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Yes Stats Update per 10/1/17 Show

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I saw the progressive rock band Yes (technically Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin, Wakeman) play a show at the at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA on October 1, 2017 during the their An Evening of Yes Music and More Tour.  You can read more about this show here.

As I tend to be a pedantic, borderline OCD, person, I like to statistically keep track of various aspects of the Yes shows I have seen over years.  I posted various catalogs of things regarding these shows to this blog, and after each subsequent concert I update all those posts.

The following posts have all been updated in light of the above-mentioned October 1, 2017 show:

If you keep track of these sorts of things, please share your stats in the comments section!

Enjoy!

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Yesshow Review (with pictures): 8/14/17 Hershey

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I saw the progressive rock band Yes play at the Hershey Theater in Hershey, PA on August 14, 2017 during the their Yestival Tour.  You can read more about this show here.

The line-up Yes fielded that show was:

The set Yes played was (the album from which the song comes in parenthesis):

Recollections:

This concert was my twenty-fourth Yesshow and, at this point, it is difficult to say something that has not already been said.  Yes played one song from their first ten albums for their main set before the encore (although Steve Howe said first nine albums by accident).

  • Comments on Instrumentation

I suppose the drumming situation is what most people are wondering about, so, just to get that out of the way, the drumming arrangements, in terms of who played what, were as follows:

  • Survival: Howe and White
  • Time And A Word: Howe and White
  • Yours Is No Disgrace: Howe
  • South Side Of The Sky: Howe
  • And You And I
    • Cord of Life: Howe
    • Eclipse: White
    • The Preacher, the Teacher: Howe
    • Apocalypse: Howe and White
  • Leaves Of Green: no drumming
  • Soon: White
  • Going For The One: White
  • Drum Duet Intro and Don’t Kill The Whale: Howe and White
  • Machine Messiah: White
  • Madrigal: no drumming
  • Roundabout: Howe and White

Aside from the two drummers, Jon Davison played second guitar on “Survival,” “Time and a Word,” the end of “South Side of the Sky” (the keyboard/guitar duel), “Cord of Life” (the first time ever, as far as I know, someone played guitar with Howe on this section), “Soon,” “Don’t Kill the Whale,” parts of “Machine Messiah,” and “Madrigal.”  I have never seen the vocalist play guitar so much for Yes before.  So, that was pretty cool.  “Madrigal” and “Leaves of Green” were Howe/Davison duets with Sherwood coming on stage for some harmonies.  There was no keyboard for “Madrigal” (despite it being a harpsichord song).  It was rearranged for two acoustic guitars.  Howe played his Les Paul on “And You And I” instead of his Gibson ES 345, and his Switchmaster on Roundabout.  He still is still using his guitar synthesizer for his acoustic sounds (except for “Madrigal” and “Leaves of Green”).   He used his Gibson ED 175D on “Survival.”  On “Southside of the Sky” Davison sung Squire’s parts during the vocal interlude in the middle while Sherwood sang Anderson’s.

  • Goofs

At the beginning of the show, Downes played an extra cord or two accidentally as the introduction segued into the quiet acoustic guitar beginning.  S. Howe also lost his place in one of the transitions during “Machine Messiah” which led to him being out of synchronization with the rest of the band.  He wound up taking a measure off and counting with his hand before resuming the song.

  • The Rest

The show, over all, was vintage Yes and, of the 24 shows I have seen, probably fits in as an average show.  The playing was solid, the sound was excellent, and the mix was near perfect (perhaps due to me being in about the middle in the balcony).

Davison and Sherwood’s singing was the best I have heard from the pair, and Downes is more and more comfortable in the band.  Downes’ rig had a microphone but I did not see him use it, but he may have sang a little too.  Sherwood is the perfect Squire replacement.  His playing, his sound, and sometimes even his mannerisms remind me of Squire, so although I’d much rather have Squire, Sherwood is a worthy bass player and singer for Yes.  I would not want anyone else in that slot.  Howe was solid as always.

As far as the drumming is concerned, White looks terrible.  He can barely get around (walking I mean), and his playing was mainly very simple no frills top kit sort of stuff.  This is not a slight on him, his age and, more importantly, his back problems, have really caught up with him.  I suspect he remains in the band to give them credibility and authenticity in the face of a surging ARW, as it cannot be for his contribution to the music (which is minimal).  D. Howe did the heavy lifting when he was on stage, playing all the fills and fast parts and embellishments.  He needs time to get integrated in the band as the drumming, over all, was pretty conservative unfortunately despite the presence of two drummers.  Howe used a small and traditional jazz set (which looks a lot like Bruford’s set from back in the early 1970s) and, between that and his style, he really brought back the memories and sounds of Bill Bruford, and I am looking forward to more of that in the future.  I think there are a lot of possibilities with the drums with Howe, but their conservative approach this time around was disappointing.  Even Jay Schellen‘s aggressive approach from the 2016 tour was missed.  At least, however, the songs were played at the proper tempo.  I will say that the drumming during the “along the drifting cloud…” section of “Roundabout” (which is my favorite part of the song) was excellent due to the second drummer really ramping things up.  I usually lose interest during that song as it has been played at every show I have ever seen, but the second drummer really made this section powerful and exciting.  My comments about “Don’t Kill the Whale” are below.

Steve Howe seemed to struggle with his monitors all night, which caused him to be distracted at times, and his playing was affected as a result when that happened.  He was gesturing a lot to someone off stage over the course of the show and, as mentioned above, during “Machine Messiah” he seemed to miss a cue.  Judging from other shows from this tour, and my experience in seeing him over the years, it was not due to his playing I do not think.  It was just some weird glitches here and there.

Of course, in addition to the above, S. Howe also seems to scold the audience more than ever.  During the quiet parts in “Soon,” “Leaves of Green,” and “And You And I” he was shaking his head at people in the audience and waving at them as they were making, in his mind, too much noise.  As a result, he missed a note or two due to his distraction.  It’s a shame he does that as it does not do anything to enhance his playing.

Obviously Rick Wakeman and Downes have totally different styles and Wakeman is my favorite keyboardist.  Wakeman is an all time great, but Downes is really good too and while some of his approach to Wakeman’s songs may be due to not being quite as good a keyboardist, I think a lot of it comes down to style.  Wakeman plays tons and tons of notes and is very flashy, whereas Downes seems to approach the songs with a “less is more” approach.  This is especially evident on solos where Wakeman tries to play as fast as he can and play as many notes as possible all the time, whereas Downes tries to get into a grove and focuses on chords more than scales (which seems to be Wakeman’s go to form).  Wakeman has a special place in my heart, but I cannot allow that to lead me to conclude that Downes’ approach is “worse” or “bad,” it is just different at times and not what I am used to from my 26 years of Yes fandom.  I have certain keyboard solos and parts in my head sounding a certain way, and Downes has a different approach.  Sometimes “less is more” works as Wakeman over plays, and other times it doesn’t as it seems to forgo the excitement and flash of a good lightening fast Wakeman run.  It is give and take.  Downes is integrated while Wakeman stands out.  Both are legitimate.  This time around, “South Side of the Sky” had a better and more exciting ending than it has had on any prior tour with Downes, and Downes really got more into the honky tonk piano on “Going for the One” than on prior tours.  So, that’s something.  By contrast, on”Yours is no Disgrace,” Downes plays the barest minimum.  During the guitar interlude in the middle of the song Downes does not play at all, which is unfortunate as Wakeman added some cool parts to that section and, would you believe, so did Igor Khoroshev.  In fact, Khoroshev’s playing is probably my favorite keyboard interpretation of the song.  The lack of keyboards really, in my mind, makes the song too sparse.

Of course, what made the show worth it for me was “Survival” and “Madrigal,” both of which are virtually never played songs.  I only know of one performance of “Survival” (not including some lyrics here and there in the 1978/79 medley), and only a few of “Madrigal” from that same tour.  So, needless to say, after 23 previous shows, I am excited about the music that is new to me live, and these two certainly qualify and are surprising.  I really love “Survival” and this line up did it justice.  S. Howe and Davison did a great job with the two acoustic guitars at the beginning, Downes replicated Tony Kaye’s organ very well, and Sherwood’s bass was really angry and growly sounding.  It was very good despite the little goof noted above.  The singing was quality too with even S. Howe contributing some “aaahhhhs” during the verses leading to the chorus.  “Madrigal” was a little weird.  Originally it was a harpsichord song with light vocal harmonies and classical guitar.  It has never truly been played live as it was recorded.  Even back in ’78/’79 it was with electric piano and incomplete.  Now, in 2017, Yes rearranged it for two acoustic guitars and harmony vocals (between Davison and Sherwood).  S. Howe played the thematic harpsichord parts and his own guitar parts while Davison’s acoustic guitar filled in the gaps when S. Howe played his guitar solos.  It was short and sweet and really very nice, and the gentle quiet acoustic song was a good contrast to the rest of the set.

Aside from “Survival” and “Madrigal,” I was surprised to find that “Don’t Kill the Whale” was the highlight of the show for me.  This song does not really do much for me.  It’s not that I do not like it, I just find it a bit meh.  At this show, Yes decided to take advantage of their dual drumming situation and introduce the song with a drum duet.  White played a steady beat while D. Howe played fills and patterns over it.  Really cool.  This duet was then recapitulated in the middle of the song after the guitar solo.  Between S. Howe’s guitar tone and the heavy drumming, the song took on a really down and dirty sound that really made the song interesting to me and provided a cool new perspective on it.

Finally, the staging was pretty similar to what they had last year, but, in my view, not quite as good.  Regardless, I love how Yes are really putting some money into stage presentation and not just touring with a tiny screen or just the word “Yes” with lighting as they had on previous tours.

The show ended with a #Yes50 and I am really looking forward to it!  Hopefully a new album will be toured as well.  Time will tell.

  • The Other Bands

The Carl Palmer ELP Legacy Band and Todd Rundgren were the opening bands.  Carl Palmer rearranged some classic ELP songs for guitar and no voice and it was complete nostalgia.  The band came out to a video montage of ELP references on television in shows like Jeopardy, Cheers, and The Simpsons, which was pretty fun.  Palmer’s performance was really high quality, aggressive, and he shows absolutely no signs of age.  His performance was better than the other three drummers that took the stage combined.  As far as Rundgren is concerned, I had never heard of him before this tour and never heard his music.  He was really polished, with a great light show, and cool performance.  He had two attractive female backup singers in slinky dresses, so that was enjoyable.  He also used an old fashion broadcaster microphone, which was neat.

  • The Venue

Just a word on the venue.  This venue, as can be seen in the photographs below, is probably the most beautiful venue in which I have seen Yes play.  It was absolutely gorgeous, historical, in great condition, and looks like a medieval castle on the inside.

Photographs:

Yesstats Update: Post 8/14/17 Show

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I saw the progressive rock band Yes play at the Hershey Theater in Hershey, PA on August 14, 2017 during the their Yestival Tour.  I will be posting a review soon.

As I tend to be a pedantic, borderline OCD, person, I like to statistically keep track of various aspects of the Yes shows I have seen over years.  I posted various catalogs of things regarding these shows to this blog, and after each subsequent concert I update all those posts.

The following posts have all been updated in light of the above-mentioned August 14, 2017 show:

If you keep track of these sorts of things, please share your stats in the comments section!

Enjoy!

ARW: in Parallel with Yes?

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

 

I saw the progressive rock band ARW play a show at the at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA on October 16, 2016 during the their ARW Tour.  While the official Yes band exists and is touring (see here), former Yes members Jon Anderson (vocals), Trevor Rabin (guitars), and Rick Wakeman (keyboards) decided to form a band – called ARW – and tour in order to do homage to their common heritage as members of Yes.  Wakeman recruited his friend, bass player Lee Pomeroy, while Rabin netted his friend drummer Lou Molino III, to flesh out the band.  While technically (i.e.: legally) not Yes, the band’s tour is being advertised as “An Evening of Yes Music and More” and in interviews the band seems to view themselves as the next phase of Yes or at least a Yes-band even if they cannot legally use the name.  A similar phenomenon happened in 1989 with ABWH, and that band seems to have been folded into official Yes history.

 

The official Yes has a lineup has been greatly watered down, and I have written a piece on whether it, philosophically/spiritually/ontologically (not legally) speaking, can really, legitimately, and in good faith, claim the name Yes (see here).

 

When ARW formed, I immediately wondered if that band, with its vaunted line up, would be the true and rightful heir to the Yes name regardless of whether they are legally permitted to use it.  ARW currently exists in parallel to Yes (hence the name of this post (see here)).

 

On the face of it, ARW’s line up is leagues above that of Yes in 2016.  Even with only three guys – the A and R and W – ARW members have a stronger claim and are more inherent to Yes history than the five guys of Yes 2016 together.  Anderson is, of course, a Yes founder and main song writer, while Wakeman is their most important keyboard player, while Rabin was their prime mover during their 1980s resurgence.  Compare this lineup with Yes2016 which contains no founder, and consists of their most important guitar player (Steve Howe), their fourth keyboard player (Geoff Downes who has only played on fairly obscure non-classic albums in 1980, 2011, and 2014), a bass player who had some involvement with Yes in the 1990s but never on bass (Billy Sherwood who was a supporting touring musician, and eventual sixth member, in the 1990s, and played on two non-classic albums (one of which is universally considered the worst Yes album) and helped produce a couple of others), and a drummer who has never played on any Yes album (Jay Schellen).  Of course, if drummer Alan White returns, it will increase Yes’ claim to the name as he has been in the band and on every album since 1972 (but those albums do not include the “big three” of The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge).  Still, it would seem the scales tip toward ARW as far as a rightful claim to the name Yes is concerned if personnel is the only consideration.

 

In fairness, though, there is more to a band than membership.  When I went to see ARW , I fully expected to see a Yes concert.  In many ways it was: it had the voice and keyboard wizardry one expects to see at a Yesshow.  In saying that, Rabin has always been difficult for me to embrace.  I am not a big fan of his and what he did to Yes in the 1980s.  I find his playing has always tended toward a sort of one dimensional generic 1980’s shredder sort of playing (with a vague John McLaughlin edge).  His playing always seems to tend toward screaming Stratocaster sounds, with a lot of notes and a lack of diversity in sounds, tones, and instrumentation.  As a result, just as he did in his last tenure with Yes, he continues to reinterpret Steve Howe’s guitar parts by flatting them out, eliminating the subtly and stylistic variety and tonal variety and instrumental variety (replacing acoustics, twelve string, steel guitars, etc with a single electric guitar) Steve Howe brought to the music, and replacing all of that with his trademark faux-Van Halen playing.  So, unless they played Yes’ 1980s music, Rabin’s guitar playing just does not sound Yessish to me.  I am not asking for a Howe clone, but I feel like Rabin’s style is so completely different – and unoriginal and non-prog rock – that it just does not mesh well with Howe’s Yes music.  I think this really comes to the fore with songs like “Awaken” or “And You And I,” where they sound completely different and not in a prog rock sort of way.

 

Surprisingly, though, even with the 1980s songs, Rabin’s live chops seem to have diminished due to his twenty-two years away from the stage.    His singing was warbley at times and his playing lacked the excitement and pyrotechnics he used to exhibit during his prior tenure with Yes.  He used to a showman, walking the stage and playing to the audience, but, now, that aspect of his performance was gone.  His stage performance was reserved, perhaps even conservative, as he seemed to be concentrating on his playing as opposed to his stage presence.

 

Even if I liked Rabin and his chops were up to snuff, ARW’s performance and sound just was not what I expect from Yes.  Yes’s sound has always been marked by the involvement of five completely integrated musicians, each often struggling to make themselves heard in the face of four other strong musicians.  Unlike Yes – or a true five piece band – the drummer and bass player in ARW were clearly support musicians.  They, more or less, stayed out of the spotlight and were there to support the main three – the ARW.  Although the drummer was pretty good, I have to say that his snare drum sounded like a cardboard box filled with old clothes, which is not at all what Yes drums sound like.  The bass player also seemed like he was a good bass player, but, unlike Chris SquireBilly Sherwood, or even Tony Levin, his sound levels was rather low as compared to the other members.  Again, because I think he and the drummer were to get out of the way of ARW.  Even Tony Kaye or Benoit David, arguably the weakest and/or most humble members of the band, were fully integrated into the sound of the band.  By contrast, the bass and drums were clearly secondary to ARW.

 

While it is difficult to suppress the sound of the drums, to me the biggest contrast with Yes was the bass.  It has nothing to do with Pomeroy’s chops.  It has to do with the fact that a key element to Yes music is a big, fat, and prominent bass sound pushing back against the guitar and keyboards.  The bass parts are not just loud, but key elements to the music itself.  Sherwood has kept this tradition alive and, during his brief tenure, Levin respected it.  By contrast, Pomeroy’s bass was subdued, and not an equal part of the music as compared to ARW.  Indeed, even his placement on the stage – in the back behind Anderson and/or Rabin – tacitly revealed his secondary place in the band.  Gone was the powerful bass player on stage going toe-to-toe with the guitarist and/or keyboardist one expects from Yes.

 

In addition, strong vocal harmonies is also a key element to Yes music.  While Anderson’s voice was backed up by the other members of the ARW band, the strong vocal harmonies that are so integral to Yes were missing.  The other singers were not mixed nearly as high as Anderson and, quite frankly, Anderson’s voice was not mixed particularly high either.  Suffice it to say, the backing singing just was not as as strong as one would expect for Yes.  As a result, the music had a much different feel and sound than what one would expect from Yes.

 

If there was one thing that marked the ARW show I saw is that it was safe.  The performances – notably Anderson and Rabin – tended toward the safe notes.  Instead of a dynamic high note, a safer more standard note was sung.  Instead of the blistering solos of old, Rabin tended to play it safe and were more measured.  Even Wakeman – though still amazing – did not play some of the things he used to play.  For example, he did not play his more juiced up keyboard parts on “Rhythm of Love” as he did on the Union Tour or similar interesting playing on “Cinema” that Igor Khoroshev played.  In his case, though, it seems like a lack of preparation.

 

So, strangely enough, despite the advantage in the line up, ARW just does not have the sound and feel of Yes.  Their sound, thus far, was safe, lacking full integration of the rhythm section, and is missing key vocal harmonies.  Despite the lineup disadvantage, the Yes of 2016 sounds like Yes should sound like and presents itself as Yes traditionally has: powerful, five fully integrated members, prominent vocal harmonies, and taking chances.

 

As with Yes2016, the future of ARW will determine whether they can become legitimate heirs to the Yes name.  Right now – despite the Yes nostalgia that Anderson and Wakeman and Rabin bring to bear to ARW – Yes2016, to me, has maintained the spirit, sound, and feel of Yes, whereas ARW merely seems like old friends having fun trying to relive some good memories.  My ultimate hope is that the two bands will merge to form one single band – ala Union – and Yes can be reunited into the band it should be with its core members playing and sounding like they should.

Yesstats Update: Post 10/16/16 show

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I saw the progressive rock band Yes (technically ARW) play at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA on October 16, 2016 during the their ARW Tour – An Evening of Yes Music and More.  I posted a review of this show here.

As I tend to be a pedantic, borderline OCD, person, I like to statistically keep track of various aspects of the Yes shows I have seen over years.  I posted various catalogs of things regarding these shows to this blog, and after each subsequent concert I update all those posts.

The following posts have all been updated in light of the above-mentioned October 16, 2016 show:

If you keep track of these sorts of things, please share your stats in the comments section!

Enjoy!

Yesshow (ARW) Review (with pictures): 10/16/16 (Glenside, PA)

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I saw the progressive rock band Yes (technically ARW) play a show at the at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA on October 16, 2016 during the their ARW Tour.  You can read more about this show here.

The line-up Yes(ARW) fielded that show was:

The set Yes(ARW) played was (the album from which the song comes is in parenthesis):

  • Intro
  • Cinema (90125)
  • Perpetual Change (The Yes Album)
  • Keyboard ditty
  • Hold On (90125)
  • I’ve Seen All Good People (The Yes Album)
  • Drum solo
  • Lift Me Up (Union)
  • And You And I (Close to the Edge)
  • Rhythm Of Love (Big Generator)
  • Heart Of The Sunrise (Fragile)
  • Long Distance Runaround (Fragile)
  • The Fish (Fragile)
  • The Meeting (ABWH)
  • Awaken (Going for the One)
  • Make It Easy
  • Owner Of A Lonely Heart (90125)
  • ENCORE: Roundabout  (Fragile)

About the band:

This concert was my twenty-third Yesshow, though technically it was an ARW show.  While the official Yes exists and is touring (see here), former Yes members Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman decided to form a band and tour in order to do homage to their common heritage as members of Yes.  Anderson is, of course, a Yes founder and main song writer, while Wakeman is their most important keyboard player, and Rabin was their prime mover during their 1980s resurgence.  Wakeman recruited his friend Pomeroy while Rabin netted his friend Molina to flesh out the band.  While technically (i.e.: legally) not Yes, the band’s tour is being advertised as “An Evening of Yes Music and More” and in interviews the band seems to view themselves as the next phase of Yes or at least a Yes-band even if they cannot legally use the name.  A similar phenomenon happened in 1989 with ABWH and that band seems to have been folded into official Yes history.  So, I will treat ARW as Yes for the purpose of my review and concert statistics.  The official Yes has a lineup which has been greatly watered down and I have written a piece on whether it, philosophically/spiritually/ontologically (not legally) speaking, can really, legitimately, and in good faith claim the name Yes (see here).  Once I collect my thoughts on the subject, I will write a similar piece on ARW in the near future; I will not comment on the subject in this review as this post is really about the show itself.

Recollections:

As a Yes fan, I have to say that this show was something I never thought I would ever see: the return of Trevor Rabin into the Yes fold (after a 22 year absence) from his lucrative film scoring career and, not just that, but his return would also be accompanied by Rick Wakeman’s return as well (from an 11 year absence).  To top it off, Jon Anderson, who has not been in Yes since about 2006, returned as well.  So, needless to say, this show was a great nostalgia trip and a fulfillment of a fan’s dream.

Anderson, who has been struggling with health problems for several years (which caused him to be unable to sing with Yes for a few years), seems to have largely overcome them.  Granted, his singing is, at times, a little quieter (or less powerful), and sometimes the songs have been put into a different key, but it was still strong and on key.  It was wonderful to hear the original voice of Yes singing his own songs again!  I will say, though, he did play it safe.  He did not shoot for the dynamic high notes or take a more exciting or aggressive tone with his voice.  He kept his voice clear, deliberate, and, therefore, on key and consistent through the show.

Rick Wakeman was, for me, the man to see.  I have not seen him since his last tour with Yes in 2004 (see here).  For all his health problems and seemingly being, at times, down and out, he seems ageless when he performs.  His playing is, I think, as good as it’s ever been, and his showmanship is always great to see.  He is an exciting and dynamic player and he keeps his stage performance at a high level.  As usual, he had an enormous keyboard rig, including a keytar, his famous cape, a mini-moog, and his signature lightening fast fingers.  He always seems to add something new to his performance repertoire.  This time around, his new element (new to me at least) is to play his keyboards from behind them.  During “Owner of a Lonely Heart” he walked around with his keytar and, instead of going back behind his keyboard rig, he simply reached over the back of the keyboard and played it from behind.  Amazing stuff!

Trevor Rabin finds himself back into the Yes fold for the first time since 1994.  Rabin and Wakeman never played on a Yes album together, but they did tour together in 1991-92 during the Union Tour.  They each really respected each other and enjoyed playing with each other and expressed a desire to do it again.  Unfortunately, it took nearly twenty-five years to make it happen, but, hey, better late than never!  Aside from a performance here and there, Rabin has not played live since he left Yes in 1994.  Although I was excited to see Rabin’s return to Yes, and see him reunite with Wakeman, his years away from live performance was readily apparent.   His singing was warbley at times and his playing lacked the excitement and pyrotechnics he used to exhibit during his prior tenure with Yes.  He used to a showman, walking the stage and playing to the audience, but, now, that aspect of his performance was gone.  His stage performance was reserved, perhaps even conservative, as he seemed to be concentrating on his playing as opposed to his stage presence.  I do hope this is all due to some rust and getting reacclimated to live performance instead of a decline in his musicianship; only time will tell.  I have to admit, also, that I am not a Rabin fan.  Although, as a Yes fan, and a fan of its history, I was excited to see Rabin back, my preferred guitar player for Yes has always been, and remains, Steve Howe.  Rabin’s style has always tended toward a sort of one dimensional generic 1980’s shredder sort of playing (with a vague John McLaughlin edge).  His playing always seems to tend toward screaming Stratocaster sounds, with a lot of notes and a lack of diversity in sounds, tones, and instrumentation.  As a result, just as he did in his last tenure with Yes, he continues to reinterpret Steve Howe’s guitar parts by flatting them out, eliminating the subtly and stylistic variety and tonal variety and instrumental variety (replacing acoustics, twelve string, steel guitars, etc with a single electric guitar) Steve Howe brought to the music, and replacing all of that with his trademark faux-Van Halen playing.  In this way, he has not changed one iota.

The band was fleshed out with a drummer and a bass player (noted above).  Unlike Yes – or a true five piece band – these two musicians were clearly support musicians.  They, more or less, stayed out of the spotlight and were there to support the main three – the ARW.  The drummer played a low sort of drum set that looked like a jazz drum set with double bass drums.  He was a capable drummer, but largely stayed out of the way of ARW.  Although he was a decent drummer, I have to say that his snare drum sounded like a cardboard box filled with old clothes, which is not at all what Yes drums sound like.  The bass player seemed like he was a good bass player, but, unlike Chris Squire, Billy Sherwood, or even Tony Levin, his sound levels was rather low as compared to the other members.  Again, because I think he and the drummer were to get out of the way of ARW.

The show was clearly one of nostalgia and enjoying the company of one another and, in that way, it was a great night with a lot of great memories.  In saying that, though, if there was one thing that marked the show is that it was safe.  The performances – notably Anderson and Rabin – tended toward the safe notes.  Instead of a dynamic high note, a safer more standard note was sung.  Instead of the blistering solos of old, Rabin tended to play it safe and were more measured.  Even Wakeman – though still amazing (noted above) – did not play some of the things he used to play.  For example, he did not play his more juiced up keyboard parts on “Rhythm of Love” as he did on the Union Tour or similar interesting playing on “Cinema” that Igor Khoroshev played.  In his case it seems like a lack of preparation.

Even the set list did not really have anything creative.  I was surprised to see how few Rabin songs there was in the set.  I got tickets hoping to see a good swath of Rabin material, but, alas, that was not to be.  Indeed – obviously – his guitar style on those songs works a lot better than the other Yes songs.  Perhaps the set was due to the fact that these guys – as coming back into the Yes fold – really wanted to play the songs they enjoyed from tours of old as opposed to try something new and interesting.  Also, as noted above, this tour was supposed to be “Yes music and more,” but unfortunately there was no “and more” (in favor of the safer route of playing tried and true classics), and even the “reinterpretations” that were to happen amounted only to, more or less, keying down some songs and bringing back how Rabin played the Howe songs from his previous tenure in Yes.

What was not safe was the stage set which was an interesting screen of multiple intersecting parts with cool lights and images projected onto it.  It seemed like an interesting mesh of the classic Roger Dean art work with the art from the Rabin era of thee 1980s.

There were some interesting moments during some of the songs.  First of all, I have never seen “Hold On” and “Lift Me Up” live before, and it was great to finally see these songs in a live setting.  Cinema was a great experience too as I have only seen that song once before (see here) and it was not played by Rabin and suffered for it.  Wakeman played the weird vocal sounds on “Hold On” on a keyboard which was a cool change from prior performances way back when.  Unfortunately, Wakeman added very little to “Hold On,” “Lift Me Up,” and “Cinema.”  I am not a fan of “Rhythm of Love” but I enjoyed this performance because the introduction (which consists of layered vocals on the album) was done in a different way with Wakeman filling out the music and vocals on keyboards while the four singers contributed to the vocal parts on the introduction.  It, I think, was the best arrangement of the introduction Yes has ever attempted live.  Wakeman played a solo at the end of the song, but, unlike his performance of the song on the Union Tour, he played it on his mini-moog instead of a digital keyboard and, this time, it was so much better.  I really liked the little keyboard ditty before “Hold On.”   Granted it was only about a minute long, but it showed promise, and I hope more of that starts to develop as ARW continues to perform and mesh as a group.  While I loved hearing “Lift Me Up,” the drum sound was completely wrong.  The clacking sort of drum pattern was sorely missed as it is a key element to the sound of the song.  The pattern was played but on the wrong sort of drums (standard drums instead of whatever was played on the album).  On “Long Distance Runaround” Rabin did not double the keyboards like Howe does.  Instead he played these swiping sort of chords over the keyboard parts.  This changed the dynamic of the song and was one of the few truly interesting reinterpretations of the show.  “The Fish” was a weird piece to include.  “The Fish” is not so much a piece as a solo feature for Chris Squire, so it is a little weird for someone to play someone else’s solo.  Anderson presented “The Fish” as an homage to Squire and, to his credit, Pomeroy played it in a way that I would have expected Yes to play it for years.  “The Fish,” on the album, consists of multiple bass lines, all played by Squire, overdubbed over each other.  In a live setting, Squire merely played a bass solo that – no pun intended – was based on the album as opposed to play the album itself.  Pomeroy, using on stage recording devices, played each separate bass line, recording himself live, and then played the next bass line over his own live recording.  Once he finished layering his own recordings he went ahead and played a solo.  Again, to Pomeroy’s credit, once he created his layers of bass guitars (which duplicated Squire’s rhythms on “The Fish”), the solo Pomeroy played was entirely his own as opposed to trying to duplicate Squire’s solo.  “Awaken” started with something that sounded like the “Flight Jam” they would play before it back in the 1970s.  The “Flight Jam” and the middle portion took on a theatric aspect, and some tribal drumming, to give it a modern and different interpretation.  To my ears, the reinterpretations reminded me a lot of the reinterpretation of “Firth of Fifth” on The Tokyo TapesUnfortunately, the bass player only used his standard bass (instead of a triple neck) and Rabin did not use a twelve-string or steel guitar, and those changed the dynamics to the song (though not in a positive way to my ears).  The middle portion was less classical (or baroque) and more theatrical with tribal drums.  Unlike Howe, Rabin stayed on stage and he played the ticking-clock sort of guitar line instead of the bass player.  As far as “Roundabout” is concerned, after 22 Yesshows I sort of tune it out, but I did really enjoy Wakeman playing the solo as only he can play it.  In saying that, they played the shortened version – with the middle section taken out – which is disappointing to me as that is my favorite part of the song.  I have no idea why they remove that part of the song.  It makes no sense.  Finally, I have to comment on “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”  I am not a fan of that song and I have seen it live so many times I tend to tune out during it as much as I do with “Roundabout.”  In saying that, this was the best “Owner” I have ever seen.  First and foremost, it had Rabin playing the guitar lines and solo as they were meant to be played (no disrespect to Howe’s attempts).  Further, it also reintroduced the “Make it Easy” introduction.  Perhaps what made the song so cool, for me, is that they added an instrumental jam at the end of the song which featured Wakeman (on keytar) and Rabin trading solos.  While they were playing they walked through the audience for a little while!  In addition, their soloing would recapitulate the “Make it Easy” theme in order to keep it all together.  So very cool!

As I said above, I am not going to get into whether ARW is truly Yes in everything but name (that will be another post); however, I do want to make a brief comment on the band’s overall sound.  Yes’s sound has always been marked by the involvement of five completely integrated musicians, each often struggling to make themselves heard in the face of four other strong musicians.  Even Tony Kaye or Benoit David, arguably the weakest and/or most humble members of the band, were fully integrated into the sound of the band.  By contrast, the bass and drums were clearly secondary to ARW.  While it is difficult to down play the drums, to me the biggest contrast with Yes was the bass.  It has nothing to do with Pomeroy’s chops.  It has to do with the fact that a key element to Yes music is a big, fat, and prominent bass sound pushing back against the guitar and keyboards.  The bass parts are not just loud, but key elements to the music itself.  Sherwood has kept this tradition alive and, during his brief tenure, Levin respected it.  By contrast, Pomeroy’s bass was subdued, and not an equal part of the music as compared to ARW.  In addition, strong vocal harmonies is also a key element to Yes music.  While Anderson’s voice was backed up by the other members of the band, the strong vocal harmonies that are so integral to Yes were missing.  The other singers were not mixed nearly as high as Anderson and, quite frankly, Anderson’s voice was not mixed particularly high either.  Suffice it to say, the backing singing just was not as as strong as one would expect for Yes.  As a result, the music had a much different feel and sound than what one would expect from Yes.  This is not necessarily a criticism – it is just a way to reinterpret Yes music – but it, I think, speaks to ARW’s relationship to Yes and its music and history.

Epilogue:

I had one of the coolest experiences I have ever had at a Yes concert at this show.  The break down of the stage seemed to take place at a record pace.  I left the theater within a reasonable time after the show and as I walked through the parking lot, I noted that the delivery doors were open and the staging was already being taken out the back and rested on the outside walls.  I could see into the theater to the back of the stage and saw the roadies breaking down the stage and instruments.  In doing this, the roadies blocked off a section of the parking lot with cones and ropes and the tour bus and truck were near.  I saw the roadies break down the keyboard rig and, suddenly, I saw the members of the band pass back and forth.  So, I waited about 30 minutes in the parking lot and, amazingly, Wakeman came out and shook hands and said hello, followed by Rabin, and finally by Anderson.  They all were so cool and personable and happy to see everyone!  I was able, among 40 other people, to shout my appreciation and pat them on the back.  Other people were ready and prepared for this (they seemed to know this would happen – with items to sign and ready to pose for photographs – but I was totally unprepared as I had no idea this would happen).  Either way, I was able to take a few snapshots and, at least momentarily, spend a little time in the presence of my musical heroes.  Thanks guys!

Photographs:

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