is a house of tradition. Built in 1884 to accommodate the famous
Gewandhaus Orchestra, which had been founded more than a hundred
years before, the building lasted until 1944, when it fell victim
to the war. The new Gewandhaus, as we have it today, was completed
in 1981 - an impressive construction that soon became the number
one concert venue around, or even world-famous, as far as classical
music was concerned. Kurt Masur, the house's long-standing musical
director and principal conductor, had a formative influence in
In recent years, the Gewandhaus management found it increasingly
difficult to fill their seats, so they put out their feelers for
other ways to attract audiences. Still, it happened only seldom
that more contemporary, non-classical artists were given the opportunity
to perform their music in those venerable halls; Art Garfunkel
was, as well as Buena Vista Social Club and Joe Jackson (but also
). And now: Yes.
believe the Gewandhaus doors opened to the band for three reasons.
First, they have long assumed a dinosaur status in the business,
being around for some thirty years now. Second, their music stands
out as consisting of rather demanding compositions that rarely
aim at mass audience's taste. And thirdly, they brought along
an orchestra this time, this classical ambition being probably
the most convincing aspect in the eyes of the Gewandhaus officials.
Still, I assume that the latter did not foresee what gigantic
musical thunderstorm the band would unleash, shaking the house
to its very foundations.
It is needless to say that the hall had long been sold out for
this evening (although the orchestra and the glamorous venue had
resulted in rather steep ticket prices). I was lucky to get hold
of a seat in the nick of time; it was on the gallery at the left
side of the stage. I had slight misgivings concerning the sound
quality up there, as I actually sat *behind* the loudspeakers.
But the Gewandhaus is renowned for its near-perfect acoustics,
owing to the hall's elaborated architecture. Its unusual shape
resembles that of an amphitheatre, the stage being encircled by
galleries of seats at all sides. And as mentioned, each of them
was occupied - which amounts to a total number of 1905 people.
Many of them wore clothes and hairstyles surely seldom spotted
in this house
9 p.m. the members of the orchestra entered their part of the
stage; roughly 35 musicians had to squeeze themselves into a somewhat
cramped compartment. Most of them looked younger than the people
in the audience (not to mention Anderson & company). They
quickly tuned their instruments, and as the lights slowly dimmed,
the tension in the audience grew palpable: the Yes experience
was about to start! The part of the stage where the band was supposed
to be lay still deserted when the orchestra started to play an
overture. I recognized the intro to Give Love each Day
from the 'Magnification'
album, a track where the classical approach works real fine. So
I got prepared for that song, but was soon set right: when the
band had taken up their posts under cover of darkness and kicked
in with fierce pressure amidst a flash of illumination, I suddenly
found myself Close to the Edge! Now a thirty-year-old classic,
this piece never fails to turn me spellbound. The 'I get up I
get down' came across splendidly, and I was just wondering how
amazing it would have been if the band had employed the 6638 pipes
of the hall's big organ, when the rhythm came in again, rocking
heavily. The orchestra had nothing to contribute at the moment,
but they where not at all idle. In such instances, the musicians
would take their instruments and hold them up, whirl them about
to the rhythm; they'd cheer and nod their heads to the beat. Such
activity seemed a bit awkward at first, but this impression subsided
as the show went on.
When the song came to an end, the audience burst into applause.
Steve Howe took the opportunity to take a look at his right side.
He seemed surprised to find people sitting up there. And as he
turned a little further he startled at the sight of yet another
gallery at the back of the stage. From then on, he never forgot
to bow down in these directions as well. But now, there was no
more time to look around, and Howe went on to intonate the unmistakable
beginning of Long Distance Runaround. This fine piece turned
out to be the shortest song played this evening. When it had ended,
Anderson greeted the crowd (and introduced the back gallery as
'the choir'). And he did it in his own peculiar way. Of course,
Jon is a bit on the spiritual side, wearing wide, earth-coloured
clothes and having put four burning candles before his little
pedestal. He also keeps wandering dreamily about the stage, waving
his hands in utter rapture over some beautiful vibes. His hippy-trippy
lyrics speak the same language: it's all love and peace. But be
that as it may, he definitely gets the vibes flowing on stage,
and people don't mind being taken onto a somewhat unworldly (but
very pleasant) level. Consequently, Anderson's introduction to
Don't go, the next song, dealt predominantly with love
and how powerful it is, but he also addressed Leipzig very much,
the place where so important historic upheavals had started. The
gratefulness he expressed surely won the hearts of those who were
not yet captivated by his presence.
Don't go was the first track from the new album to be
played, but it was also the penultimate one. This comes as a little
surprise, if one takes into consideration that the band boasted
to have closely involved the orchestra from the very beginning
of the production of 'Magnification', creating genuine classical
rock pieces - as opposed to other band's all-too-frequent habit
to subsequently 'classicalize' their music. Well, on the other
hand, I don't really mind the fact that so few 'Magnification'
tracks were played. Don't get me wrong, the album isn't half bad,
but I hold the Yes treasures from the seventies in much higher
regard. Who doesn't
The band continued with In the Presence of, a fairly good
piece from 'Magnification', and the second-longest one, too. Alan
White made a rare performance on keyboards during the first chords
of the song. And he even did it twice this evening, as Jon Anderson
stopped the song just a minute after it had begun, for a reason
I didn't fully understand - I think it had something to do with
Jon's voice, for he apologized several times, pointing to his
throat. The band started again, and the track went by flawlessly.
Then Jon spoke again, and he ended with the utterance of three
words that immediately sent shivers down my spine: Gates of
Delirium. This massive masterpiece turned to be *the* highlight
of the show. The house was shaking during the great frantic middle
part, with keyboarder Tom Brislin nearly crushing his instruments
and Jon banging away on his percussion stand under a shower of
flashing lights. The music swelled unstoppably, the tension mounted
and the pounding rose until, yes untiiiiil- the song finally climaxed,
tipped over and released itself into a magnificent flow of sound.
Its last third - the unparalleled, atmospheric part with Howe's
singing slide guitar - belongs to the finest moments of music
ever composed. Ravishing.
When the final notes of Gates of Delirium had died away,
an enormous wave of applause broke loose that easily exceeded
the band's peak volumes. Many people couldn't restrain themselves;
they stood up and cheered and clapped and shouted approval - the
applause did not subside for minutes. When it finally did, the
orchestra left the stage, as well as Anderson, White, Squire and
Brislin, leaving Mr. Steve Howe alone in the spotlight to deliver
one of his superb solo performances. You had to look twice to
make sure that there was really just one person playing. And it
was amazing - this gifted man playing away on his acoustic guitar,
surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of awestruck people. Needless
to say that he earned thunderous applause as well.
Howe's band mates reappeared on stage, and after Anderson had
said something about 'the higher self', they went on to perform
Starship Trooper. The song conveyed a most cheerful mood
with its merry and bouncy verses until Howe's guitar introduced
the few notes that laid the foundations to one of the most thrilling
crescendos of the evening. When it was Chris Squire's turn to
join the upsurge, he made a great show out of it, stepping up
front in his strutting way of walking, doing pirouettes and striking
his chords with sweeping movements. What a treat! Squire's odd
appearance (big black boots, white stockings, tight glossy pants,
a wide black shirt), his way of performing (the famous pirouettes!),
and of course his masterful playing constitute one of the most
lasting impressions a bass player has ever made upon me. But back
to the music. Halfway into the song, the orchestra had come back
and joined the music. To what effect, I cannot tell. Come to that,
I didn't always get the point of orchestral accompaniment. Besides
the fact that the inclusion of a couple of additional voices in
a five-piece band seems rather unnecessary, composition-wise,
it turns out to be quite ridiculous as well: their contributions
were not seldom doomed to be completely inaudible. You always
saw those girls play their violins with great passion, but they
were hopelessly drowned out by the band. Still, the orchestra
added quite some charm to the show.
And you and I was next, yet another showpiece of good
old Yes stuff. Howe's initial notes already kindled unflagging
enthusiasm with the audience, and as the organ started to soar
and Anderson floated about the stage with outstretched arms, the
show reached another high spot. Howe operated three different
guitars in that one; it was interesting to see him change hastily
from one to the other. On one occasion, there was an acoustic
guitar mounted on a stand behind him, and he was sitting playing
the slide guitar. When he finished, he raised, turned, a technician
quickly slung an electrical guitar over Steve's neck just before
he started to play the acoustic for a little while, and then changed
to the electric one. Great job.
As if Yes intended to numb their audience with an overdose of
musical gems, they continued with Ritual, which was to
clock in at nearly half an hour! Again, Anderson's perfectionism
had him interrupt the song after a few seconds; he obviously disagreed
with Squire's performance, but they all joked about the situation.
Later, Squire again strutted across the stage theatrically, banging
heavily on his bass. But the most impressive part of the track
was still to come. While Alan White soloed a bit on his drum kit,
technicians brought big drums in position for Anderson and Squire
to beat down on. They all unleashed a big, thundering, mind-blowing
drumming that had the hall come close to a collapse; the reverberation
was enormous indeed.
After the equally enormous ovations had died down a bit, Jon
took the opportunity to introduce the band members by name - and
to announce their last song: I've seen all good people.
He encouraged the people to celebrate the song, and they did.
This piece was the first live-played song I ever experienced during
which the audience started clapping their hands enthusiastically
- and actually held out to the very end! But that was not all:
the entire audience (me included, of course) rose to their feet
and chanted and danced until the song had finished. I lack the
words to adequately describe what was going on, but it was truly
The boys said goodbye and vanished, but came back again for a
Roundabout. During the encore, most of the people didn't
give a damn about their seats anymore; the show had turned into
a big celebration. The stage was surrounded by fans who had come
down to be as close to their heroes as possible - some of them
were lucky to shake hands with Jon during the song. But the inevitable
end approached. After one hundred and sixty five minutes, the
last few notes of the concert echoed through the hall, giving
way to another round of boundless ovation. The group gathered
in the middle of the stage and bowed to their audience - in all
directions, and several times. They looked as if they felt tremendously
happy about themselves and about the concert. Jon held his hands
as if he were praying - his own way to express heartfelt appreciation.
But finally, they left, and the applause slowly died down.
I'm sure that in the minds of all guests this evening
the show had planted the firm belief that they had experienced
a truly memorable concert. There'd been an impressive venue and
a marvellous band, there'd been a great audience and a splendid
atmosphere - everything had been in its right place. What was
striking as well was that the great majority of the songs dated
from the early seventies. I think this fact can only be attributable
to one of the most significant qualities of these pieces: they're
timeless. Well... sadly, Anderson & company are not. Who knows
how long people will have the opportunity to share the Yes experience?
But for the time being, however, the boys don't seem to lose strength.
Isn't that a blessing? Oh Yes!
Close to the Edge
Long Distance Runaround
In the Presence of
Gates of Delirium
Steve Howe Solo
And you and I
Ritual - Nous Sommes du Soleil
I've seen all good people