Tuesday, July 15, 2003
19 years, 8 months and 13 days ago
What a night. After a 1/2 hour hike up the Mountain with my 2 daughters & wife, we entered the Concert area to see enough room for about 1,000 people. I had seen YES 6 times since '79, but never in a setting like this one. The strongest memory is looking up at my 9 year old daughter perched on my shoulders, as Jon sang the last notes of And You & I. She plays guitar and loves this song and the smile on her face will always be etched in my mind. From Awaken to the duel between Howe and Wakeman on SSOTS, I enjoyed every minute of this show. One of the most talented group of musicians to ever step foot on a stage had not disappointed me once again. Back to America we flew.
Roger Dean couldn’t probably have come up with a better venue for this tour: an old castle ruin once built on the remains of a pre-historic volcano. Think Devil‘s Tower with YES on top. I am sure the band enjoyed the view over Lake Constance from stage.
Before the show, the promoter announced that the guest band was cancelled due to problems with the stage setup and that instead YES will be playing for 2.5 hours. Horray!! So off went the Firebird Suite and the band entered the stage, going into a somewhat lead-footed version of "Siberian Kathru". I got the impression that Jon Anderson looked a little gray and tired but he seemed in good spirits, pulling off practical jokes with the other band members in best Daffy Duck manner (whom he surprisingly declared to be one of his biggest idols!). A lot of youngsters attended the show, a fact not gone unnoticed by Mr. Anderson ("Before you were born, we recorded an album called Fragile").
I was a little disappointed with the band sound, which was rather harsh and undefined, plagued by occasional feedback problems which certainly was not to Mr. Anderson’s pleasure, at least judging by his gestures towards the monitor sound man on the side of the stage.
The setlist included a lot of stuff from the Fragile album, which was no surprise with Rick Wakeman being part of the lineup. I still recall the old days when his grinding Mellotron violin sounds made your hair raise, but his modern keyboard sounds are just way too abstract and cold for my taste. Too bad he never has a microphone - I would have liked to hear what he shouted at his vintage MiniMoog synthesizer when it went wacko for a few bars in “And You And I” (of all songs!).
I noticed that Jon Anderson’s great vocals were often underlayered with effects and something that I believe were artificially created harmonies, something I have never noticed at previous YES shows. His rendition of "We Have Heaven" came across like a completely pre-recorded Karaoke number (which it probably was).
Although being a great admirer of Steve Howe, I still have a feeling that his electric guitar sound has become more and more lacklustre during the years, compared to his edgy, driving tones of the „Yessongs“ era. I also felt that Chris Squire’s Rickenbacker bass didn’t sound quite as deep and defined as usual, twanging away rather one-dimensional and harsh. Mr Squire has always been known for his daring outfits, this time he chose to walk on stage cutting a sleek professional wild-west gambler figure with coat and boots.
I particularly liked the versions of "Don’t Kill The Whale", "Awakening" and "South Side Of The Sky". As Steve Howe hadn’t set up his hallmark stand-mounted electric sitar, I knew there would be no "Close To The Edge" - and of course with Mr Wakeman on the keyboards, "Gates Of Delirium" or "Tales of Topographic Oceans" was a no-no.
I saw YES in Zurich in 2001, and I must say that tonight’s show did not even come close to their breathtaking performance back then, with Tom Brislin mastering the almost impossible task of reproducing the work of Patrick Moraz and Wakeman on GOD and CTTE almost effortlessly. The sound in Zurich was so much better, you could even hear the orchestra harp player cut through the band.
Still, anybody who will be lucky enough to see this show with a better sound system will surely get all his money worth, especially if you’re into "Fragile" era YES.