Friday, 26th June 2009
Fantasy Springs Resort And Casino
Article By Fred Hunter
Photographs by Alan Cox
Another warm night in Indio, about 20 miles from Palm springs in the southern California desert. Me and my buddy Stacie were at the Fantasy Springs resort/casino to see Yes and Asia and also to enjoy the wonderful outside bar - that came complete with a great band who ended the night (well after Yes had finished) with a rather note for note version of the ‘Voodoo Chile/Star Spangled Banner/Purple Haze’ medley that Hendrix played at Woodstock, needless to say there were a few choice ‘inebriated’ folks ‘dancing’ in the warm desert air last night!
So onto the gig; the sound at Fantasy Springs is pretty good, I saw Jethro Tull and Ratdog there last year and was impressed with the auditoriums acoustics even though it looks like it SHOULD sound abysmal!
Asia came on about 8:15 and I must say they all looked great for their advanced years. Wetton looks healthier than I’ve seen him in years. They kicked off with ‘Wildest Dreams’ and nailed it well, considering it was the first date of the tour. Carl flubbed the drum bit at the end, dropping a stick but only nerds like me likely noticed that. Steve was clearly ‘on’ and he seems to have really been able to get back on top form, he didn’t flub anything the whole night with Asia and Yes, a hard feat considering first night jitters and the pressure he was under to perform two shows back to back.
My friend was somewhat irked that the crowd did not go nuts and get up dancing to the next song, ’Only Time Will Tell’. It was a long time since I had heard this song, Wetton was spot on in his vocal delivery, as he was all night and Downes seemed to recreate all the 80s synth sounds perfectly. Mind you, he should have done with the 9 keyboards he had up there! They then did ‘Extraordinary Life’ from ‘Phoenix’, a good song, not the best on the album but it went down good.
It did occur to me early in the gig that the guys on stage were actually really big heroes in our music and that I was very glad I had made the effort to see them perform, it was really good to see them play SO well to cap it off! They continued with a few ‘historical’ items; ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, which (of course) went down well, even though John forgot a few of the words! Then ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King’, which was an odd choice to me since Wetton was not in Crimson then, it didn’t matter though because with Downes Mellotron sample and Wetton’s vocal similarity to Lake it sounded great and was surprisingly fun to see. Around here the band did a couple of well arranged acoustic numbers; ‘The Smile Has Left Your Eyes’ and ‘Don’t Cry’. As with a lot of the show they were accompanied on the video screens with excerpts of the original videos, which in most cases rather dated the songs and may have been better left out, just my opinion. They did not deter from the songs though.
Up next was Carl’s song and we got ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’ which was wonderful to hear. Geoff got Emerson’s parts perfectly and by this time the originally mellow crowd were well into the gig and it was obvious the band was feeding off the energy. Carl’s solo was great and the band capped off the show with the two rocking songs ‘Sole Survivor’ and ‘Heat Of The Moment’. The crowd was (now) on their feet and (cheesy as it may have been) the show ended on a very sing along like note.
All in all, a very enjoyable gig and I wasted no time in saying that it was great to see them together playing and would have been a great night right there! However, we still had Yes to play! I cannot say enough what a great double bill this tour is!! So off we went to the bar J.
So after about a 30 minute wait the lights went down and the familiar sound of the ‘Firebird Suite’ emerged. The stage set was yet another Roger Dean floating almost ‘sail like’ look. ‘Siberian Khatru’ kicked things off well with its energy permeating through the crowd. I have not seen Benoit David yet and I was very happy with his vocal strength and similarity to Jon’s. I don’t think too many people not very familiar with the band would have noticed any difference. Oliver Wakeman seems able to reproduce his dad’s keyboard parts adequately and clearly has also gotten his dad’s height too, jeez the guy towers over Chris Squire, who is not a short guy!
The band carried on with (surprisingly, so early on) ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ and the vocal harmonies were perfect. I actually think it works well so early in the set since it gets the audience into the show right away.
Next up after Chris introduced Benoit and Oliver, was one of the nights great surprises; ‘Tempus Fugit’. It was wonderful to hear this song finally and for them to play it SO well was just such a treat!
They then played the odd (but welcome) ‘Astral Traveller’. I never thought I would hear this song live and it was surprisingly good, I think the more modern sound and groove the band gave the song made it work better than the 70’s version. Alan did a rather weird but cool sounding drum solo near the songs end which added to its interest.
Up next was ‘And You And I’, nothing needs to be said, the song is a classic and it never fails. They played it perfectly with Steve’s soaring slide guitar sounding as good as ever.
Chris then announced that since James Brown is dead that Steve is now the hardest working man in show business! I was surprised that Howe did a solo spot having been on stage with Asia earlier for an hour or so. Even so, he gave us an enthusiastic version of ‘Clap’, I then (on the dare of my friend) rushed to the stage and photographed him, likely making myself look a bit of a dork in the process!
Up next was the ‘crowd pleaser’ ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’, it never seems to fail to get the girls up, but I was shocked when my buddy turned to me while dancing and said “Yes did THIS song?”. I just shook my head…
I was shocked when Chris introduced (Steve and Chris did most of the song introductions) ‘Machine Messiah’, I NEVER expected to hear this great Drama song live. The song was played very well considering it is a very complex piece. I was a happy Yes fan for the night after that! It did occur to me as to why they didn’t invite Geoff Downes out to play on the two Drama songs though. It would have been very fitting.
‘Roundabout’ came next and got the place rocking again, curiously (as with ‘All Good People’) it was not at the end of the show, but it worked well in its set placement. The audience sang along loudly!
The show proper ended with ‘Heart Of The Sunrise’. It was good to hear, but it was the ONLY song in the show I was not convinced by, the band on the whole were right on but Wakeman obviously had a few issues with some of the more crazy synth and piano parts his dad did. I do think that this was the only minor flaw of the set and I will say now that this IS the first date of the tour, so maybe they are all still finding their feet a bit.
The band left the stage to rapturous applause from the very enthusiastic desert audience. They came back a few minutes later with a sharp ‘Starship Trooper’ that left the crowd on a great high.
I was very happy with the show and even more satisfied since the last time I saw them in 2005, I was kind of worried it might be the last!
I highly recommend the show; Yes were totally ‘on’ and having Asia open for them only adds to the whole night being a real treat for us prog fans!!
Place mouse on picture to stop slideshow and view photograph longer!
Only Time Will Tell
Video Killed The Radio Star
In The Court Of The Crimson King
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (acoustic)
Don’t Cry (acoustic)
Fanfare For The Common Man
Heat Of The Moment
I’ve Seen All Good People
And You And I
Owner Of A Lonely Heart
Heart Of The Sunrise