Here is another addition to my series of Yes music posts. I started this series here and you can read the others here.
I saw the progressive rock band Yes play at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania on June 15, 2010 during the fourh part of their In the Present Tour. You can read more about this show here. Peter Frampton was the opening act.
The line-up Yes fielded at this show was:
The set Yes played was (the album from which the song comes in parenthesis):
This was my fourth time seeing this Yes line-up and my fourth show during this tour. Unfortunately, although the tour lasted for about two years, the set list varied very little. So, while I was really excited to hear rarities like “Tempus Fugit” and “Onward” in 2008, I was hoping they would have shaken things up by 2010. Indeed, the tour had gone on so long by this point, the Roger Dean stage set they had been using had been abandoned due to its suffering wear and tear.
This was also my fourth of six shows I would see with David as lead vocalist. You can read my comments about other David shows here and here and here. This show really was the tipping point for David and the band. The 2008 and 2009 shows were really good featuring great performances (even if David’s stage presence is a little goofy) and the February 2010 was good, but this show really revealed a band on the decline. David’s voice started to weaken by this point as he really could not hold up under the strain of touring with Yes in the long term. His singing was often off key and his voice was noticeably strained, sometimes even horse, at times. To help compensate, the band started slowing down the tempo of many of their songs to help him breathe through the lyrics and not injure his voice further. Also, politically speaking, Yes knew replacing founding, and much beloved, front man Jon Anderson was a very controversial decision with the fans, especially since it came on the heels of Anderson’s health problems which made the band look cold and unfeeling toward their old band mate. Yes toured a lot, with a cool and interesting set, with David in order to try and get the fans used to this new Anderson-less Yes and to attempt to secure some authenticity or legitimacy among the fans. So, I suspect that ditching their new singer less than two years after ignominiously reforming without Anderson would make the band look even worse in the eyes of the fans, and not to mention mismanaged and making impulsive and ill-conceived decisions.
So, they stuck with David as long as they could and, I would say, longer than they should have as their sound with a declining David, in my opinion, had a worse effect on the fans than firing David for someone more qualified. While I appreciate what the band was trying to do, slowing down the songs really diminished the quality of the music. Yes music is dynamic, exciting, and virtuoso. Slowing it down really takes a lot away from the music and, quite frankly, makes the band appear old and tired. I cannot say that the instrumentalists did not play well, as they always do, it is just that playing through the music slower than usual is not what Yes music is to sound like.
Finally, Wakeman’s keyboard playing became really boring at this point. I completely understood trying to replicate the album sounds and playing for the first couple of legs of this tour. It helped acclimate fans to the new line up and to assure them that this is the same Yes as always. Unfortunately, this far into their touring, Wakeman’s keyboard parts seemed boring, unimaginative, and formulaic. Yes fans, while they have respect for the source material, expect new musicians to put their stamp onto the music and Wakeman simply was not doing that.
Overall, I have to be honest, from a subjective point of view I enjoyed the show because I love Yes and I love Yes music and I am happy I went to it. Indeed, even though they had played them other times on the tour, “Tempus Fugit” and “Onward” are still very rare to see live. From an objective point of view this show was good because Yes music is good and was well performed, but it really showed a band in decline and revealed slower tempos, weak vocals, and boring keyboards. I would not necessarily tell my wife this – who gets annoyed with my annual Yes pilgrimage – but this is a show I probably could have skipped as, after having seen it, I left a little disappointed and concerned for the band’s future.
Photographs: Enjoy the photographs I took at the show posted below!