YesSymphonic Europe Tour
National Indoor Arena—Birmingham, England: 2 December 2001
Concert Review © 2001 Stephen Lambe
Are Yes the hardest working band in the world at the moment? It is interesting reading Russ Elliot's review of a 1998 appearance, to note that that was the first of three European tours in quick succession, all with a slightly different feel to them. In 1998, when they were promoting Open Your Eyes (much disliked by most Yes fans), they played tried and trusted material. The 2000 tour promoting The Ladder seemed to me a much fresher affair, with a very different set and no solos, even if with Billy Sherwood imitating Trevor Rabin, it seemed like the band were in danger of becoming their own tribute band.
And so to 2001, and "Yes Symphonic." This tour presents the band, less Sherwood, with a full (but small) orchestra from Eastern Europe and this group of enthusiastic young musicians were very effective throughout, without ever being overbearing, adding just the right amount of colour to most things they played. What, then, of keyboards? There was still plenty of space for impressive guest Tom Brislin, whose note-perfect renditions of Wakeman's solos kept the audience happy.
As for the rest of the band, they were all in fine form, with Jon Anderson in great voice and, as always, chatty and funny between songs. A slimmer Chris Squire remained as dextrous as ever, while an increasingly wizened Steve Howe still showed that he is a multi-instrumental master. Meanwhile, the excellent Alan White actually played a little piano for a change.
Here's the set list from the show:
Overture (excerpt from "Give Love Each Day")
Close to the Edge
Long Distance Run-around
In the Presence of…(Featuring Alan White on piano)
Steve Howe set:
(orchestra rejoins for Wurm)
And You and I
Ritual (including brief bass and drum solos)
I've seen all good people
Roundabout (without orchestra)
Set length 2 hours 20 mins. Tickets a bit on the expensive side, but good seats. Souvenir Programme was awful, but then aren't they always? Stage set was very effective with mirrors and fluorescent lighting; credited to Jon Anderson.
This current set revolved around its long pieces. Though "The Gates of Delerium," to my disappointment, had been dropped for this concert, "Close to the Edge" was note perfect and "Ritual" was a revelation. As for the new material from "Magnification", the title track sounded great, as did the poppy "Don't Go" which I really like (and Jon clearly enjoys singing). However, the most impressive new piece was "In the Presence of…" a longer, more progressive work, which won a standing ovation from an appreciative audience.
But still Yes have a problem. With this current line-up, 15 years of music from the band's history is effectively off limits. Aside from 2001 material, they played nothing recorded after 1973, and I do wonder how long the band can continue churning out such chestnuts as "And You and I," "Roundabout," "I've seen all good people" and "Starship Trooper" without the audience starting to expect a few other items from the repertoire. This is compounded by the fact that, though the band continue to record excellent new material, none of it makes it into the live set beyond one tour. Perhaps "In the Presence of.." will buck the trend at last.
Who can complain about three Yes tours in four years? 33 years into their history, the band continues to surprise and delight. Long may it continue!--Stephen Lambe
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