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YES, Hammersmith Apollo 17 November 2009
Oh Yes, oh
No. First you leave an ailing Jon Anderson off the team sheet, callously
substituting him with a tribute band singer...from Canada...and the
French-speaking bit at that. Then you have the front to bring one of the
Grumpy Old Man's lads off the bench to fill-in on Dad's cape-wearing
To be sure, the omens were not good for Yes's latest visit to the Hammy
Odeopollo. Would it be a true representation of the Yes we know and love,
just Maybe or even a big fat No ?
In truth it was a game of offence and defence. On the one hand it
presented a unique opportunity for the new line-up to dust down the Yes
song-book to attack a fan-appeasing set-list of overlooked classics.
On the other
hand, how on Middle Earth would the band defend the challenge of
performing without the golden larynx and metacarpals of Most Valued Prog
Legends Anderson and Wakeman?
From both perspectives, the gig was largely successful, particularly from
a set-list point of view. From the trippy "Astral Traveller" from their
Yesterdays to the sappy "Onward" from 70s break-up album Tormato via the
dramatic Machine Messiah and Tempus Fugit from the short union between the
boys from Buggles and 3 yes men.
The gig was
a mass of contradictions. While Chris Squire's bass sounded a million
dollars, Alan White's drums sounded distinctly plastic ono for most of the
set. Steve Howe's guitar was precise, fluid and inimitable as ever, yet
many of the keyboard patches in Rick's kid's arsenal sounded more blue
square than premier league.
Stand-in vocalist Benoit David (that's right, not the other way round)
while lacking the effortless warmth and charisma of Accrington's finest,
did an admirable Jon-alike hitting all the dog-bothering notes with ease,
showing both humility and enthusiasm for such hallowed material.
The real test for Yes v10.0 was how they gelled on the classic long-form
songs. Things did not start well with a sloppy Siberian Khatru and a
little too laid-back All Good People.
perked up mid-set with a most graceful Yours is no Disgrace. Sans-Jon, the
imposing presence of bass goliath Chris Squire dominated, with his sweet
backing vocals at times overpowering the boy David. This lent a new
perspective to a number of tracks, such as as the divine South Side of the
Sky, where the counter melody was more prominent that the lead vocal.
Although not deliberate this was another intriguing aspect of the show.
The best was saved for last, with a perfectly pitched Heart of the Sunrise
turning into the inevitable Roundabout, that finally got the increasingly
appreciative audience on its feet.
applause, the band returned for a cosmic Starship Trooper, where at last
Rick's boy came good with a storming moogy solo that Dad would've been
So Yes, if you love the
band's musical legacy, the show was a flawed yet satisfying spectacle.
Anderson is easing himself back to match fitness with an ongoing solo
tour, yet Wakeman declares on his website that "Yes is no longer a part of
my life", so it remains to be seen if the "classic" line-up will ever join
forces again. Maybe. For now, at least 3 out 5 ain't bad.
I've Seen All Good People/
And You And I/
Yours Is No Disgrace/
Steve Howe acoustic solo (inc. Sketches in the Sun)/
Owner Of A Lonely Heart/
South Side Of The Sky/
Heart Of The Sunrise/
Review by Andy
Photos by Noel
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