Yes - Royal Albert Hall
8th May 2014 (with Gina Franchetti)
My second visit to the RAH in less than two weeks inevitably featured proudly visible Rick Wakeman T-shirts and shoulder bags. I was slightly surprised that the first track was Close to the Edge because I’d imagined that an ‘album series’ performance, with three albums performed in their entirety, in running order, would also proceed in album order. Not that it mattered. The show actually started in traditional manner with Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite which accompanied images and mementos of Yes from the time of The Yes Album, Close to the Edge and Going for the One. Some of these images had been photoshopped so that the only two band members appearing were Howe and Squire, indicating the revisionist nature of history. However, I knew I was going to enjoy the evening the moment the birdsong that heralds Close to the Edge began and the spotlights played over the crowd, giving the illusion that the floor of the auditorium was covered by ocean.
I accept that four of the members of the band have the right, to a greater or lesser degree, to call themselves ‘Yes’ but I’ve previously expressed the opinion that a Jon Anderson-less Yes is less than Yes, when really it’s just a different Yes. In fact, Jon Davison’s voice was reminiscent of a young Jon Anderson, a much closer match than that of Benoit David. Not only did he sing really well, he also mimicked, possibly unconsciously, some of Anderson’s gestures and style of clothing. His movements added to the sense of a kind of universal inclusiveness, whether he was pointing up to space or indicating a more personal relationship with the audience. This portrayal of the music was easily enough to convince me that the entire band fully understood the legacy of their 70s output they were showcasing the acme of prog, especially in the two long form pieces Close to the Edge and Awaken.
I thought the visuals were slightly amateur, preferring the back projections from the Fly from Here tour. Far more important was the music, which stuck close to the original recordings, with some extra notes somehow crammed in by Steve Howe and though Geoff Downes committed the unforgivable sin of using an inappropriate sound patch for what should have been piano chords on I Get Up, I Get Down, he employed a largely faithful reproduction of the albums’ original palette.
I think that Squire has a greater bond to The Yes Album than any other from the Yes oeuvre and that’s possibly why it was played last. The only real solo spot of the entire evening was Steve Howe’s Clap, and the inclusion of the concise A Venture may have been the first time it had been incorporated in a Yes live set.
It was fitting that the encore should also be of that era, the redoubtable Roundabout, a classic end to a really enjoyable performance.