Yes, March 1st 2000
Vredenburg, Utrecht, Holland
By Jan-Jaap de Haan
For the second time in two years, Yes was playing in Vredenburg, Utrecht (Holland). And a miracle happened: it was the same line-up! I think not many times before Yes has had the same line-up for this long, and I think it showed: the band was much tighter than two years ago. They also seemed a lot more self-confident: this time they played no less than 5 songs of their latest album, The Ladder, whereas they played only two of Open Your Eyes during that tour.
At 20:15 the lights went down and Firebird Suite was the familiar opener of the evening. A big screen behind the stage showed many old pictures from a long, long time ago. Great to see. This screen would be showing pictures, films and computer animations for the rest of the evening, adding to the fine light-show Yes presented.
The finale of Firebird Suite led into Yours Is No Disgrace, with a stunning Steve Howe in the leading role. 'Though he was a bit loud in the beginning, the overall sound was good (much better than two years ago), although some people down in the small arena were almost blown over by Squire's deep and loud bass. Squire was very up front in the mix, which I didn't mind at all, since he's very essential to what Yes is about. Apparently he noticed the remarks on his clothing (don't wear white socks with black trousers!), so he decided to wear white only, this time showing his underpants through his (thin and short) trousers…. Fortunately he was carrying a bass as well…
Alan White still cannot impress me as a drummer, but he seems to be the right man at the right place. Personally I'm much more of a Bruford fan, but with Howe and Squire already having a 'loose' style, I think the more 'solid' White gives the band a necessary stable backbone.
Newcomer Igor Koroshev has really grown into his role and so has his amount of keyboards. Although he sounds different than Wakeman at moments, I think he can easily meet the expectations and the fans seem to have accepted him. Fortunately he was given a more prominent position both in the mix and in the performance. (I remember him playing in the dark last time.) Igor is evidently one of the boys now and very much a keyboard-virtuoso in the tradition of Wakeman and Moraz.
Sherwood on the other hand still has an awkward position. He was hardly audible, didn't add much (except maybe his looks) and mainly concentrated on backing vocals, which could have been done by Squire as well. I really am of the impression that he's just there to play the three Rabin-solos Howe won't/can't play.
And then… Jon Anderson. He really was top of the bill. It's incredible how he's able to sing songs 25 years old in exactly the same way. His voice was pure, high, clear and powerful. I don't know any singer who's able to sing like this on the age of 55. Really incredible.
To the set now: some changes have been made since last time. America, for instance, was dropped in favour of Perpetual Change. I think they haven't played this song for a long time (20 years?) and it's great that it's back. Together with Yours Is No Disgrace (set-opener), All Good People (set-closer) and Clap (encore), this song showed the strength of The Yes Album even after 29 years!
The other album prominently present in the set was The Ladder. Although I really like the album, some of the tracks lacked something live. It proved that the excellent production is a key element to The Ladder. Lightning Strikes was a not what I expected and so was It Will Be A Good Day. These two tracks failed to match the crystal-clear sound of the album and, as a result, lost some of their strength. Homeworld, on the other hand, was a highlight in the set. It was received with much approval, which shows this is what Yes-fans like to hear. Face To Face brought the audience participation I expected from Lightning Strikes and finally The Messenger ("a song about Bob Marley") mainly impressed me, because of the combination of Squire's deep bass-sound and Howe's 'light' acoustic guitar.
The mixture of new material with older songs, however, proved the strength of the older material. As I said, I like The Ladder, but in this great set, the newer songs almost seemed to have a function as 'interludes'.
Absolute highlights in the set were And You and I and Awaken. I believe these two songs are in the top-5 of any Yes-fan, so expectations are always high. But Yes proved to be able to meet these expectations. Both songs were performed with much perfection and a balanced combination of subtlety and power. These two tracks were performed so stunningly beautiful, that the audience raised for a long and standing ovation. "Wonderful", as Jon Anderson said himself. ["or 'wunderbar', as you say here", he mistakenly added - after which he apologised with "entschuldigung", which is German as well - Anderson wasn't able to pronounce the Dutch 'geweldig!", apparently]
The 90125-album was featured with three tracks, the best of them being Hearts. I was pleasantly surprised by this song, since I never really loved it, but this live-version was really nice.
At least it was a brave choice for the band to play this track and they got away with it, or even more: the audience reacted with great enthusiasm.
The two other tracks were Cinema and, of course, Owner Of A Lonely Heart. Cinema (the second encore) served as an occasion for Sherwood to show his skills but personally I think this was a rude counterpoint to the subtle, acoustic Clap, which was the first encore. Again, it's nice to hear a song like this, since I hadn't heard it live before, but I didn't like the 'metallic' sound of Sherwood's guitar.
Owner Of A Lonely Heart directly followed. I do like this song, but they should stick to the original version. The strength of this hit-single is its completeness, so the second guitar-solo (by Howe) was an unnecessary addition.
The final song of the evening was Roundabout, which really brought magic back. Squire's bass, Koroshev's solos, Howe's riffs and Anderson's vocals, it was all perfect. Except one tiny little thing: it should have been the last song. Regrettably the band started a sort of 'thank-you'-jam, which didn't match the magic of Roundabout. But hey, they couldn't help I was satisfied already!!!
So, despite the some little remarks, I had a great night. I would have been fully satisfied by Yours Is No Disgrace, Homeworld, Perpetual Change, And You and I, Hearts, Awaken, All Good People and Roundabout alone, but Yes even added some extra tracks, some of them nice (The Messenger), some of them just 'resting points' for the audience (It Will Be A Good Day). Yes showed they're in great condition and they're still able to touch the souls of many prog-fans (like me) with their great musical skills and a wonderful collection of songs.
Firebird suite (intro)
Yours Is No Disgrace
Time and a Word (excerpt)
Nous Somme Du Soleil (excerpt)
And you and I
It Will Be a Good Day
Face to Face
(I've Seen) All Good People
Owner Of a Lonely Heart