I was able to see Yes in Reading at the lovely Sovereign Performing arts Center on Tuesday and then last night at the Borgata. I am only seeing two shows this tour, down from the five I had tickets for during the scheduled summer tour. It seemed like a long time between shows this time around, as I had to satisfy my Yes cravings with Jon’s Paul Green shows and solo shows from Rick, Steve and Chris and Alan with the Syn. So the big question everyone has been asking is, “how is the kid (at 42, not really a kid) sitting in for Jon” and “how did Rick’s son do on the keys?” I have to say that even with Jon’s original post saying it wouldn’t be Yes without him, these were, indeed, Yes concerts and the new parts fit in quite nicely, thank you.
Yes stuck with their classic repertoire, playing the entire Close to the Edge album, some lesser known songs from Tormato and Going for the One (Onward, and Parallels at least in Reading), one of Peter Bank’s best in Astral Traveler, and finally two cuts from Drama that I never had heard played before, Tempus Fugit and Machine Messiah. It was great to hear some new cuts live, and they played Machine Messiah both nights with a lot of precision, obviously enjoying every minute of it. CTTE was even better at the Borgata, as Oliver’s keys and solos seemed much stronger on night two. This might have had something to do with my seats, which were close to the stage both nights but slightly to the left of Steve in Reading and lined up perfectly with Oliver on night two. I believe this helped my ear pick up Oliver’s keys much better the second night. The sound was great at both shows as the band played in front of another Roger Dean creation hanging above the stage over Alan…kind of like the crab design pulled apart. Red Lobster, anyone?
The big difference in the two shows was the length: 2:25 with an intermission in Reading, and about 1:50 last night at the Borgata with no intermission. Last night they dropped Soon, Long Distance Runaround/The Fish, Steve’s two solo songs, Chrises’ new song Aliens Are Only Us, and Parallels and added Owner of a Lonely Heart in the encore. After last night’s show, one guy was cursing them for playing such a short show as he had also been to Reading (he should have been at the 75 minute show I saw this summer from the Counting Crows). I was bothered by the length of the show but not all that much since what I saw was fantastic. It was surprising because when they played at the casinos the prior two times over the years they played the same length shows as the other ones on the respective tours. Besides, do they think they are going to make that much money off of Yes fans in the casinos? Just one I know (ha ha).
OK, OK, so what about Benoit and Oliver? I thought Benoit was really good; a 9. Not comparing him to Jon; that is not fair or possible. Just as a guy who needed to fill Jon’s shoes In the Present. I thought he was a bit more nervous in Reading and the voice that sounded thin in the You Tube videos of his tribute band was, in fact, quite the opposite: so strong that it at times overpowered not only Steve and Chrises’ vocals but that of the instruments! However, I didn’t hear that at the Borgata. And while I think they didn’t rehearse enough on this tour to be as Machine Messiah-like as they did in the old days (Benoit had a little trouble with the lyrics at times esp. with Parallels and at a couple of other moments), one has to realize that 40% of this band has played a total of about ten shows together in their lifetimes! It took Moraz and Rabin a year or more of playing to start to take the types of liberties with their playing that makes their live performances so exhilarating.
I gave Oliver an 8 the first night, but again, I don’t think I could hear his licks as well in Reading as I did last night. While he certainly is unassuming on stage and lacking his dad’s flair, he played the songs very solidly and I think will only get better the more he plays with the band. And Benoit was certainly dynamic on stage; he seemed to be having a ball so less attention was paid to Oliver who seemed to really be concentrating on getting all the songs down without error, something not easily done for a band known for their intricate arrangements, arpeggios and complicated syncopations.
The bottom line is I had a wonderful time at both shows. Astral Traveler was a dream come true; howe would Howe play those lines? I was back in my old bedroom in high school listening to that song build and build…keyboard solo…bass solo…and the start of the main verse again. Machine Messiah was wonderful; I wanted Chris to put those old sunglasses on to replicate the old art from that era as he played yet one more of his bass guitars to perfection.
Of course, it is hard not to watch Steve all night. He has gotten a little persnickety at this point. I had seen a You Tube video of him aborting Mood for a Day in New Hampshire and going on mic to say “you aren’t listening anyway.” He is such a gentle guy; he just wants us to listen while he speaks and plays so his other fans don’t need to strain to hear the beauty that comes from his fingers. But one could see how much he was enjoying playing these songs again…he rolled his pedal steel guitar from side to side during And You and I in Reading, and kicked up his leg at one point last night (but as my old friend Ed [R.I.P.] once said, “Scott, it doesn’t matter how he moves and kicks around on stage, his fingers are still doing the same thing”). Close to the Edge brought me close to tears last night, Starship Trooper sounded robust both nights. It all went by so fast.
Now, can they make new music with Benoit and Oliver? Who knows what it would sound like? I always have felt that while their solo material has been great to mixed, when all five of them made music together, the sum always exceeded the parts. I can hear what is missing when one or more of them (Jon, Rick, Steve or Chris) is gone. I’m hoping to see Jon and Rick with them again, of course. But in the meantime, with all that I have read online for such a long time, there was no reason NOT to tour with this lineup. Yes, some of the pixie dust was definitely AWOL. But wouldn’t everyone rather see some of the parts together than none at all.
God bless them all, each and every one of them who ever made a contribution.
Its taken a few days to let all this sink in, but i have to share. I am a bit disappointed and also happy too for what i saw on Friday night in AC. The Borgata completely stunk...The room was a sound nightmare. Albiet i had horible seats way in the back but i have had similar seats and never dealt with deafening sounds like i heard....Maybe im getting old and deaf- but i thought the mix was horrid- maybe up front it was better..
Maestro Howe- wonderful- always a man to watch, Chris-- not much to say but keep this going, you still rumble with every pick of those chords. Its great to hear you sing...
OW- just didnt look happy--played really well... kudos
Alan-- I wish i could have heard you but i couldnt and it disappointed me, your small solo was great, the rest was drowned out by the horrible acoustics at the borgata...
It was great to see young and old and a pretty full house...
BD--- you really put a spin on songs that was really well accepted- sometimes I'd like to hear your version before or after jons to get that other perspective, but lets see if they release any live shows...please? Thank you for singing your heart out!
Two thank you's are in order- One for playing Onward- as I have found my soulmate, true love and person who can share this music with me on every level and for showing the magnificance of Starship Trooper to her- maybe it will end the discusion of "trooper" over "All good people"-- ha-- maybe not...
Here are my thoughts about the AC show:
I posted elsewhere that the set was absurdly short due to the venue. I complained about it there and will not repeat it here. Suffice it to say that despite the short set, the evening was magical for me.
On a personal note, 102.9 WMGK was there broadcasting live. They did an "Owner of a Lonely Heart" game where you had to guess how many times various classic rock musicians have gotten divorced. My friend and I gave it a go and won a couple of radio station t-shirts. They also had a text message raffle for a first row seat. On a lark my friend and I both sent text messages. After a while it got close to show time and I wanted to take our seats, but he said "no way, we're going to win those 1rst row seats". Wouldn't you know it, but 2 minutes later we won the tickets! So, we moved up a couple of dozen rows for out front row seats! directly in front of Chris Squire. So, needless to say it was awesome just on this note alone for me.
About the show: BD: very good. Great stage presence. Moves around and interacts with the band and the audience very well and in a more "normal" sort of way as compared to JA. He also moves and dances a lot to the music (and according to its rhythm too!), so this is different from JA also. Obviously no spacey talk. Over all, a very good performance. Of course, we all missed JA but BD made us feel right at home.
SH: really hot. He's a strange guy, people say he is slowing the band down in terms of tempo. However, his performance is hot and cold in terms of speed. A few moments he is playing either slower or less notes than the album or previous performances in years past (i.e.: TF). Other times (such as "Wurm") he is blisteringly fast. So, I cannot tell if he thinks playing slower is more mature or refined or he can only sustain it occasionally. He got really angry at least twice during the show. While introducing AT he told some folks in the audience to "shut up" because he was talking. During the quiet part of "I Get Up, I Get Down" when CS is doing some noodling, he looked toward those same folks with a look that could kill and mouthed "shut up" and made a motion with his hand to tell them to keep it down. Overall, his performance was spot on and he was very animated at times.
AW; same as always: solid.
OW: I think he does not get the credit he deserves. He was mixed somewhat lower than RW. However, I have found with the exception of perhaps PM, every keyboardist is mixed lower than RW. There was at least one time when SH motioned to the sound guy to turn OW down - I cannot for the life of me remember what song that was. What he did play was spot on like the albums. I think his main "problem" if it is one, is that he has absolutely ZERO stage presence. He never looks at the audience and only acknowldged the band (CS specifically) one time that I can remember (during the "Roundabout" solo). When he has no keyboard part to play he often clasped his hands in front of himself looking at the floor. He also does not make his playing look challeging. He uses a smaller rig than RW, taking full advantage of new technology (unlike RW who seems to enjoy using 1,000,000 keyboards all of the time). He rarely played more than one at one time and does not sway/leap/run back and forth between them or, as RW did in 2002 - 2004, criss-cross his hands constantly. I guess it can be summed up by saying OW has no stage presence and no showmanship and I think a lot of people confuse that with inferior keyboard playing which is, I think, a mistake.
CS: what can I say about him? He was 5 feet from me so I saw everything and he took a lot of my attention. Really great playing and singing and he does not look like he is slowing down. I think he clearly looks like he is in charge of this group again. He is playing as good as he ever has played I think. My only suggestion is to stop wearing pants so tight. His package was way too prominent and his old man legs way too evident.
The set was as follows: Firebird Suite Siberian Khatru I've Seen All Good People Tempus Fugit Onward Astral Traveller Close To The Edge And You and I (starting with "Apocalypse") Machine Messiah Starship Trooper Encore: Owner of a Lonely Heart Roundabout
The details are largely the same as other shows, but here are some details I noticed that may not have been shared perviously. No major issues or flubs. Overall a very tight performance considering the complaints from recent shows.
SK: during the quiet parts at the begining CS had something caught in his bass and fiddled with it for several seconds.
TF: I was 4 feet from CS. I can tell you that he seemed very confident playing the challenging bass parts. However, he seemed to REALLY struggle singing at the same time. He got most of his lines however he would pull back from the microphone at times and sort of scat the melody. Some of the lyrics got garbled by him. It really could not be noticed unless you actually watched him fromt he distance from which I viewed him. Overall, however, great playing.
Onward: CS plucks the strings with 2 fingers during many moments in the song instead of playing as he typically does. SH sat on a stool the entire song.
CttE; they pulled out the dry ice mist during the quiet parts. They also did some spacey improv circa 1972 during those same moments. I do not think SH's blue guitar on a stand does justice to the sitar sound. The sound round of pipe organ is supplimented by SH doubling the melody and CS and AW souping it up a bit as they have done on previous tours. The tempo was more or less album tempo with a ripping guitar solo at the beginning.
AYAI: great and tight overall performance but awkward guitar playing when not using a steel. SH did not use his acoustic 12 string but opted for that 6-string blue guitar. As a result, the song was different (i.e.: more electric) and a lot thinner due to the lack of 6 more strings. So, I think that took away from the music if being true to the fullness of the acoustic 12 string is important for the listener. Also, not sure if it was intentional, but the blue guitar was facing to the left side of SH and not directly in front of him. As a result, when he had to sing the "Coins and Crosses" part he had to stretch his arms to the side while his face was forward toward teh audience. Very uncomfortable looking. Was it like this at other shows? The two note keyboard chords during the keyboard solo were prerecorded.
MM: AMAZING!! SH's slow building guitar growl was just great and CS was blistering. Great job. Not sure what the point is for BD to play the acoustic guitar as SH is not playing his own guitar during those moments but competant strumming nonetheless. They also used the dry ice during the slow ending. CS' singing on this one was intermittent. He would come in and out of the same verse and I do not think he did the same on the album.
ST: in terms of performance, probably the best and tightest performance of the night. Again the blue guitar used for an the acoustic sound during "Disillusion". The solos at the end are as good as they have been in recent years. A REALLY well done rendition. During the "Follow..." part of "Disillusion" it sounded like OW played some keyboard effects that sounded like harmonized voices to boost the vocal sound of that section.
OoaLH: pretty standard. AW introduced it. SH looks less angry than bored playing this now, and actually played it pretty well and put some effort into it (unlike previous tours, I thought). The electronic drums were prerecorded and there were no shreeks from JA. OW played the little trippy transition parts. BD came in with the chorus at the end a little too early and looked at CS and the both laugh it off. BD sort of laughingly shrugged and CS did the same.
Roundabout: AW introduced this one too and it was again, pretty standard. The whole song too, none of this shorted nonsense. Again the blue guitar substituted for the acoustic and SH plays the "acoustic" parts with his fingers, which I do not know if he generally does that.
There you have it from AC!
Great show, BD vocals soared on CTTE and AYAI, very strong and on key, but his own phrasing, not a JA mimic. Great to hear the Drama songs, Onward and Astral Travler. Great sound and responsive crowd. Oliver had his own style and played well with a couple of flubs, Steve's had guitar problems during Roundabout.
Bad points, my GF brought me the tickets and paided way to much from a reseller. Short set, really missed SH acoustic solos, no Parrallels, Soon, LDR/Fish, Aliens. Sound guy said it was because of the Casino. At least the Borgata should have advertised that your not getting a whole concert when paying a full ticket price. Typical Atlantic City/Casino ripoff, just like their over priced drinks.
Hey guys please come back to the Tweeter Center and play a whole show for us.
The Yesshow was great sound wise meaning much better than Asbury Park. It was clearer and not muddy. I was in the 6th Row vs 10th Row in Asbury Park.
Setlist also a plus becuse it was different but too short. Previous Post has the Setlist right.
In Asbury Park they played Paralells after the break there was no break in Atlantic City. So no Parallels, SDteve Acoustic Solos, Soon From Realyer and no Long Distance/Fish and The song Chris Sang. Thats alot. But we got Machine Messiah and Owner in their place. Maybe they playeed Owner in Asbury I dont care for Yeswest so I sat through it.
I wish I could see more or went to The NY Yesshow. I liked this tour because they played Drama and Parallels. See ya Next Tour Asia or Yes.I'll post some pics for you guys and look on Youtube for opening. Rob Sanchez
Just returned from the Yes show and I have to say it was spectacular. Definitely one of my top concerts. I saw them at the Borgota 2004, which was fine show as well, with them playing acoustic versions of Roundabout and Owner of a Lonely Heart.
Steve Howe and Chris Squire seemed to produced the most energy on stage tonight. Howe’s solos, particularly on Starship Trooper, which was the best song of the night for me, were sweltering and passionate. He even had some fun with crowd, vehemently instructing a rude audience member to “shut up” while he introduced the next song. Squire’s bass sound was more powerful than I could ever imagine. What a phenomenal talent he is.
Alan White was Alan White. Never a big fan is, always preferred Bruford’s jazzier and more improvised playing, but he sounded acceptably good nonetheless. Benoit David was excellent, certainly exceeding all expectations. While he lacked Jon’s stage presence, he hit every note just fine. Oliver Wakeman...well...I just thought he was kind of “there.” He didn’t have a tremendous amount of solos, and when he played he seemed to play decently, but he didn’t stand out by any means. At times, I almost forgot Yes even had a keyboardist. Rick’s presence was sorely missed.
Here’s the setlist: Firebird Suite Siberian Khatru I've Seen All Good People Tempus Fugit Onward Astral Traveller Close To The Edge And You and I Machine Messiah Starship Trooper
Encore: Owner of a Lonely Heart Roundabout
My only disappointment is this is the shortest setlist of the tour so far. I was looking forward to hearing “Aliens”, “Long Distance Runaround/Fish” , and “Parallels”, but sadly none of these were played. “Siberian Khatru” was a fantastic opener, although Howe flubbed a lick or two in the beginning of the song. He continued this uncharacteristic clumsiness in the beginning of “I’ve Seen all Good People,” but he was strong for the rest of show. Close to the Edge was amazing, as was Machine Messiah, a track I must ashamedly admit I had never heard previously. Having seen Yes twice, two tunes I still look forward to hearing would be “Yours is No Disgrace” and “Heart of the Sunrise,” the latter which was unfortunately dropped after the first few dates of this tour. I certainly plan to see Yes again once they tour with Jon.