Well, here I am again in Universal city in LA, forced to come here from home in Vegas since this double bill was not making a stop in Sin city. As usual the citywalk was ludicrously crowded and we waded through the throng to get to the Amphitheater entrance. Security had been noticeably beefed up here since my last visit and this in fact made us miss the start of DT since they went on right at the early hour of 7:15.
I was assured that the song we missed half of was the first, strange them starting with Learning To Live. I hoped this meant (and in fact it DID) that the band were going to try and convert some Yes fans with some of their more 'proggy' songs, they did not disappoint, mostly dodging the recent Train of puppets...sorry...thought CD in favor of a solid mixture from their back catalog. The whole set segued in a sort of Zappa/Dead like way, giving the audience barely any chance to rest/clap, I actually enjoyed this, though I can imagine to the unconverted it must seemed like 60 minutes of solid shredding!
So Learning To Live fell into a short instrumental version of the Drama opener Machine Messiah, wonderfully played and something we're unlikely to see Yes ever play again, so it was a great choice as a cover/homage. Myung's bass was especially good in this song, mimicking Chris Squire. As the song went into the quiet section the band moved into Trial Of Tears. I was pleasantly surprised at this choice, I often feel that the Falling Int Infinity CD is overlooked and this is its best track. Rudess on his new 'spin around' synth was incredible here, his ability to change patches on the fly with his feet was made to look so easy, Wakeman could definitely take a note out of his book, since he had 12 synths on stage and was stretching and running between them constantly, often missing the downbeat of a bar because of the keyboard switch!
Up next was the new instrumental Stream Of Consciousness, or as I call it Stream of Orion. It did fit well into the set here and even though I do feel it IS a little overlong, Portnoy and Petrucci were simply jaw dropping in it. John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy, to me anyway are untouchable in their technical abilities within the world of rock music and they never cease to amaze me.
Up next was our Scenes From A Memory excerpt, The Spirit Carries On, a great sing along song with strong melodies, can't go wrong really. The band chose to finish their short set in what was to me the perfect way, the last three parts of Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence. I think it was a wise move to play something of such a 'symphonic' nature to the Yes crowd and with its orchestral elements I feel it went over very well with the audience, even though there were obviously MANY DT fans there anyway, that could be easily noticed by the amount of T-shirts/younger guys/women in the crowd. The band finished their well balanced set by bowing to the audience as the last note lingered around just as it does forever at the end of the 6 Degrees CD, a great show.
And so to Yes. They came on about 45 mins later to the familiar opening of The Firebird Suite. I had already seen them in Vegas only 5 months ago and was expecting a similar set; I was right and wrong in a way. The set seemed to have lost most of the 'oddities/shocks' of the first leg and replaced them with more 'obvious' pieces. Not that that was bad in a couple of cases though.
I have to be honest here; two things struck me about this gig in particular. One was that the humor level between band and audience was higher than I have ever seen at any Yes gig, with Jon Anderson talking possibly more than I have ever seen him talk, I suspect some of that was to do with the equipment change from acoustic back to electric, since they did not take a break on this leg of the tour, it was very amusing stuff though especially with Rick Wakeman being wheeled away on his piano riser while playing 'honky tonk' style piano, then waving as he left! Two was more negative, to be honest for much of the gig Steve Howe's playing was a little sub-standard, I felt he missed a lot of notes. It did occur to me that this tour has been VERY long and that they are simply tired, after all, they are not young guys like DT anymore! It made me turn to my friend and say: "you know, we're so lucky that these guys are still playing, so many other people in their shoes would NOT make the effort".
So the set went similar to the previous show in April at first; Going For The One, Sweet Dreams, with the great new Wakeman solo added, All Good People. Then came the first difference, they played America. Always good to hear. Fortunately South Side Of The Sky was still played; it's worth the price of the ticket alone to hear the Howe/Wakeman Guitar/Moog trade off solo! After Yours Is No Disgrace, Steve Howe played a short solo spot while the acoustic segment was set up. The band came on (Squire now with sunglasses!) and played Long Distance Runaround, Wonderous Stories (Jon forgot the words to the first verse!), the new 'bluesy' Roundabout, which I really like and then another change since April; Owner Of a Lonely Heart. This was actually very good in this form, only going to prove that it was a strong song anyway, once stripped down. Wakeman's piano here was curious in its imitation of the jabbing synth lines, it worked well!
After the acoustic set was moved, Jon introduced And You And I. Can't go wrong here really, always an uplifting song. No different tonight. The night biggest difference was the surprise return of Awaken to the set. As with the previous song...there is really no way to wrong here... Squire with his silly booming triple neck bass, Anderson's airy harp in the middle section, Howe's crazy guitar parts, White's solid foundation and Wakeman's ethereal church organ all over it. Wonderful! We are, indeed lucky that they continue to play music like this...
Encoring with Starship Trooper the band left us on a high note. Now, I began to wonder, if we will see them again, if there will be a new CD. I hope so, because they always deliver a GREAT show, it may have started a little wobbly, but it went the right way eventually and created all those right emotions that only the best prog can. I hope we see them back.