In 2016, Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman brought together their incredible
talents and years of experience in Yes for a series of concerts celebrating Yes' musical legacy from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Yes with Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman first toured North America and brought their live show to the UK in early
2017, including this performance at the Manchester Apollo. The band is in an excellent form for a sold out audience that eagerly inhales every minute of the show, with classic songs like Roundabout, Owner or A Lonely Heart, And You And I, Hold On, Heart Of
The Sunrise, Rhythm Of Love, I've Seen All Good People and many more.
With more than a thousand others I witnessed their performance during the European leg of the tour at the
Utrecht Tivoli/Vredenburg in March 2017. And I was not impressed. Even thought that the real magic of Yes was gone. Of course, the old faithful are still there and their music has stood the test of time, but a lot was masked with showmanship, musical strong-arm
tactics and over the top audience participation. With as low point a tour of Rabin and Wakeman across the hall, playing in between the crowd a version of Owner of a Lonely Heart, while Anderson stayed behind on stage looking somewhat amused. At least, that's
my take on it. I seemed to be almost alone in this opinion, for many this was the performance of the year.
Some suspicion therefore preceded listening to the inevitable live
2CD/Bluray/DVD/3LP recently released entitled "YES Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman - Live at the Apollo". And I was pleasantly surprised, without the antics on stage and in the hall, only listening to the music, there is plenty to enjoy.
The first thing you notice is the excellent vocals of Jon Anderson, something I already noticed during the aforementioned concert in Utrecht. The angelic voice of the 73-year-old vocalist
has not lost anything in terms of power, depth and especially pitch(And You And I). And he still looks good, too, hats off.
The choice for the set-list is always worth a discussion,
no wonder if you can choose from such a rich repertoire. It was clear that there was to be a mix of the old classics from the seventies and a selection from the Rabin era, from the mid-eighties to the beginning of the nineties. Not an unpleasant selection,
with songs like the previously mentioned Roundabout, Owner or A Lonely Heart, And You And I, Hold On, Heart Of The Sunrise, Rhythm Of Love, I've Seen All Good People. And fortunately, also a great version of one of the best Yes songs ever, Awaken. In a slightly
different version, although fitting perfectly with the capabilities of the musicians, even Rabin comes into his own, a stormy reaction is his part on his first solo. Jon's harp solo is drenched with a heavy sauce of guitar and keys, not bad at all. The audience
reacts frenziedly but is also respectfully silent during the quiet passage in the middle.
That is also the second item that stands out, the super enthusiastic response from
the audience. As if attending a jazz concert, every individual performance can count on a standing ovation from the devoted fans. I just don’t seem to remember this kind of behaviour from the crowd during the concert in Utrecht, but maybe the people
in Manchester were even more impressed, and showed their feelings more emphatically. You get the impression that the reaction of the audience is somewhat extra enhanced here and there, although I won’t go as far as calling it canned applause, but there
is definitely something going on. In any case, frequent standing ovations are visible proof of public worship. The songs that band seem to suit the band best are the songs from the later period. Especially Hold On, Changes and Lift Me Up, seem to suit the
band perfectly. Power prog at its best, somewhat poppy perhaps, but always melodic and sufficiently prog to remain credible.
Rick Wakeman, 69 years-old, is still the virtuoso
and flamboyant keyboard player he always was. In addition, he is a television celebrity, radio presenter and writer, while he regularly performs in small venues. Standing in between an arsenal of keyboards, wrapped in a purple/black cape with silver embroidery,
he gives the well-known numbers that special treatment that makes them sound sparkling and new again.
Trevor Rabin is the youngest of the three, at 64. The originally South
African guitarist/songwriter is now a successful producer and composer of film soundtracks. I have never been a fan, I prefer Steve Howe, but his performance is flawless, without imitating Howe or violating the songs. Watch his solo during Rhythm of Love.
British bassist Lee Pomeroy is a left-handed mercenary on four, five, six and twelve strings with, among others, Jeff Lynne's ELO, Steve Hackett, It Bites and his own Headspace but also
Take That. He has the ungrateful task of filling the immeasurably big shoes of Chris Squire. He does so with verve and respect for the man and the original, especially his solo during the intro of Heart of the Sunrise is impressive. American drummer Lou Molino
III is the most unknown musician on stage, he comes from the entourage of Rabin’s, has a background with Cock Robin and YOSO, the joint venture of ex-Yes and Toto members. Style-wise he is a cross between rock drummer White and jazz drummer Bruford,
leaning more towards the latter.
Instrumentally and vocally this collective is solid as a rock. Extra striking are the brilliant harmony vocals, sometimes even four-part at
times, only Rick refrains from vocal contributions. As a result, you hardly miss the characteristic vocal harmonies from Chris Squire with buddy Anderson, a compliment to the entire band. The production and audio mix, the latter co-produced by Trevor Rabin,
can be called excellent, just like to be expected from a band from the calibre of Yes. A pleasure to listen to. In short, a very enjoyable performance by the band that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. And does so twice, because there is also an ensemble
around Steve Howe and Alan White which is still the bearer of the official band name. They have already celebrated the special anniversary with their audience. This may be confusing, but that’s the way it is, they are not the only ones, witnessed by,
among others, Wishbone Ash.
The Blu-ray is a pleasure to watch: excellent camerawork, professionally edited, quiet shots from all sides. Excellent view of the psychedelically
painted guitar from Rabin and the extensive keyboard arsenal from Wakeman. But singer Anderson also appears prominently, eyes closed, completely absorbed in his music. Here stands a real band, smooth and focussed playing, with tons of fun especially. Just
look at the interaction between Wakeman and Rabin in particular. On the basis of what I see and hear here, I may have to revise my original opinion regarding my preference for the Yes by Steve Howe et al. And oh well, there is still something to choose for
the real Yes fan. With some expectation we are looking forward to new material from Yes featuring ARW, a song with the iconic title Fragile has already been released and the first reaction is positive. For now we have to do with this excellent live document
from a band that still shows sufficient signs of life. And it is far from over: the 100 show World Tour started in June this year in Warsaw, Poland, and continues with shows in Scandinavia, Germany, the United Kingdom and North America in 2018, and goes on
to South America, Central and Southern Europe, to finally end in Japan and the Far East in 2019. Who said that the dinosaurs were extinct?
Review: Alex Driessen ©