Sunday, 11 May 2014

Yes - The Bristol Gig

It is 6.30 am in Sheepscombe cloudy and overcast the birds are chirping in the forest . Its time for the first cup of tea and Side 2 of Going For The One.  Whats the weather like in Montreux and South Molton? Well thanks to the wonders of modern technology I can find the answer quickly, cloudy and raining respectively.

Awaken over, the clouds begin to break with the wind gusting from the North. So to the final day with this new revitalised Yes. Oh what larks we will have.  

I arrive in Bristol at 3.30 and enjoy a happy time exploring the gentrified dock land area. However there is that bitterly cold north wind, and so I avail myself of a Cappuccino when I arrive at Da Vinci's to restore the blood circulation. Mind you having asked for a cup, I seem to have landed a bucket. I am going to be absolutely wired for the concert.

Ian, Judith and then Pete and Mel arrive and we have a thoroughly enjoyable time ; great food, good conversation as the anticipation builds towards the concert.

A very shy Ian
A slightly less shy Mel

And Pete !
We then switch to the Hatchet, where other fans of the band appear, Pete attempts and fails to take a group photo and Judith takes over from the tekkie before we head for the hippo.

It is a delightful old fashioned theatre with a lovely feel. The stage feels curiously close and yet there is a gangway separating the seating area from  the stage where various bits of gizmo-logy to do with the concert are stationed, including two cameras.


The lights go down and we are off, a great vocal reception for the band before they launch into the music. I am 2nd row so I can witness this magnificent music machine at close quarters. The sound is superb and everyone is on the money. CTTE is wonderful and Geoff, who I can see very easily, is completely on top of his responsibilities. Jon is in the zone and teases every last bit of meaning out of what I describe as the Anderson narrative. The audience is warm and appreciative, giving off energy and the right balance of reverence and enthusiasm.  For the first time, in all our experiences on this tour, there are no floor administrators or whatever they are called to be seen.

GFTO is a big hit with the audience and not for the first time the point is made to me that these live revivals of the five pieces have reinvigorated peoples enthusiasm for the music. It is now 14 hours since I heard the studio version and Awaken live knocks the studio version out of the park. Geoff takes all his cues, indeed he nails his climaxing solo and pulls off the final run and then looks into audience as if to say got it tonight.  Chris's work on the triple neck is the most dynamic I have ever witnessed punching out his phrases with supreme confidence.

The first half leaves me in the most profoundly moved place I have ever been at a Yes concert.  A faultless performance presented with superb sound in a a lovely theatre.      

The sense of spiritual evocation in the first half is so great that the atmosphere the TYA creates is even more markedly different. The rest of the concert is fun, energised with Chris ripping of his phrases as he creates a kaleidoscope of sounds at turns large rounded and musical at others those grinding curling trade mark forays.

Steve receives huge applause for "Clap" and for  me he sits perfectly in the mix tonight. I particularly enjoyed his super fast Wes Montgomerisms in SK. But to be honest one could append a superlative to just about every solo of the night.

"A Venture" worked perfectly tonight with a clean crisp outro and soulful piano playing from GD. Then into PC and as we veer into the final moment a huge explosion occurs …of confetti. The piece is played with the right mixture of accuracy and unrestrained fire and that combined with the confetti gambit brings the concert to a close to a huge cry of approval from the hippo crowd. Once again no house staff and we can have fun during Roundabout. The second generation lady next to me attending with her mum is well in to it and it is all joyous harmless fun and a perfect example of why we are perfectly capable of self regulation.

A slight hiccup as we dash for the Colston Yard to find it closed and finish in the pub next to the theatre. We say our goodbyes, hoping the remarks about a quick return are true so that once again musical Heaven returns to Earth.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Yes , and the City

And The City

Driving  up to Birmingham and enjoying the regenerated area of the arena is a relatively straight forward experience. The Midlands is in the end still the Midlands. It is a part of the country that has been trying to find its second wind since the de industrialisation of the Western World in the 80's. There have been changes but they appear relatively straight forward and linear.

London is much more complex. When I travel up to London and stay in the Knightsbridge area, something I have been doing for 20 years, I recognise that the people, their personal behaviour and sense of who they are has more in common with a packed Terminal at Abu Dhabi Airport. International to a fault, constantly connected and embracing a kind of non aligned international demeanour whether American/Eastern European or Anywhere.

A quintessential English hotel in the UK is anything but now, and it is very clear the initiative has passed elsewhere and the role of London is to feed, cloth and entertain a global travelling community with just a handful of English people.  Englishness resides in the valley I live in the Cotswolds whereas driving in to central London is like landing in International Land.

I had a super afternoon in the lead up the concert enjoying all that a luxury hotel can offer which made dipping back into the Yes tour commitments that much more fascinating and enable me to adopt a more  detached view.

The Queens Arms was lively full of Yes concert goers and served up food and beer to everyones satisfaction. Anne, Henry VIII and later Judith and Ian all arrived. I was delighted however that Jon from Yes fans had made it.

There are only two elements which bind Yes fans together, the fans who came to them in their main sequence (or have discovered it as teenagers many years later) or those who came to the Trevor Rabin driven band of the 80's. Everything else is a melting pot and not surprisingly you can enjoy the disparity between your own priorties and others but just occasionally meet some one who is essentially on the same journey.

Jon like myself is excited by the idea of discovering what is out there rather than what is in the bag already. Equally when he hovers over some thing new or is offered something new he reaches out to it and gives it proper scrutiny without preconceptions or pre judgement, rather than waiting with his arms crossed waiting for it to impress him.   I thoroughly enjoyed our exchanges and felt energised by our discussion. He does not draw imaginary lines around his imagination, he lets it run on.

For the final 30 minutes before the concert I walked out into Hyde Park by the Serpentine to take the fresh air and ready myself for my third concert.                            


The opening section of "Close To the Edge" required some nifty slider work from the sound man because Jon Davison was right down in the mix, by the time of TMR the general sound level was established. It was the least effective of all the concerts I had attended, most significantly Geoff was muddy and Alan sounded like some one playing with a thousand dustbins rather than a professional drum kit.

The third movement sounded crisp and was beautifully executed and Jon was on fire. Once again the Anderson narrative was communicated to me with as much meaning and connection as it ever was "Now that it  is all over and done called to the seed right to the sun now that you find now that your whole" The tears came easily.

In "And You and I" Steve, as on other occasions, takes the slide intro in a beautifully measured quiet way before crescendoing with such power. "Siberian" Rocks and I love Geoff's sounds here, Steve is lit well in the mix and brings the album to an end and the fans to their feet for a well deserved ovation.

We talk on Yesfans about remixing GFTO I would love to see it re recorded by this line up. The guitar sounds broad fully developed and more musical, the bass deep and rich and Geoff shows the skill identified by Chris in 1980 he listens and so on moments of Awaken he plays "admiral restraint" allowing for a greater dynamic in the music to emerge. Geoff is playing someone else's music throughout the entire concert and does a magnificent job playing with a real fire and commitment without trying to make an alternative  point. In Birmingham he was superb on all the key big runs tonight less so and the climaxing keyboard run on Awaken got lost on Thursday night.

Jon takes you on a journey to completion on CTTE, on Awaken we are in post Olias journey territory, we have reach our physical journeys end but now we have a spiritual awakening.  JD takes me on this journey with more emotional colour and resonance than I have ever previously experienced. Why can that be, why can a follower offer the message in a more communicative way than the creator, because he has the benefit of artistic hindsight. The way forward has already been cleared the language written and he has shown himself perfectly capable of understanding the nuances of that journey embroidering upon it and he is a natural communicator of music he has long been a fan of.

We then go into the break and the physical reaction to the band is every bit as strong as the previous nights, even though there are more technical errors (what happened to the bass tuning on TOFC) as well as the least effective sound balance.

TYA was encore time and you sensed from where I was sat, the rising stall section, that everyone on the flat wanted to give the Wurm the kind of explosive ritual response of 2011 but of course there was more to come and it did not reach a peak of audience reaction. A ragged ending to A Venture led into a great PC although the furious ensemble work was difficult to pick out, but eventually we got the big phrasing from Steve.

So Roundabout and we are over. For me the most emotional concert to date but the most flawed. But there was fire and passion and commitment which led to a conversation in the Queens Arms about where to next. This band with Jon could take it through another five year cycle and if Heaven and Earth is alive with a fresh sense of discovery pushing on for "now" rather than a re tread of past glories, then more will follow, whether all can or want to take it further who knows. I never wish the days away but I am looking forward to making a relationship with the new music.

July 8th I note I am in another capital, where RTB first recorded with Yes, Paris I will have to pay a visit to the Virgin Store, but before that New Yes at the New Bristol location the "Hippo"