Last night City Hall was, I'd say just about sold out. I couldn't see the back of the balcony, but everywhere else look full. The crowd were lively, but not raucous with standing ovations occurring at least every other song much to the pleasure of the band, especially Steve.
I've always been supportive of Yes post Jon A. I initially thought that decision to replace Oliver with Geoff was harsh, but the step up from the 2009 show I saw to the two in 2011 that I attended, was ample justification for the switch. The music was tighter and better presented. In the three shows that I saw, Benoit was in good form, but I appreciate that he struggled elsewhere. Additionally the line-up with Benoit gave us new music after a hiatus even longer than the live performance one.
Now with Jon D coming on board, last night was a revelation. The band are in overdrive, firing on all five cylinders. Everyone seemed more than confident of their role, no more so than Jon; his voice strong and assured. Mention was made in the Oxford review of Alan looking tired. Last night he looked better than I've seen in many a year and he seemed to manage the set with ease.
Opening with CTTE might seem odd, your most famous track right up front, but it was awesome and set the tone for the rest of the night. Not for the last time that night did I well up, toward the finale. A good proportion were on their feet after the first track to applaud the band. No mid-album announcements, straight into the next track!
The playing was strong and tight right through. I thought that Geoff stepped up admirably playing Rick and Tony's parts with confidence, not overplaying or overembellishing, but with small touches making them his own. Indeed there was just enough deviation from each studio track that you knew you were listening to a live performance.
Steve had a few technical problems (I wouldn't want to be his guitar roadie – not last night anyway!) and a wee improvisation was required during Turn of the Century, another track that brought a small tear. Then whilst a second hitch was sorted, Chris reminded us that City Hall was where the famous Wakeman Curry Incident occurred.
I don't think that Parallels and Wonderous Stories quite hit the mark, but by then the bar had been set perilously high. This was when Steve was still having tech trouble and I don't think his guitar sound was exactly right on Parallels for sure. Never mind; Awaken lifted us to heady heights again and the first half came to a rapturous end.
TYA isn't my favourite Yes album by a long chalk and many of the tracks have been done to the death in concert over the years. However they were presented last night as well as I've ever heard. Steve had a ball on Clap and it was nice to hear A Venture complete with extended playout by Geoff for the first time live. Perpetual Change is a good last track to start to wind things up and for the obligatory Roundabout encore the whole venue arose and boogied. Well sort of!!