A strange and exceptional evening ! Number 2 (see Manchester review for Number 1)
Pre-show : Having got to bed late on Sunday (after waking my wife Jo and recounting the previous night's events) I felt a little tired. There was probably not a little amount of nervous energy involved as well.
Finish work. Get home. Collect Jo. Dash to Liverpool.
To avoid possible delays on M6 and M62 decide to go via Runcorn. "Delays Possible" read the signs as we sat in queues over Runcorn Bridge. It was a nightmare.
Arrived at the Empire at 7.40. Collected tickets and backstage passes from the box office (THANK YOU BOB Q) top man !
Got to our seats at the end of the first number. Phew ! Time now to relax and enjoy the show.
ShowTime. The band played well again. The audience however seemed a little subdued until AYAI.
We had a bit of a jerk sat behind who thought it was time for him to show the famous "scouse wit". He needn't have bothered.! His comedy timing however was perfect. As Igor started his piano vignette, the "I bet he couldn't play Awaken"statement finished just as Igor commenced Awaken. I will say no more.
Still felt Perpetual Change was wasted a little being so early in the set. Really enjoyed "It will be a good day". Steves' playing on this was superb. Was I imagining it or did Steve also contribute a little more on "Owner" ? Anyone yet to see the shows check out Alan on "The Messenger" subtle but excellent.
There was a little mix up at the end of Roundabout, which meant it concluded without any "jam".
Jon's keyboard was the culprit we later found out (although nobody touched it) in producing a noise so loud on stage that the band could not hear!! I think Chris was about to blame Igor and vica-verca. Lots of finger pointing.
Aftershow : Hurrah !!
No problems getting backstage.
Jo and I together with about half a dozen other people were escorted by the totally polite staff of the Empire to a small room that incorporated the stage door.
We were joined by a few others including Max Bacon late of GTR. Steve was first to appear. He said "Hi" to everyone spent a short while talking to Max.
He signed autographs but did not want any photos taking!! His mood was very reserved I thought even slightly uncomfortable. Not at all like I recall on a previous encounter, and, as others have reported he does not smile on stage. Still?..?!
Next in was Jon he asked, "who were the kind people who given up their seats?"
A chap across the room motioned he was one .I said I was the other. I asked if we could have a photo??????? Earlier in the evening I said to Jo, if we ask the question "do you mind photos ? " and they replied "No", we should hand them the camera and ask them to take a photo of us!!! This was our way of keeping perspective on the fact that although I was meeting my heroes the were still only people. ???. Jon said "No, of course not !" and taking the camera from me:"I will take one of you!!"
We could not believe it. This was too strange.
He also posed for photos with everyone.
I have to tell you he was absolutely brilliant. He recounted some personal stories, and made everyone feel special. My wife who although likes a lot of Yes music was, up to that point NOT a Jon Anderson fan. I think after this "meeting" she may well be.
Alan , Chris and Billy came in next.
Billy(Firestarter) recognised me from the night before.
Lots of photos, signing etc GREAT.
Finally Igor appeared. Two roadies and Will Alexander preceded him carrying a keyboard.
He told them to load it into the backseat of the car. He signed . He vanished into the dark Liverpool night.
What a great couple of days.AMAZING.
I am going to Nottingham, London and Paris to see my favourite band and I can't wait.
I will now seem strange to go "straight home
Twenty-four hours later and on to my hometown of Liverpool. The weather was appalling, but the venue, the Liverpool Empire was top class and a real contrast to the Manchester Apollo.
The venue was not the only contrast. Right from the start, when Alan started playing alongside the Firebird Suite far earlier in the piece than usual, the audience sensed we where in for something special. We were right in this judgement. Yours is No Disgrace tore the house down, Alan and Chris were full of improvisation and Steve, well - words cannot be enough for his performance. I wonder if some additional rehearsing had gone into the show, as this happy, upbeat, energetic performance continued throughout the night. They produced the best live version of Homeworld I have heard, Steve again the star, changing around his guitar phrasing, challenging the audience. I feared for Perpetual Change - I was not disappointed.
Jon was happy as usual, but when he spotted Jane in the very front row he nearly lost the place and was overtaken by a fit of giggles in Homeworld. (Does he not know where she will sit? Maybe this is some kind of game they play to locate her in the audience.) Being Valentines Day, Jane was rewarded by Jon coming right to the front of the stage and the pair embraced and kissed for a few moments. Tissues where handed around the Empire.
On with the show - The Messenger seems to have been extended a bit in the instrumental section before the acoustic bit.
And You & I was perfection. I must say I was not particularly looking forward to hearing this live again - but on the performance of Manchester and Liverpool I admit I was totally wrong. What a marvellous ten minutes.
Face to Face is a wonderful five minutes of Yesrock - a great group effort. Hearts was especially beautiful tonight with Billy, Igor and Steve's steel shining through.
And then came Awaken - angelic. This piece moved the Liverpool Empire audience as Yes wove their intricate path through this epic. Igor is now developing his own thematic variations in the harp / organ instrumental - very beautiful and tasteful. The climax of the piece was breathtaking - not a beat was missed - in fact thanks to Alan a few new beats were inserted.
The usual show closers followed - honorary mention to Cinema - Billy again nailing this piece backed well by Igor.
Jon dealt brilliantly with a heckler who enquired for the whereabouts of Rick Wakeman. Pretending to mis-hear the question - he replied "who … Ken Dodd - he's never been in the band" (Ken Dodd is a famous Liverpool comedian a real scouse nutter)
The only down part of the night was caused by something going a bit wrong backstage towards the end of Roundabout that distracted the band. Firstly Igor seemed to lose the sound from his keys - causing much waving as only Igor can, then Jon joined in pointing at something and he nearly missed his next vocal section - Chris saving his blushes by putting his arm around Jon and guiding him back to the mike just in time. Alan then quickly wound the song up without going into the Thank You section - strange.
After the show, Steve, Chris, Alan and Billy all came out too talk and sign autographs and seemed in good humour so I guess the incident was not too concerning to the band.
Onto Glasgow on Thursday …. Mmmmmmm.
The Empire wasn't as full as last time (no doubt due to price and the fact that this show was announced well after the Manchester date) but that didn't stop the band giving their all.
The set list (no changes) is ,I feel, just about the right balance of new/old material, the number of new songs showing how much faith there is in The Ladder compared to the previous albums. Unfortunately the band seemed to lean toward the more lightweight material - ignoring the far superior New Language, which along with Homeworld is a Yes classic in waiting. A little too much from the Yes Album as I feel either YIND or Pepetual Change could have been replaced by something off one of the ignored albums (my choice for Gates or Soundchaser from Relayer - this is definately THE band for that material) or even swapping And You and I around with PC so as to spread the eras a little. And what of AYAI - yes it's a wonderful song but how about resting it for a couple of tours (To Be Over in it's place maybe) because one of the joys of this tour was how different the set list is to last time.
The sound was fine from front row just in fron of Chris once the muddy sound of YIND was cleared up - 'tho there was dissent among the band members after Rondabout when the bass had all but drowned out the keyboard solo - pity as I think Igor is the new magic in the band (this coming from someone who got into Yes because Rick Wakeman was in them - and refused to go to the Relayer and Drama tours 'cos he wasn't).
I feel that RW was the weak link on the Keys to Ascension as he insists on using weedy sounding Korg stuff whereas Igor has the style and the sounds to shine - unfortunately not so much on this tour as it was very guitar leaning in the choice of material. Maybe when he's fully accepted (why in the always alphabetically listed band does he come last while Billy Sherwood makes the middle of the list) the band will make a great Yes album rather than the step(Ladder) in the right direction.
As for Billy it's chicken and egg - they seem to need him for 80's Yes material, but most fans would probably rather replace the likes of Hearts with something from the 70's - let's face it this line up (to all intents) follows Tormato rather than 90125 - meaning no need for BS.
Overall though it's great to Yes still delivering the goods, and changing the set list round drastically for each tour so I'll be there next time (hopefully along with some Relayer material and if they want to keep Billy why not let him sing some Drama material)