Well it seems like just another Wednesday night here in Las Vegas. Its warm, plenty of tourists but oddly loads of older guys with Yes T-shirts on. So, indeed my fave band since childhood are back here again at the Mandalay Bay Resort/casino. This time to celebrate their 35th year together, though as Jon Anderson pointed out in the gig, it is actually 36 years now!
The fact that they are playing here has a couple of upsides: parking is free and you can always hang out in the casino after the gig.
Anyway, almost exactly on time and to a pretty packed audience, Yes took the stage to the familiar sound of The Firebird suite. This would prove to be one of the FEW familiar moments in the whole gig!
As the suite finished the band launched into Going for the one. Quite a shock to hear it in this position, but it worked well. The band was augmented by a Roger Dean stage set of blow up shapes, it looked good, especially the colors hitting the shapes at odd angles. As always Steve's slide guitar was the best thing about this song.
I strongly felt after the gig that the band had purposely changed their set to make the show 'fresh', I think it worked very well and each song seemed like a surprise! The second song was no different; 'Sweet dreams' was not a song I expected to hear, but with a great Wakeman solo at the end it was a treat.
After the obligatory - but much earlier than usual - All good people we were treated to the obscure Mind drive. Now I NEVER expected to hear this song and it really felt so much more 'together' than the Keys to Ascension version. Squire's bass work was unreal on this song. He played about 6 or 7 different basses at the gig and only used the Rickenbacker on a few songs - another oddity.
Mind drive was barely half way through when it segued into South side of the sky. The link was curious since it contained a section of music with Wakeman and Anderson I didn't recognize, nice though.
South side.. was its usual energetic self, the synth/guitar dual at the end being the best part. Steve was really on top form tonight and this solo was one of the best of the night, along with Rick's Moog of course!
Turn of the century was up next, always great to hear, lovely song.
They then played a vocal section of Footprints before finishing up the rest of Mind drive. A move I loved, especially since one of my fave bands The Grateful Dead were known for 'splitting' songs all the time live. It just worked for me and the synth solos at the end make the song.
Finishing up the first half of the show (Anderson said before their 'tea break') with Yours is no disgrace was a good move to. The song almost seemed like a lost friend amongst all the oddities that had come before. Steve's solo really kicked ass on this, more than I remember hearing before.
The evening's most humorous moment came early on in the second set. The band performed the first few songs acoustic (like the Ultimate Yes versions) and as they huddled to the front of the stage after Rick and Jon had done a beautiful version of The meeting, the front piece of stage scenery was lowered to the point where Chris had to lean under it (he hit it with his head at one point - but it was inflatable so it just shaked..) just to sing. So the acoustic Long distance runaround was funny in a way, with Jon saying "I think you have a friend" to Chris after the song finished.
The scenery was moved up and they carried on with the wonderful Wondrous stories with Wakeman doing amazing things on his piano, so good to hear this song again..and it sounded so good too.
Following the 'boogie - woogie' (as Chris said) version of Roundabout the band did Time is time from Magnification another strange choice but nice to hear.
They finished up the acoustic segment with the new Show me. From the new compilation set. Once again a nice treat to hear them play something so different.
As the crew cleaned up all the acoustic equipment Steve played a solo spot. I didn't recognize the piece, but it was lovely and looked insanely hard to play, the audience gave him a standing ovation after.
Then the band returned to the opening strains of The rhythm of love and played 80's piece with great energy. It worked very well in this spot after the acoustic section, giving the gig a real upward turn.
The rarely heard recently And you and I was up next and it was a pleasure to hear after being away since '99. Rick's use of a Mellotron sample certainly helped the middle section sound so evocative of the 70's versions. The crowd loved it and it was probably (with South side.. a close second) the best received song of the night.
I was satisfied at that point that they had delved deep enough to find oddities, so I was very curious how they would finish the show. They had, very uncharacteristically, played many short songs and few long ones, so I hoped we'd hear a Yes epic. I was not disappointed.
Some people loathe Topographic oceans. I am NOT one of them, I've always loved it, especially Ritual. So when I saw the timpani's being wheeled out I was ecstatic!
Ritual was absolutely the high point for me of the gig, I've seen them do it before, but not with Rick, so it was a real treat. The crazy bass solo and then even weirder percussion section were fantastic...I was smiling like a little kid with a Christmas present, very sad!
The band left the stage then. They didn't cease to surprise us in the encores too. The first of which was probably 'the' shock of the night. After a hi-hat filled intro from Alan the familiar change of Every little thing became apparent. I never thought I'd hear this one! Rick and Alan really made some tasteful additions to the new version that truly brought it up to date. I recorded the gig (per normal...ssshhh) and that's a song I listen to again a few times because of its freshness.
I really had no clue what else they'd play, so when Soon started, again I was like; "wow..interesting". It was a bold move to finish the gig with this, but being that Gates.. is my favorite song of all time, I was a VERY happy person. Steve's slide guitar was just perfect.
The perfect way to end the best Yes gig I've seen - and I've seen over 20. Somehow, the freshness with which they approached this set list was enough to make it like a kind of a new beginning. Extraordinary, really since Jon just turned 60. I can't wait for them to hit the road with a new album now!!
So off I went to the casino lounge to have a beer ..or two...errr. Good night all round!