Tuesday, 29 April 2014

New Yes in New Theatre

I decided to spend the entire day in Oxford soaking up its riches and attractions with the same intent and focus I do when I catapult myself across the other side of the world. More of that to follow in my Travel Blog, but down to business.

Even after all these years "The Procession" from the Fire Bird has its usual effect on me I am always moved and excited by the introduction. I am delighted to see the audience receives the band warmly when they hit the stage and launch into the first album.

The first matter I note is the pace its as fast as I can remember for many a year. The keyboards are mixed correctly and the sound is excellent. From the first vocal punch Jon is absolutely committed and then I notice something else, as the vocal dance begins he is the centre of my attention I am completely taken by his sense of purpose and focus and it feels like he is driving them on. He delivers the Anderson narrative with a real sense of authority that takes it beyond a copy. This isn't a carefully constructed artifice. He understands what he is singing about and has thought deeply about his own personal response to the messages he is delivering, so much so that he comes across as totally sincere with 100% conviction. Bravo Jon. Most importantly his voice sounds rich and engaging with a warm timbre.

There are many pleasures to enjoy during the evening. Chris's singing is superb throughout out I noticed it as soon as he began harmonising with Jon on CTTE. He also offers an exquisite perfectly judged bass feature, playing the main melody as a preface to I Get Up I Get Down. I wonder if both these qualities do not anticipate his musical role on the new album.

Steve is relaxed but completely fired up, if that makes any sense, and all the guys round me, who are deliberately on Steve's side of the auditorium are grinning like cheshire cats. The solo outro on S K is a barn storming finish to the first album.

GFTO begins with the best ever version of the title track. Once again Jon turns the block repeats into a fired up conversation with the audience rather than what can sound like a rather uncommunicative dull chant in amongst a rock and roll song. TOTC is the only vocal where I find instead of Jon teasing out the lyric in a warm musical way it sounds a bit harsh. However when he reaches the drop off and sings the "I'm sure we know" phrase he re establishes that warm engaging timbre that I enjoyed the rest of the evening.

Parallels, first time since 1977, is far better than the thin weedy studio version with Steve Guitar phrasing rich and warm rather than fierce and metallic. There is some great contrapuntal work as Steve, Chris and Geoff trade licks and Jon's vocal is warmer and fuller than the original. He also does a nice impersonation of Animal on the drums with electric bongos.

WS is well executed it is the one song I had heard on U Tube and Awaken is a revelation, Geoff nails the intro (the only bit of slurred phrasing I  remember was on SK in the first half of the harpsichord section). But its Jon again that gives the whole piece a greater sense of coherence and energy. The Touch chant section is delivered with real pace passion and attack. It is also wonderful to see Chris play his parts with the original authority, there is none of the tentativeness of the '96 live performance, he is right on the money. Jon's vocal on this piece is stellar "like the time I ran away and you were standing there" - I was in bits. As Awaken dropped away the entire audience was on its feet giving them a much deserved ovation.

When they returned The Yes Album felt like a long encore more direct and less formal but it was kept tight. Clap introduced correctly by Jon received yet another ovation and again Chris's singing on Part 2 of Starship and PC was of the highest order.

I wish Steve would play a proper acoustic for some of those quiet passages rather than the faux
acoustic that is however a very small observation about my personal taste after a barnstorming bravura performance through three albums.

The three albums work, curiously it makes the band sound fresh and its provided Jon with A Rite of Passage. To retain two formal albums in the future and then mix it up for the last half feels right.

I am so pleased I went for four dates, this line up is worth seeing repeatedly. Brum next.