For a band with as distinguished a history as Yes, these are relatively choppy times.
Perpetually changing their personnel has done them no real favours, and for some fans their last album, Heaven & Earth, was at best a little restrained. The long-term absence of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman hasn’t aided their cause either, and with Anderson‑alike vocalist Jon Davison now fronting the band, there have been snide comparisons to tribute acts from some quarters. However, the reality is that if you still want to see Yes perform live, then this is the only line-up prepared, or able, to head out on the road.
In a striking, unexpressed acceptance that Heaven & Earth might have fallen short of their genre-defining standards, the band opted to avoid performing any of that album during the concert recorded here. Instead, both Going For The One and The Yes Album were performed in their entirety – a wise decision but also a disconcerting one. Have Yes accepted their days of writing fresh, articulate and exquisite music are behind them? Let’s hope not, because this double DVD/CD set provides more than enough evidence to demonstrate that as a live act, the band still have plenty to offer.
Performing Going For The One was a masterful decision, moving the band away from the predictability of Close To The Edge and Fragile, and containing such eminently graceful pieces as Wondrous Stories and the ever-dazzling Awaken. Davison’s vocals remain eerily reminiscent of Anderson’s, so much so that after a few minutes of listening, you almost forget the latter’s absence. Of course it’s not Davison’s fault that he’s replacing the long-revered singer, and his unflagging, polished simulation is laudable.
The same can be said of Geoff Downes, who, while sharing some attributes with Wakeman, is stylistically diverse enough to add a different dimension. Despite that, aside from natural solos, he’s frequently lost in the mix here. It’s a squandering of talent that’s frustrating, but his absence ironically gives the band a rawness in parts that provides a rare, invigorating impetus to songs such as Going For The One and Starship Trooper.
Yes devotees will unquestionably make fault-finding comparisons to previous pivotal live albums such as Yessongs. With a band as talented as this, they can hardly be accused of sloppiness, but there are admittedly sporadic failings. This may not therefore be a career-defining live recording, but with the re-formation of their classic, Close To The Edge line‑up looking increasingly unlikely, this is a genuinely worthy and apposite representation of the band’s music.