The North Devon Rock Music Archive is an invaluable site with robust information and memorabilia.
Yes were headlining this tour. They were supported by a singer/songwriter, Jonathan Swift, who followed them elsewhere on the tour, I recall from later music press reviews. He was pleasant enough, nothing remarkable, but what I do recall is that at the end of the Yes show, he joined the band on-stage for one of the encores. The show was superb with a few exceptions ( see below) and I recall how each band member was totally caught up in the music they were playing and clearly delighted (and amazed at the reaction they got but also how the new music was sounding live.) This led to two (I think,) encores.
One of them may have been South Side of the Sky. Anyway, I recall seeing Jonathan Swift hovering near the end of the stage watching the band during the encore. Steve Howe noticed him and with a big, big, smile and nod of the head beckoned Swift into his space, where they played together until the end of the show a short while later. Swift played a big jumbo acoustic so there was no danger of him crowding Steve's`solos. But even so, for Howe to step aside for someone else to share his carpet is something I've never seen since!
The show was in The Queen's Hall, Barnstaple, a typical English town hall in a typical rundown rural market town. It is a Victorian town hall with an upstairs balcony and open space downstairs where everyone sat until the show began, capacity probably around 1,000. The hall was sold out because this was one of those shows/tours when everyone (band included) realised something special was happening in the career of the band. The Yes album showed what they were capable of and Fragile was creating a new benchmark. Why Barnstaple? I can only think it was because Yes (as you know) rented a country cottage in Devon at that time (see earlier stories of the inspirations for Perpetual Change) for writing and rehearsing and the location for the first show was sensibly just down the road.
The set list was similar to many of the songs found on the triple live album and just as fresh in the playing. What was special for everyone on the night of course is that we were hearing some of the songs for the first time and also with Wakeman playing live with the band for the first time.
At the time, of course, several of the songs were new, but Heart of the Sunrise was probably the most memorable because of the tightness of the band, even at that stage of the tour, and that no one else in the UK was playing that kind of music. The dynamics were spot on and Squire controlled any excesses during his solo, which I always prefer on this song, instead of the inflated noodlings which have crept in, in recent years. The song suffers because of it. Roundabout was kept as a closer and was beautiful and fresh, unlike today.
Standout songs on the night, for me, were Yours is no Disgrace (Howe's solo in the middle of the song was stunning) and also Bruford's solo during Perpetual Change. You could tell they were realising that something special was happening during the extended groove leading to the solo. Everyone smoothly cruising at 50,000 feet leaving space for each other to try out a few things...leading to one of the best drum solo's I've heard.
As for Wakeman...not one of his best nights. I clearly remember him working his way into the set (naturally) but he was in no way flash or deliberately trying to impress. But I still have a mental picture of Jon Anderson stepping back from the mic. in one of the short instrumental breaks in Heart of the Sunrise and half shouting at Wakeman the key of the music of the moment. It may have been the mellotron acting up in the heat of the small room, or he could have been slightly underrehearsed. Anyway, Jon was shouting these instructions with feeling and Wakeman only half acknowledged them before getting his head down and returning to the correct key.
If I recall, he did do a short solo, of about five minutes, which was more than well received by fans who had never expected to hear anything like this from the old Tony Kaye days. Steve did his Clap solo much the same as the live album and I recall this concert more than any other I've seen over the years (around 20+) that he was happy, relaxed, free, taking risks, and reacting to the crowd. So unlike his persona during the recent Ladder tour.
There was a standing ovation at the end of the show. The band returned for a couple of encores and the night only just started to get interesting. One of the roadies made an announcement over the p.a. for anyone interested to help them pack the gear. Which is what I did and snagged a drumstick for my archive (I was young at the time). Got backstage for a brief thank you to Steve on the stairs, who was gracious in return, and then out into the night....which led to a weekend on the road and eventually a night in jail (which is another story.)