Yes Concert Reviews: 8/21/01
I saw the progressive rock band Yes play at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts on August 21, 2001 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was the part of the Magnification Tour in support of their then new album Magnification. You can read more about this show here.
The line-up Yes fielded that show was:
- Jon Anderson: lead vocals, percussion, guitar
- Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals
- Chris Squire: bass guitars, backing vocals, percussion
- Alan White: drums, percussion
- Additional musicians:
The set Yes played was (the album from which the song comes in parenthesis):
- Intro: orchestral intro to “Give Love Each Day” (Magnigication)
- Close to the Edge (Close To The Edge)
- Listen to Your Heart (orchestral intro for “Long Distance Runaround”) (YesSymphonic)
- Long Distance Runaround (Fragile)
- Don’t Go (Magnigication)
- In the Presence Of (Magnigication)
- Gates of Delerium (Relayer)
- Steve Howe solo: Winter
- Steve Howe solo: Clap (The Yes Album)
- Wonderous Stories (Going for the One)
- Perpetual Change (The Yes Album)
- And You And I (Close To The Edge)
- Ritual (Tales from Topographic Oceans)
- I’ve Seen All Good People (The Yes Album)
- Starship Trooper (The Yes Album)
- Encore: Roundabout (Fragile)
This was perhaps the most unique Yes concert I have ever seen. In 2000, at the end of the Masterworks Tour, Yes keyboardist Igor Khoroshev, who had been with the band as Rick Wakeman‘s replacement since 1997 and played on two albums (Open Your Eyes and The Ladder) and four tours, was summarily dismissed by the band after he allegedly was involved in an incident involving two female security guards during the Masterworks Tour (he was charged with assault and battery and sexual battery which was eventually settled out-of-court). With the keyboard slot open again, Yes asked Rick Wakeman to return to the band, but he declined, leaving Yes keyboard-less for the time being. Yes is famous for their consistently rotating line-ups, but I think it is fair to say that the keyboard slot is, by far, the most unstable position in the band. Not wanting to hire on yet another keyboard player for their next album (Magnigication), Yes decided on the bold move to replace the keyboard slot with an orchestra and write and record an entire album of music where rock band and orchestra are combined. Yes tried using an orchestra once before in 1970 when they recorded Time and a Word, when they retained their keyboard player, and used the orchestra as coloring around the rock band. This time around, however, Yes’ approach was a lot more integrated and organic, where the orchestra and band were meshed together into as single unit, with the orchestra playing an integral role in the music as opposed to just flourishes.
I, personally, love Magnification and was excited to hear that Yes was going to continue their orchestra experiment on the tour for that album and play all of their dates with a 50 piece orchestra. Just to make sure they did not lose their famous synthesizer sound, they were sure to bring Tom Brislin with them as a touring musician to ensure that their famous keyboard solos and stylings were preserved in a live setting regardless of the orchestra. What emerged, in my mind, was one of the best Yesshows I have ever seen. They played the Magnification songs as they recorded them and the old songs were arranged in such a way that the orchestra sometimes replaced the keyboard parts and/or added a whole new dimension, aspect, and sound, to the classic songs. As a Yes fan, it was fantastic to hear all of those classic songs played with new vigor and arrangements due to the orchestra which brought out all sorts of aspects and elements in the music not heard before, not to mention and entirely new and refreshing dimension through the orchestra. Perhaps equally exciting was the fact that they played epic favorites like “Close to the Edge,” “Gates of Delirium,” and “Ritual” all amplified and expanded by an orchestra.
Brislin was an amazing performer and very enthusiastic, who also added vocals (a rarity for a Yes keyboardist) to his sound, and very capably ensured that, despite the presence of the orchestra, the classic keyboard sound of Yes’ music was not lost. I will always remember his aggressiveness during “Gates of Delirium” and him amazingly soloing with two hands during the “Wurm” section of “Starship Trooper.” Unfortunately, due to the live setting and the nature of unplugged acoustic instruments competing with electric amplified instruments, the sound mix was very inconsistent throughout the show. Fortunately, one of the shows from this tour was captured on Symphonic Live in audio and video formats so that we can all hear what was being played in perfect sound unburdened by the limitations and inconsistency of live sound!
The show was performed before the release of Magnification and, at the merchandize stand, the band sold YesSymphonic (of course I immediately snapped that up) which was an EP that included two songs from the album and a new souped up version of “Long Distance Runaround” that included an orchestral introduction (as played at this show) and a lot of new orchestral elements interspersed within it (as it was played at this show). The version used on the EP was a live recording from the 1998 Thirtieth Anniversary Tour with Billy Sherwood (who was in the band at that time) still clearly audible, Igor Khoroshev (also in the band at that time) mixed completely out, and the orchestra overdubbed onto the recording.
As you can see from the photographs below, the stage was a stage designed by Roger Dean and had a cool projection screen, and weird and interesting dripping look from the top. I really enjoyed the starry-night effect they were able to render on the background, which is pictured below. There were also reflective mirrors on each side of the stage which resembled the objects on the cover art for Magnification.
Finally, the other notable memory from this show was that it was one of the few times I openly saw bad concert behavior at a Yesshow. The guy next to me snorted something off of his fist and got really high and then eventually walked into the stairs/aisle next to me, fell, passed out, and had to be taken out by security. Weird!
Overall, though, this was an amazing and unique concert experience and a great moment in Yes history as they decided to go, without reservation, into an exploration of combining band and orchestra in what, I think, was a very satisfying musical experiment.
My photographs – taken by my old film camera – are scanned and posed below for you to view.