19 years, 10 months and 14 days ago
Monday, July 14, 2003
Best show ever.
I have been putting off writing this review for two years but after watching Yesspeak again and seeing those wonderful scenes from Montreux I just had to do it.
I flew from Canada to Yes since they were not playing North America and what better place to go than Montreux? So rich with Yes history! To begin with, I stayed in Vevey and saw the church where the organ parts of GFTO were recorded. On the day of the show, and a HOT day it was, I went to Montreux early (5 minute train ride!) to see Mountain Studios and maybe see some of the spots where some of the publicity photos were taken. Not sure if I accomplished the latter, but I took some pictures for comparison anyway.
Down by the studio, almost on Lake Geneva, there are many famous landmarks from not only Yes lore, but rock lore in general. The studio is right by the casino that caught on fire and inspired Deep Purple to write "Smoke on the Water." Also, just down from there, is the car rental place that allowed Yes to wreck many a car during the recording of GFTO!
My ticket was for the floor general admission area but after a long, hot day exploring Montreux (so hot I had to take a swim in Lake Geneva) I was in no mood for standing. When I went to pick up my ticket the lady said that as I had originally requested a reserved seat (which sold out very quickly) one became available in the first row, centre, of the balcony section. I happily paid the 40 CHF difference and enjoyed the thought of finally getting to sit! When I did take my seat I was seated next to a very old couple. Who could they be? After watching Yesspeak I discovered that they were Chris Squire's parents! Wish I had said something to them but at the time I did not know.
The show itself was my 24th time seeing them and even having seen three spectacular shows since then, I still regard it as the BEST SHOW EVER!!
I have heard many Yes fans speak of being brought to tears by Yes music, something that never happened to me before. Sure, their music has sent shivers up and down my spine and caused me to rise out of my seat but never tears. Until now! Not once, but four times throughout the show during Siberian Khatru, In the Presence Of, And You and I and Awaken. They were simply at their best. Jon even dropped the "F" bomb when his guitar didn't work during Magnification! I remember at the end of the show they presented Steve with a yellow Les Paul with the Montreux Jazz festival logo on it.
When Yes came to Toronto in 2004 and did an autograph session and I mentioned to Jon that I went to this show and he said "that was a GREAT show!" I agree whole hearted, the best show ever.
A wonderful night in Montreux, and the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival. It was great seeing the boys back in the city where GfTO was recorded, and for which two of their rarities were named (Montreux's Theme and Vevey). YES clearly loves the place.
The set started a few minutes late with an energetic introduction by the Festival's master of ceremonies, then Steve lept into the guitar intro to Siberian Khatru (no Firebird intro this time). The setlist was the same as in previous shows. I must say that there does seem to be a marked improvement in the energy and enthusiasm of the band, perhaps due to Wakeman's presence. Particularly with Steve, who seemed to feed off of Rick's energy in playing his multitude riffs and flourishes. Steve was in rare form last night, attacking these 30+ year old pieces, almost reaching the speed with which he played them in the 70s. I love what the band has done with Magnification. I had expected all the orchestra parts to be played by Rick, but was surprised to see that Steve picked up quite a few of them. Most notably was the power chord lead into the Mag chorus. This small modification totally changed the nature of the song, making it into a real rocker. Much more exciting than on the album. I also loved Don't Kill the Whale and South Side of the Sky, with the guitar-keyboard battle showing some serious chops. These pieces go to prove that YES can do just as beautiful a job on the shorter, rockier songs as on the 12-minute epics.
Not to say that the epics lagged at all. One of the highlights of the evening was Awaken. I just loved the build up through the interlude, with the powerful organ runs by Rick, alternating with a bit of harpsichord by Jon. And the Awaken finale was magnificent! One other surprise for me was how good Roundabout sounded. Like many other old Yesfans, I am tired of hearing this song and All Good People as the closers in their shows (what happened to ST or YIND?). However, they played Roundabout with such energy this time that it sounded like a new piece. Rick was just slamming on the keyboards, with big, fat, juicy chords. And again, his presence seemed to briong out the best in Steve (though I gather Steve would have liked to play ST -- anyone else notice the slightest hint to the ST intro motif in Steve's closing notes on Roundabout?).
And finally, the highlight of my show actually happened on the day before. I was hurrying to catch the train after the King Crimson concert (Montreux Jazz Festival? How about Montreux PROG Festival?!) and who did I practically run into on the sidewalk but my hero Mr. Steve Howe? I controlled my amazement just long enough to wish him an excellent show the next night. He smiled and said thanks. No more than that (didn't want to harrass the guy on his own time). But I can now say that I met one of the great guitarists of rock and roll. Some truly wonderful times in Montreux.