Odd Event Reviews... 'Yes' in Concert
Andy Simpkins reviews the Oddity that is 'Yes' in Concert at the Hammersmith Apollo, London, 2nd of July 2003.
Regular readers to this little site of ours will realise by now that it has acquired a distinctly 'Ultravox-y' and 80's feel to it, courtesy of my esteemed colleague, Tony Gallichan. There is nothing wrong with that but by way of showing our appreciation of good music as a whole, I have written this review of a concert I recently attended up in London.
As it was a rather hot and humid day in the capital, I availed myself of a couple of cold beers in the Shakespeare public house opposite Victoria railway station while I waited for my friend, Sean, to turn up so we could make our way over to Hammersmith in the West of London for what would turn out to be a memorable experience. To our mutual dismay, he had mislaid the original tickets he had purchased and had to order new tickets at the box-office. However, providence was smiling on us that evening as the new tickets turned out to be in the front row and so it was a full sensory experience as opposed to being stuck up in the circle and being less 'connected' with the concert as a whole.
For those amongst you who have never heard of Yes or only have a passing familiarity with their music, allow me to explain. Back in the early 1970's, Yes were the one of the founding fathers of what is called 'Progressive Rock', or as the angry young men of the Punk movement used to call them: 'Pomp rock' or 'boring old farts'. Their music is very highly structured and almost orchestral in arrangement and was highly appreciated in the marijuana-fuelled days of the 1970's.
After releasing highly acclaimed albums such as 'Close To The Edge'; 'Fragile'; 'Relayer' and several others, the band took a sabbatical for a few years until they re-appeared in 1983 with the album; '90125' and the immensely successful single;'Owner Of A Lonely Heart'
Since then, Yes have enjoyed a continuing renaissance culminating in their latest studio offering: 'Magnification'. Despite many line-up changes over the years, Yes have settled into what many fans would call their ultimate line-up, namely Jon Anderson on vocals, Steve Howe on guitars, Chris Squire on bass guitar, Rick Wakeman on keyboards and Alan White on drums and percussion.
As we settled in our seats, I had a frission of excitement. I have seen Yes in concert several times but this was the first time I had been so close to the stage and been so involved in a concert.
The light dimmed and an almighty roar arose from the audience as the band launched into a perennial favourite; 'Siberian Khatru' from the album 'Close to the edge' closely followed by offerings from their latest album 'Magnification'. A slight shifting-down in tempo followed as Steve Howe made his way to the front of the stage to play some acoustic guitar for the eager audience. Just to show that all musicians are not demi-gods, he stumbled slightly on a cable that was lying across the front of the stage. An embarrassed smile and a shrug of the shoulders later, he settled down on the stool provided and showed us all why he is one of the greatest rock guitarists of the last 30 years. His acoustic style spans over very wide and diverse ranges from flamenco to blue-grass and he did not waste an opportunity to demonstrate all of these styles culminating in a welcome rendition of a favourite of his: 'The Clap' A very light-hearted acoustic number that he first recorded on 'The Yes Album' This was followed by an unexpected favourite:'We Have Heaven'. A song penned and arranged by Jon Anderson;a song comprised of multi-tracked vocals rendered a capella style and including acoustic guitar and minimal drumming by way of accompaniment. This was the first time I have heard this song in a live environment and I was very pleasantly surprised. Another favourite from the 'Fragile' album followed:'South Side Of The Sky' is a song that ostensibly deals with the subject of mountain climbing but is also used as a metaphor for the mountains that we must all climb and conquer at some time in our lives. This was followed by 'And You and I' from the album 'Close To The Edge'; a magnum opus lasting over 10 minutes.
The music ended amid a tumultuous roar and the band made their way off stage. A stentorian voice emitted via the PA system declared that there would be a 15 minute intermission but was ignored in the general buzz of conversation that followed. I was casually flicking through the concert programme that I had purchased prior to going in and my friend Sean indulged in casual conversation with the gentleman sitting next to him about the events that had just passed.
For a moment, I thought I was in an old time cinema as usherettes made their way down to the front of the auditorium clutching trays of choc-ices, ice creams and other sugar-laden delicacies for the parched-throated people to purchase. I had an almost surreal moment where I half-expected Rick Wakeman to emerge through a hole in the stage, playing the keys and treading the pedals of an old fashioned Wurlitzer organ to entertain the masses before the main feature came on. To be honest, this wasn't too far from the truth...
Again the house lights dimmed and a round of applause rippled thoughout the audience as Jon Anderson strolled on stage and treated us to one of his original compositions. Another stunner from the album 'Fragile', in the shape of 'Heart Of The Sunrise' followed. A song that deals with the twinned subjects of alienation and loneliness.
Yes might be greater than the sum of their parts but there was ample opportunity for other members to showcase their skills. Rick Wakeman promptly showed the audience why he is one of the worlds most respected rock keyboard players as his fingers literally flew over the keys in a solo display that show-cased many of his solo compositions from 'Journey To The Centre of The Earth', through 'The Six Wives Of Henry The 8th' to other influences such as the classical training he received when he was at the Royal Academy of Music. This was the first time that Yes fans had seen Rick up on stage with Yes for about 12 years and it was well received.
After the band re-assembled on stage after Rick's turn, it was the turn of Chris Squire to have his moment in the spotlight. After the crowd-pleaser 'Long Distance Runaround' has received another airing, Chris took front stage and launched into 'The Fish', a self penned offering, yet again from the album 'Fragile' that allowed him to show the audience his skill with a bass guitar. The drummer, Alan White, showed sterling support for Chris throughout his solo, laying down a solid drum rhythm throughout whilst Chris prowled the stage seeking out every configuration of tones and notes that his guitar could provide.
The show came to an end amongst rapturous applause from the audience and repeated curtain-calls from the band. But the band left the stage and the house lights came up. A resounding hand clapping and foot stomping built to a slow crescendo followed by cheering as the band took to the stage again for their encore which comprised of 'All Good People' from 'The Yes Album':An up-tempo crowd pleaser that had everyone up and dancing and 'Roundabout', yet again from 'Fragile' but always is guaranteed to have everyone clapping in time.
For the last time, the last note faded and the house-lights came up to a sustained round of applause and cheering. One note I must add:All the band members are in their late 50's now. Steve Howes' hairline has seen better days now and Chris Squire is decidedly portly. Rick Wakeman looks rather careworn and even the angelic voiced Jon Andersons hair is shot through with grey now but I will say this: this was no bunch of old hippies going out on the road and trying to recreate and recapture their lost youth and better days but a group of middle aged men showing a younger generation reared on manufactured bands and young men and women miming to backing tapes what it is like to make and create music the way it should be played and to achieve fame and success the old fashioned way;namely by hard graft, musical ability, perseverance and good old-fashioned good fortune...