The last Yes concerts in The Netherlands I missed due to performances I did myself, but I managed to go to this 35th Anniversary Tour concert in Antwerp. This was going to be the first Yes concert for me and for my father, who listened to their music when he had my age. So we drove to the Elizabethzaal, which is a nice theatre with about 2000 seats. It offered a good atmosphere, fine acoustics and unfortunately a sweating audience because there is no airco or it wasn't working.
The lights were turned off, the curtain dropped and a beautiful stage with black and white inflatable figures became visible. Alan White, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe and Jon Anderson came up and kicked in with Going For The One. The sound wasn't perfect in the beginning, but soon this improved towards a perfect mix. The first highlight to me (and to most of the audience) was a flawless performance of I've Seen All Good People. The band played with great enthusiasm and was in good form. Off course we got Squire's and White's funny faces, while Anderson was making his gentle gestures and assured us a couple of times that love is everything. Wakeman (who was right in front of us) seemed a bit of a serious guy to me, though. Howe was the furthest away from our seats, but it was clear that he was enjoying himself. The response of the audience was amazing too, with everybody standing up after each song. The next piece was the powerful Mind Drive, which was split in two parts with other songs between it, for example South Side Of The Sky. Great to hear this fantastic song live, although I think the guitar / keyboards 'duel' in the end went on a little too long. During Yours Is No Disgrace something went wrong which made Wakeman very mad. First I thought his monitor didn't sound as it should because he was screaming at the monitor guy, but apparently one of his ten keyboards (if I counted well) didn't function properly. It still was a fine performance of this song, though, with beautiful multi-vocal singing.
After a fifteen minutes break Yes played a pretty long 'acoustic' set, meaning that White played on a small kit, Howe and Anderson played acoustic guitars, Squire (now with sunglasses) played an acoustic bass guitar and Wakeman played a small grand piano. I found Wakeman's play rather busy and hard attacked, but the guitars and bass were played excellent and contributed to a more 'organic' sound. Furthermore, especially Howe and Wakeman seemed to have a lot of fun and there was much interaction between them. Wonderous Stories was extremely beautiful. Roundabout (announced in a funny way by Squire) was played in a shuffle version, which I think was half successful but still nice for a change. Owner Of A Lonely Heart sounded surprisingly powerful in the acoustic arrangement.
Howe provided some scene change music while the stage was rearranged for the next 'electric' songs. During Rhythm Of Love, Anderson walked through the concert hall for a while. And You And I is one of my favourite Yes songs and for me it probably was the highlight of the show. It was played perfect and with emotion and the sound was brilliant. An ovation that lasted for minutes followed. Ritual couldn't hold my attention all the time. To be honest, I don't care much for White's drum solos or Squire on timpani's. However, it did contain many great moments and the lit inflatables and bowls with 'fire' caused a magical atmosphere. The band left the stage and came back for an intense and deafening version of Starship Trooper. This turned out to be the only encore, but by then the band had been playing for almost three hours. So happy and satisfied we left the building.
In conclusion, this concert was a special experience for me and for my father who saw the music he first heard in the 70's being performed live for the first time. The set list was well balanced, providing both all time favourites and original song choices. The band was in good form and had a good time. The sound was close to perfection (with the exception of the opening songs) and the atmosphere was fantastic thanks to the stage design and the fine venue.
Friday, 18th June 2004 : The NEC Arena, Birmingham, UK
"by Pia Matozzi"
Less than a year later and Yes were back in Birmingham with their 35th Anniversary Tour. The venue for this occasion was the NEC Arena. A place that brings good memories and take me back in time to the Genesis "Calling all Stations" Tour. As I was walking to find my seat, 5 row left from the front, I noticed that the stage was behind a dark curtain and I was sure that Roger Dean's stage design had something to do with that. Then the appearance on stage of a girl holding a big poster of YesAcoustic DVD and a man announcing the forthcoming release took the audience by surprise. 'We can put Yes back in the DVD charts' he told the fans and ended up saying that the moment we were all waiting for was only minutes away.
The lights were still on when we heard the first sounds of the Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite filtering in the arena. What happened in the next minutes? Many things at the same time. People still scattered were rushing back to their seats while a big cheer and applause was heard. It all happened so quickly! The lights went out, the curtain was dropped revealing the stage and seconds later the band took to the stage. The standing ovation lasted long after Yes started to play and it wasn't the only one that evening.
It was a peculiar way to start the show. We didn't have that moment expectation after the arena is in darkness and before the beginning of the intro. The show opened with an energetic Going for the One followed by Sweets Dreams and then the familiar I've Seen All Good People which this time wasn't an encore. The song sounded fresh - as if it had different arrangements and although I've heard it in previous gigs it was great to hear it once again. Then came Mind Drive First Part in an original version.
South Side of the Sky one of my favourites, back again this year, and was absolutely superb a real treat. We all enjoyed the duel between the instruments. It was time for something more tranquil in the case with Turn of the Century followed by Foot Prints (excerpt) and Mind Drive Part Two. The end of the first part was sensational with a spectacular interpretation of Yours Is No Disgrace.
While we were all trying to recover Jon announced a 15 minute break for tea and biscuits. Those 15 minutes seemed a bit too long for some of us, but if Jon, Chris, Steve, Alan and Rick needed that time to sound the way they did after, I was more than happy that they had taken that break. A baby grand piano for Rick, a tiny drum set for Alan and some stools on stage were an indication that we were in the acoustic set. Personally I wasn't really looking forward to this but then I wasn't with the orchestra in the YesSymphonic tour and I ended up really enjoying that concert more than I'd imagined.
The songs included in this section were The Meeting, the well-known Long Distance Runaround, Wondrous Stories, Roundabout and Owner Of A Lonely Heart and also Time And Time, a song that Jon dedicated to the fans and Show Me.
There were many songs I liked from this set but the one I enjoyed most for innovative and difference was Roundabout in the best Chicago Blues style. I don't think I'm wrong if I say that this version surprised all of us. It was fantastic, as was Chris's introduction. That seemed like a show within the show. Chris started talking and it seemed to go on forever while Rick was looking as if he was bored and constantly checking his watch. They probably have this routine in every show but I'm sure it works every time.
Without doubt Yes know how to surprise their fans and this tour and this show was a clear example. The acoustic part was something special, amusing and full of humour shared not only between the band but with the audience as well - and of course that means we hear their music in a different version. What was interesting was the intimate atmosphere that was created by all being gathered together in an area of the stage. I don't know why seeing them like this made me think about a rehearsal.
Steve's solo was good although I would have preferred Chris, Alan or Rick's solos but that's just a matter of taste. Then came a change with Rhythm of Love including Jon's walkabout that got the fans to their feet. It was difficult to know where to look Jon disappearing through the aisles or the rest of the band. The song sounded great and was well received.
Next one was the classic and everyone's favourite And You And I. Is it possible that every time they played it better or it's just they always play it so well that we forget how excellent was the previous time? It's only my idea but would I be wrong if I say that this song is a reminder of why we love Yes music so much? Not the only one of course.
The end of the show was with a powerful Ritual. It's difficult to describe how does it feel to be able to see the band performing this piece especially during the drum-percussion set with Alan on drums plus his drum kit, Chris on timpani and Jon on percussion. It was fantastic, incredible and with the addition of Alan's "robotic" drums that at one point they unfolded around his drum set. And I have to say that Ritual is not one of my favourites but live it's something else. The first time I've heard it live was in the Symphonic Tour and I loved it them.
Yes came back to the stage to offer one only encore, which was no other than an impressive version of the classic Starship Trooper brilliantly executed.
One always feels as if one hadn't enough at the end of a Yes concert, but at the same time with the pleasure for having experience something exceptional, magic, mesmerising, unique...
About the band?? Hmm... this time I don't feel the need to comment about each member. I went to see YES!!! And any fan who has seen them could understand what this means. Talent, energy, passion, sense of humour are only few words that come to my mind.
The duels between instruments that band does always produce a fascinating reaction and it's clear they all enjoy them as much as the crowd. That these arenas don't have good acoustic for rock concerts is well known and people often talk about it. Fortunately I didn't have to experience it. The sound was great and clear, at least from where I was, there were only small problems during the first 2 songs but that was fixed. At times Chris bass seemed a bit low or was it just me wanting to hear him louder? Unfortunately the sound engineer couldn't help me with the person sitting behind me who was singing so loud in 3 or 4 songs that I had to make an effort to hear Jon's voice and I had the PA speakers less than 10 metres just in front of me. What a ridiculous way to have one's concert spoilt!
Roger Dean's stage design didn't impress me very much, but when I saw it I thought someone is going to have fun and I was right. I liked the flaming pots - they gave a nice visual effect.
In recent years Yes tours have had elements that made each tour different from the previous one. The set list would be the obvious thing especially if there is a new album but there is much more than that. They had a few changes in their line-up, including Rick's return, a tour with an orchestra and in this one with an acoustic set. Who would have thought years ago that these things were going to happen?
Some could say that Awaken was missing from the set list, or a particular song should have been included or one of the old ones replaced. Yes, that's true but whatever the set list it won't please everyone, anyway.
Personally, I couldn't say that this concert was better than the one they did last year, but it's unquestionable that it was another excellent show that had some of my favourites songs and lasted about 3 hours.
We hope Yes will come back next year to Birmingham and surprise us once again as they normally do with their music, new, or from 30 years ago.