Steve Wilkinson Record Collector #372 January 15, 2010
Squire, Howe and White were joined by Oliver Wakeman, son of Rick, and former Yes tribute band singer Benoit David. In a 160-minute set, they performed favourites including Heart Of The Sunrise and And You And I, plus Owner Of A Lonely Heart. There was a surprise in Astral Traveller, with drum solo, and a couple of songs from Drama, recorded without Anderson or Wakeman Snr. They went down a storm, while Squire’s bass was magnificent, even if White was somewhat subdued. The star was Howe, his off-the-wall playing better than ever. There were a few mistakes and out of tune vocals, but David was remarkably good, bearing an uncanny vocal resemblance to Anderson. Wakeman Jnr. Was hampered by an odd sound to his keys, but there’s talk of a new album amid the perpetual change.
During the opening fifteen minutes or so of Yes’ first show in Britain for five years I began to fear that this was going to be little more than a passable impression of a once great musical institution. But after a slightly lumbering version of ‘Siberian Khatru’ and the inability of ‘All Good People’ to achieve full ignition, everything took a decisive turn for the better.
The climax track from Drama, ‘Tempus Fugit’, injected just the kind of energy and passion the title suggests. Benoit David and his compatriots gave a fine account of ‘Onward’. The band also gelled effectively on ‘Astral Traveller’ – though Alan White’s de rigueur drum solo in the middle achieved little more than an interruption of the instrumental flow.
By the end of the evening I found that I had been won over by this new line-up. The fact that there is nothing in the set list written after 1983 (save a piece from Natural Timbre in Steve Howe’s rotating solo acoustic spot) clearly consigns Yes to a ‘nostalgia act’ of sorts. But their back catalogue is one that fully deserves re-visiting, and hearing it in recorded form is no substitute for the power of a live performance.
Oliver Wakeman’s keyboards provided more of a backdrop than actual inspiration, but Howe and Squire were on good form, White kept everything percussively joined at the hip, and it was heartening to see David get such a warm reception after an early admission that he was a little nervous about his first ever gig in the UK – mindful, perhaps, of Trevor Horn’s past fall from grace in replacing Jon Anderson.
You need to have a long memory to put Yes-related matters into perspective, but I’m looking forward to other shows on the British leg of the ‘In the Present’ tour – even if that hardly seems the right label for concerts that so far focus on material a 26-year-old wouldn’t have been born to gurgle to when they were first penned.
One last comment. Steve Howe, given the unlikely role of introducing ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ after his (no doubt strongly hinting) acoustic rendition of ‘To Be Over’, described 90125 as “a great album” that he had not been around for. As a show of solidarity and a comment that has to be a history making ‘first’!
Loved it. Apart from the shock of seeing the guys for the first time in 25 years and thinking 'blimey, they look old' closely followed by 'oh hell, I must look like that too!' it was an excellent evening. Yes crowds are always a civilised bunch and last night was no exception, but plenty of enthusiasm was evident for the crowd-pleasers. For me it was worth going just to see Steve Howe bashing out the Trevor Rabin power chords to 'owner of a lonely heart'.... a golden moment! Thought Benoit did a cracking job despite looking vaguely terrified at the beginning. Chris is still the soul and guts of the band and the old Rickenbacker still has the power to lift you off your seat. Watching him gives me hope that maybe there's life in us old dogs after all. Bring it on!
yes in Birmingham last nigth was a fine bonding session , my 13 year old being one of the handful of folks under 45 in the audience. Said audience could ahve been a caravan convention or a car boot sale - barely a prog hippie to be seen. The lad deemed it 'excellent', rightly noting that 'Onward' (when i took my toilet break) was the low point (I also thought the drum solo was weak compared to previous tours). It was theit first night of the UK tour, and some of the lighting cues (pretty important to the Yes experience) were well out, which gave a distracting visual stutter rather than the perfect sound-and-light synthesis Yes can provide. They pulled their finger out in the second half. The band did a lot of jamming on the classics making the songs a bit fresher. No great surprises in the setlist bar 'Tempus Fugit' and 'Machine Messiah' (Yes's own concession to punk influences in the late 70s), and the new singer and Oliver wakeman were competent enough without having any panache of their own. But shifting the focus to Howe, Squire and the music suits me fine - and Steve Howe's acoustic "To Be Over" was astonishingly good, even to my 13 year old who had hoped for "The Gates of Delirium".
I am amazed that no one else has mentioned the volume. It was, to my ears (and my wife's, and the people next to us that were driven out at the end of 'And You And I' by the pain, and the entire row in front of the stage right PA) simply painful. It was as if someone had determined that we would accept a Yes without Jon, if only it were hammered into us. This is beautiful, subtle, extraordinary music. For goodness sake, let us hear it without being physically assaulted with volume. It started too loud, and got louder. By the Machine Messiah I was was just hoping that the pain would stop, the volume was physically draining. Without a word of a lie, I could feel my trouser legs flapping with the bass. This is the second Birmingham Yes concert in a row that has been ruined for me by excessive volume. At the ghastly NEC one might not expect better. At the lovely Symphony Hall it was inexcusable. Sack the sound engineer. Do it now. PS The lighting team weren't up to much either.
Travelling up the M1 to Birmingham from Milton Keynes on a Monday night didn't feel like a very good idea at the time, especially when my partner had told me that Rick Wakeman was being replaced by his son and that the band had a new singer. But what an amazing concert! Benoit David's vocals were sublime, and (forgive my ignorance - I'd never heard of Oliver Wakeman until last night) I could have closed my eyes and imagined Rick playing keyboards. And four decades have done nothing to destroy the skill and magic of the three original band members. I was back in my student digs in 1971! It was a great night - the lighting was simple but very effective and, after a slightly fuzzy first number, the sound was superb. Highly recommended.
Great concert! great venue,but was massively dissapointed by owner of a lonely heart not having drum intro or mid break played live,why is this deemed necessary?? .The drama tracks were awesome,and benoit really delivered throughout,one thing that others must have noticed was the bass cab problems on the left hand side of the stage,made alan's toms and kick drum sound poor and lack attack and chris' bass sound pedestrian on some tracks...either that or the man on the desk was pants!!!,really tho it was great to see,i just hope the bass cab problems /sound desk issues are sorted before manchester,when i next see em... oh and they sort the owner intro out and PLAY PARALLELS!!! Grumpy git aint i!! .
Just to add to the previous post,it was a great show,the drama material being exceptional.
Also got the encore of Starship Trooper that has been missing from some of the European dates.
Please note: Steve's solo was 'Solar Winds' and 'To Be Over'.
Got back from Birmingham about an hour ago, and can't sleep. The concert was truly awesome. Having read some of the earlier reviews I was starting to wonder what the night would be like. Well I can tell you it was a sheer pleasure. The new boys did very well, hats off to Benoit, I loved his singing.
Song choice .... spot on. Loved hearing the Drama stuff for the first time, was ecstatic that Heart of the Sunrise was just brilliant, and overjoyed they played Starship Trooper, as it appeared they didnt play this at some of the other European venues?
Real showmanship throughout, a joy to be there. God if only I could get time to see them again, I may just need to have more time off work to do it!!
Great concert, look forward to hearing it again on the memory stick they sold!