieces in the annals of the rock. The studio version has taken my breath away for years, so to see the 'quiet parts' so dutifully performed live was really breathtaking. Also, CS's bass solos and pieces you've heard on record your whole life take on an entire new feel live. It's really something. As someone else pointed out the La Las in 'South Side of the Sky' weren't perfect, but really just for a second - they quickly got it together and it was no big deal. Also, the Magification cuts blended in with the classics quite well.
There is something uniquely special about Yes. You're here, so you already know that and appreciate the very personal experience they provide. Somehow last night in KC they were able to fuse that feeling we all know with the communal spirit of being around a few thousand of your closest friends. I'm not naive - I know playing roundabout et. al. must feel like a job some nights, but you'd never know it by their energy and enthusiasm. All in all, a wonderful evening! My best to all who are reading this and are fortunate enough to catch this tour.
The Bonner Springs show wasn't flawless, but YesMusic (as it is called in the program) has so much natural magic and energy in it that it is nearly impossible to be disappointed. I'll do this review by commenting on each song individually.
Young Person's Guide to Orchestra:
I would have preferred their usual Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, but this did just as well. Most of the people in the audience didn't realize it was supposed to be the opening music, and kept on talking and whatnot.
Howe was noticably slow on this song, warranting a few chuckles and glances from Wakeman, but when you're in your fifties and trying to play in 15/8 time while digesting copious amount of geritol, it's hard to expect perfecting. The mix was pretty bad at this point in the concert, with Jon starting out much too low, and Steve and Rick too low throughout the song.
Jon started it off by saying " This is the heartland of America isn't it? (crowd screaming) Well this is a song written by Paul Simon about finding the real America... " I was pleasantly surprised with this tune, which I don't really like on the Keys to Ascension album. It was an excellent crowd pleaser, and the mix was much better for Steve. Rick was still a hair low.
In the Prescence Of:
Nice tune. Rick and Steve still too low. Steve's slide guitar was practically inaudible, and when he jumped back onto the ES-175 it was obvious he was only coming through the amp.
South Side of the Sky:
Jon announced this song by saying, " This is a song we wrote a long time ago, and we have only performed it live a couple of times. It's about 3 mountain climbers who got lost in the Himalayas and died, and about the warmth of Heaven. " The crowd went nuts at this point, and Alan White did the opening drum fill and they went into it with a lot of energy. Howe was flawless, and used enough distortion on this song. Lately he usualy has used a very clean tone live, even on songs that were distorted in the studio, but Southside was almost perfect tone-wise. I noticed Wakeman coming in a little too early on a few of his piano fills in the middle section, and Alan White couldn't replicate the cool little beats of Bruford during the vocal harmony section. They also did a great guitar/synth duel at the end of this song.
The Revealing Science of God:
Excellent rendition of this song. The mix was good, and Steve played all his parts perfectly. Steve played the 175 and Chris was back on his Rickenbacker. Rick was having a hard time jumping from keyboard to keyboard, but managed to pull everything off. After the song was finished, Jon Said, " Isn't it amazing they we can play this song in the year 2002? " and then some wise guy a few rows behind me yelled " And again in 2003!! "
Steve Howe solo section:
Jon announced this by saying something along the lines of " And now the unique guitar stylings of Steve Howe. " Everyone cheered, and Steve's guitar tech pulled up a chair right to the edge of the stage in the middle. Steve had the nylon string acoustic, and played flawlessly. The crowd was obviously paying a lot of attention, and you could hear a pin drop at the point. Howe was maybe about 5 or 6 feet from the people in the first row. He got a standing ovation when he was finished, and walked back to his mic and said, " Thank you, thank you very much. That was 'Little Galliard' and The Ancient, from... uh... Topographic Oceans of course. We're going to take a little break, see you back here in fifteen minutes. "
15 minute intermission...
Jon Anderson solo:
Jon started this one by saying, " This is a tune from my solo project, you can go to Apple.com and see me having a lot of fun in the studio. " he also said a few words about his wife Jane, and said something along the lines of " You know, without love, we're nothing.. " At this point some guy in the audience screamed
Just got back from the Bonner Springs show, wonderful!!
The band played very good and had alot of energy for being their age (no pun intended), even Steve was jumping around a little. This was my FIRST yesshow, and the fact that rick was there made it appropriate. The first few songs were pretty rough, the last slip-up of the night occured after the first set of La La's during Southside, then smooth sailing. Steve played an AWESOME rendition of his solo on the "Ancient", and spoke to the crowd, saying his thank yous, and naming the selections he played, then announcing the intermission. The Jon and Rick solos had everybody on their feet with standing ovations, then Heart Of The Sunrise. THis version was probably the best one I have ever heard from Alan White, not as trainwreckish then on Yessongs. Magnification was really really good (first time I ever heard it), and Dont Kill the Whale was kind of the "smoke break". Chris's solo had alot of punch, and his rickie was REALLY LOUD!! He announced the song something like "this is a song about ---, and this is a song about FISHHH" then tore through it. Awaken was really where the crowd reacted, where after "farewell, farewell", these yellow spotlights shined over the crowd (one was directly shining at ME), and was very enlightening. Roundabout was brief and whatever. Yours is No Disgrace was the final encore, and was basically a fresher, cleaner version of the Yessongs YIND, but Steves solo in the middle wasnt as long. On a scale of one to ten, I give it an 8 1/2. The show was fantastic, but was missing 2 things, close to the edge, and Bill Bruford. Oh yeah, got a t-shirt and a tourbook. Ill see if I cant scan them
Setlist. (in order and accurate) Benjamins Orchestra Siberian Khatru America In The Presence of South Side Of The Sky Revealing Science Of God Steve solo (Ancient, Little galliard) INTERMISSION Jon Solo (accompanied by Rick) Rick Solo (unknown, Wonderous Stories, And You and I with Jon) Heart Of The Sunrise Magnification Dont Kill the Whale The Fish (fish, tempus Fugit, SIlent wings, SOundchaser) Awaken ABBREVIATED Roundabout (BLAH!!) Yours Is No Disgrace