Friday, 18th March 2011
The Forum Music Centre, Darlington, UK
Article & Photographs by By Bob Mulvey
Fragile, a Yes tribute band, kicked off their mini tour in the North East of England at The Forum Music Centre in Darlington.
The Forum is a welcoming, multi-purpose venue which incorporates recording, tuition, rehearsal rooms and a live theatre room.
The theatre holds a hundred plus people so is able to generate a warm atmosphere whilst still remaining intimate.
I had chatted to some friends about popping along to the gig and back in February the date of Friday, 18th March 2011 seemed fine.
It was only a week or so before the show and whilst undertaking a "marathon" sponsored run that it occurred to me that this was also Comic Relief day,
so when we arrived at the venue around 7:30 pm I was somewhat apprehensive about the turn out.
At this point myself and my two friends were in fact the audience - but soon the Yes T shirts started to fill the room and despite the clash of events,
there was a good crowd for the evening.
So to the band - and Fragile are: Steve Carney (vocals), Robert Illesh (acoustic & electric guitars, steel guitar & vocals), Max Hunt (keyboards & vocals),
Chris Hook (bass & vocals), Russ Wilson (drums & percussion) and Tom Dawe (guitar & vocals).
Now prior to this concert I cannot say that I was familiar with Fragile.
I had seen their name around and read reports of their shows - some of which have included Yes members.
I was also aware that members of the band had worked on projects with former and present Yes members as well as other notable names from the prog comunity.
To be honest I came across the gig whilst doing some background on guitarist Robert Illesh, whose solo album, Golden, we had recently received.
Enough of this and on to the music.
The band entered the stage in Yes tradition to Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, before launching into Siberian Khatru.
What was evident from this opening piece was Fragile's attention to detail - not so much visually,
although there were some physical attributes and requisite instrumentation present.
No it was the way in which the band had nailed the early Yes sound and by the time the vocals came in I was convinced we were watching a
pretty special tribute to Yes.
Would vocalist Steve Carney be their Achilles' heel - bearing in mind Jon Anderson's somewhat unique voice and one which is out of most singer's ranges,
(well for those with testicles anyway)? No he didn't disappoint either...
Attention to detail - that was the key for me.
Robert Illesh's choice of guitars to replicate Mr Howe's sound were spot on -
as was his exemplorary and in depth study of Steve Howe's rather unique playing style.
Next to him, (on stage), was Chris Hook complete with Rickenbacker bass.
Again Chris Hook had captured the essence of Chris Squire's sound and notationally I don't think he put a foot wrong.
Back stage (visually) we have Russ Wilson who held the band together in true Yes style. Dynamic and "in the pocket" from start to finish.
Following in the wake of Wakeman, Kaye and Moraz is no easy ask, but again there is little to quibble about here.
My only misgivings were more on the sounds produced by Max Hunt and this may not have been entirely down to him.
The keyboards were a little down in the mix (in comparison to the rest of the instrumentation - which was crystal clear) and were a tad bass heavy.
However this is relatively mute point and shouldn't detract from his marvellous performance throughout.
To his right was second guitarist Tom Dawe.
His role perhaps not so obvious, however his parts were complimentary, being additive, rather than subtractive to the overall sound.
His role in the band came more to the front when Fragile moved to the Rabin era of Yes with Owner Of A Lonely Heart.
As for the performance the band were warm and relaxed, winning over the audience more and more with each passing song.
I'm struggling here as to what to say about the music. Classic era Yes played aplomb.
In fact Fragile made favourite track of mine, Close To The Edge, look frighteningly easy in performance.
The only thing that wasn't quite there for me were the vocally harmonies.
Not that there were intonation problems - just not quite as I remember them.
Elsewhere in the two sets the vocal harmonies fully captured the Anderson, Squire, et al chemistry.
Yours Is No Disgrace, Roundabout along with And You And I were superb. Robert Illesh also even took on Mood For A Day,
no mean feet in what was a very warm and humid concert room.
Now the subject of tribute bands always causes discussion.
Certainly I have never been a great advocate, however over recent years, with excellent visual shows from The Musical Box,
various Pink Floyd tributes and now this performance by Fragile,
I am slowly coming around. Not one who is easily impressed (according to my DPRP colleagues) I can heartily recommend these guys to any Yes fan.
This is about as close to the original you are likely to see.
I found some YouTube footage from the Darlington show - obviously the audio quality isn't great, but it does give the flavour of the band.
Click: Sweet Dreams |
Owner Of A Lonely Heart.
Before wrapping up this review something that did tickle me from the evening and something I have not witnessed at a Yes concert.
The strange, but intriguing concept of "dancing to Yes".
I kid you not folks but several of the audience found the intricate rhythms of Yes danceable.
Although in the case of the men "the dance" did resemble those moves performed to any music, regardless of tempo and time signature.
You know the dance - normally witnessed at weddings ;0)... I digress
If you get chance to see these guys - do so!
Intro ~ Firebird Suite
And You And I
Heart Of The Sunrise
Sweet Dreams, The Prophet, Every Little Thing, Astral Traveller, Gates Of Delirium, Soon
Mood For A Day
Close To The Edge
Yours Is No Disgrace
Owner Of A Lonely Heart
All Good People
Endless Dream, Time & A Word
The Forum Music Centre