The concert was phenomenal. And the icing on the cake was meeting the band at a party after the show.
The show was held on Thursday 25 September at the Suntec Convention Centre in the central city. The concert hall is basically a large concrete box, with no redeeming architectural features. Surprisingly, however, the sound quality proved to be top class. Seating was simple metal chairs in the high priced area, arranged directly in front of the stage, with the cheaper tickets situated further back in steep stadium style seating. The show was due to start at 8 pm, but since there were still so many empty seats the band didn't actually hit the stage until about 8.30 pm, by which time most of the 3000 seat concert hall had filled up.
There followed two and a half hours of the most mesmerising, uplifting and hard rocking music I've ever heard. I'm a late convert to the seventies period of Yes, having only picked up on them from the time of Owner Of A Lonely Heart in 1984. It has only been recently that I discovered their seventies output, and the magnificence of The Yes Album, Fragile, Close To The Edge, Going For The One, etc. Thursday night's show sure made up for lost time. All the classics were there, and though I'm sure some will quibble about the set list and choices made (what, no Starship Trooper? and where was my favourite, Yours Is No Disgrace?), with such a rich back catalogue how could they possibly please everyone? Renditions of Roundabout, I've Seen All Good People, Long Distance Runaround, Heart of the Sunrise, Siberian Khatru, and South Side Of The Sky had the crowd in raptures.
To be fair, in a live format the songs lack some of the nuances and subtlety that you only get by listening to the CD version in the peace and quiet of your living room (or even better, stereo headphones). But on the other hand, the live versions pack an unprecedented emotional whallop that you don't get in the studio. Chis Squire's bass rumbled in the pit of my stomach, Alan White's drums pounded around the concert hall, and Rick Wakeman's keyboard runs and flourishes were amazing to see live. Jon Anderson's vocals are superb, even without studio trickery - angelic and ethereal. And of course Steve Howe carried off technically brilliant and emotional guitar work just as well live as he does in the studio. It just brought home to me what virtuoso musicians they are individually, and how magical it is that they can still subvert their own amazing talents (and possible egos) to work together as a unit to make incredible music.
Security was provided by a local biker gang, The Headhunters (actually a bunch of burly expatriate Harley enthusiasts), who ensured that no cameras, videos or recorders were snuck in, and also kept people in their seats for most of the concert. At the end of each song, however, the crowd would erupt to their feet in applause and whistling, and for the two encores Jon Anderson encouraged a swarm of fans to fill up the area at the front lip of the stage, who happily danced and flashed peace signs. I noticed a number of young kids, and there seemed to be a large number of fathers attending the show with their teenage sons. Alan White made a memorable gesture at the very end of the show when he came to the lip of the stage and personally handed his drumsticks to two small children (aged about 8 years old!) who had been bopping and clapping on the front row throughout the show.
For a bunch of guys in their late 50s, who have been playing as a group for 35 years, there was no slacking evident. While Steve Howe was fairly static and sober, playing an assortment of guitars at the left of the stage, both Jon Anderson and Chris Squire roamed the stage constantly, clapping, waving and jumping about. Rick Wakeman was constantly on the move around his bank of keyboards, and could be seen clearly having fun, singing along with the songs. Alan White was a powerhouse on the drums ... never letting up.
Briefly: Yes in Singapore was almost perfect. The acoustics of the SICEC Hall enabled a fantastic sound quality.
Only oddities were a Steve Howe interlude with two local musicians - one on acoustic guitar and one singer; I fail to remember their names - and Jon singing a Singapore Airline song.
The set was the same as reported elsewhere, and almost the same as in Sweden 8 June. Some comments:
- I have not heard 'In the Presence Of' being played this well before. It even beats the album version. - Steve was in better shape than previously and he's improved his overall sound quality; not as 'brittle' as before. - Rick's arrangements of the Mag songs have developed since I heard it last time. - Unfortunately 'Awaken' - otherwise one of my favourites - did not come out as well played as I have heard it at its best. The parts came out a bit disconnected and the build ups during 'Master of..' did not catch the drama. In fact the Swedish version came out better despite being played in open air.
However, if it is true that they have rehearsed and played Owner of a Lonely Heart recently, I think it was a tactical mistake not to play it in Singapore. I am surprised the promoter did not tell them that this is the only song that Yes is widely known for in this region. Even though it is certainly not one of *my* favourite songs, it would have been interesting to hear a 'Howe-Wakeman' version.
Straits Times Interactive Encore, Yes, Lonely, no Loh Keng Fatt
THE 2,000-strong crowd at Yes' concert on Thursday night did not get to hear Owner Of A Lonely Heart - arguably the British rock band's most famous hit.
Perhaps, 35 years in the business is a lot of musical ground to cover so the quintet's set list for the Singapore leg of their world tour at Suntec City was always at risk of disappointing some fans.
Still, selections at the three-hour show - from In The Presence Of to Roundabout - kept the largely middle-aged crowd enthralled enough to demand an encore.
Former Quests' singer Vernon Cornelius came on stage midway to sing a four-minute-long unplugged version of Mr Rainbow, backed by Yes guitarist Steve Howe.
The Quests, Singapore's top pop band in the 1960s, had a No. 1 hit in Hong Kong with their version of the song, which was done originally by Howe's previous band Tomorrow.
The trip down memory lane later detoured to the residence of the British High Commissioner where a cake was rolled out to celebrate Yes' 35 years of history with 100 guests.
The Straits Times Yes again to Mr Rainbow By Loh Keng Fatt
THIRTY-FIVE years after Singapore pop band Quests had a No. 1 hit with Mr Rainbow in 1968, its lead singer Vernon Cornelius will perform it again next Thursday.
The occasion will be the concert by rockers Yes at Suntec City. Cornelius will be accompanied by the British band's guitarist Steve Howe.
The Quests had picked Mr Rainbow to target the Hong Kong market back in 1968.
Says Cornelius, 56: 'Mr Rainbow was a melodic number we selected from the song demos which were sent over here to EMI, for inclusion in our second album. We wanted something softer so as to get airplay in Hong Kong.'
The Quests, formed in 1962, were by then a Singapore success story writing their own songs and signed on to label EMI.
Mr Rainbow was actually called Hallucinations in the EMI song demos. It was performed by a British band called Tomorrow which featured Howe, before he joined Yes.
The Quests, worried that the title Hallucinations had a drugs connotation, changed it to Mr Rainbow.
The song propelled them to the top of the Hong Kong charts and extended what was supposed to be a short stint there for the band to 11 months.
'At first, I was sceptical when I heard they had asked Yes if I could sing with them,' says Cornelius. The promoter of the Yes concert here, LAMC Productions, had written to the band's managers.
'Why would they want to accompany an Asian unknown?' he adds.
'When I heard they had given the okay, I rushed out to a record store and managed to get an album by Tomorrow. And they did play the song but in a live, faster version,' says Cornelius, who is busy now writing a book on Singapore in the 1960s.
He is keeping his schedule free next week to rehearse. 'I will be ready to do any version they like,' he says.
Yes plays Suntec City Hall 602 on Sept 25 at 8pm. Tickets at $50, $70, $100, $120 and $151 from Sistic. Call 6348-5555 or log on to www.sistic.com.sg