Wednesday, 4 May 2016

And The Word is - Time

Yes UK Tour 2016 

Glasgow - The Power and the Glory

For the first concert on the UK tour in 2016 the band began in Glasgow. I was fortunate enough to attend the concert and my overwhelming impression was of the renewed energy and commitment of the band, which was given full reign on the first ever complete performance of Drama, an album which itself was an attempt to reconnect with a more direct and powerful vision for Yes. 

This was the first UK date since the CEO of Yes Chris Squire had passed away and so the much loved Billy Sherwood, Chris's acolyte, had a number of challenges and not all purely musical ones. Billy played with gusto and drove the material he was charged with from Drama, like Does It Really Happen, which is lead by the Bass, with exactly the right amount of focus and pace. But Yes is not just about great instrumentals it is about great vocals and I was fascinated to see how they would build on both elements of the performance after the right kind of start on the first night. 

Bristol - All of Us Waiting For Time.

Great performers know one of the keys to the very best outcome is time giving ourselves time to stand outside of the moment and plan in a split second what comes next.  If we are just a split second ahead we are ready and prepared. Tonight in Bristol I was not only struck by the equally committed performance but Jon and Billy seemed just that little bit more relaxed which gave them more time to prepare as the music evolved. 

Jon sang several of the Drama pieces with more power and depth so the sweetness in his voice was complimented by a rounder fuller sound. Indeed all of the Drama music seems to benefit from the sense that he was just that little more in control. The power of the chant in "happen" was accompanied by authority across the whole song. The exposed moments in "Lens" were richer and bolder and "Run Through the light" wit its unusual staccato start was sung and played in Bristol as a full blown concert piece rather than an oddity. Billy, for I suspect different reasons, appeared more in  control of his vocal duties, his pitch was great and the character of his voice began to emerge complementing Jon on the quiet parts of Messiah as well as the fast paced call and repeat "Friends make their way into systems of chance"          

His beautiful vocal underpin of Jon on "Time and A Word" his Baritone to Jon's Tenor was gorgeous and each benefited the other. It sounded about a semi tone between them and could be the beginning of a new and different vocal sound. At the end of a highly energetic performance on the encore of trooper not only did he play a very unique and special bass solo which was more about creating sustained powerful block phrases, than the kind of runs which he carried off with such aplomb on Fish, but his wordless vocals, perfectly pitched, were bell like and very musical. 

"We Have Heaven" celebrated four part harmony and was probably Steve's best vocal moment but next up with Southside the rocking section once again benefited from more power and attack from Jon, that to me as a singer suggests a modest change in approach more chest and less head singing.    

Tonight with mental time on their hands to build on the power and the thrust, the vocals began to blossom and flourish. Yes - great instrumentals and great vocals with m.o.r. melodies and underground arrangements, sounds like a plan, and tonight it worked well. The slight change to the order in the second half, crescendoing with Fragile, worked a treat with Sunrise leading us to the summit of the evening.

The crowd, though remaining in their seats with no rush to the stage, gave the band a warm reception after both half's and my sense was the evening was thoroughly enjoyed. 

At Glasgow Geoff Downes was in the zone from the get go audacious and burning in equal measure. Tonight being on Steve's side of the stage you could see how tightly woven together they were providing arguably the most entwined and empathetic twin lead combination Yes have ever had. Not simply great technique past back and forth but like two halves of the orchestra welded together in a deadly embrace almost like one musical being offering rhythm and pulse, colouring, layering and then great defining musical statements of whatever melody was being extended and laid before us in dazzling solos with of course the guitarist in pole position from the first piece to the last, from the hugely prophetic statement of the power of machines, which have come to dominate all, to the wildly elegiac and poetic harnessing of the power of the sun.  

My favourite memory from the concert was the magic hat. It played drums all night with real power, commitment and great timing and came out at the end of each half with Mr Alan White underneath it, perhaps he was responsible as well !