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Yes

Like It Is: Live at the Mesa Arts Center

Review by Gary Hill

Yes recently did a couple of tours where they performed some of their studio albums in their entirety. This live recording comes from one of those shows. The albums performed here are Close to the Edge and Fragile. It’s important to note that since this album was released, bass player and Yes founder Chris Squire died. That makes this one of the final documents of his musical performance. It would be worth having for that reason alone, but there is plenty more to like about this.

I know there are those who complain about this lineup or that of the band. I’ve seen Yes quite a few times over the years and heard numerous live recordings in addition to that. I can tell you that a Yes show is kind of a living, breathing thing. Every lineup of the band brings something different to the table, but it’s all worthwhile. I’ve never seen any two shows that were exactly the same – even shows on the same tour. I really do like these performances a lot and they are welcome to my Yes collection. In addition to the two CDs in this set, there is a DVD of the same show. It is shot professionally and features great video and audio quality.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1

   
Close to the Edge

Steve Howe really shines on the opening chaotic section. This is quite a cool live rendition. I’ve heard this song live so many times that it’s hard to differentiate different versions sometimes. Still, this is a very effective take on the piece. I would say that one annoyance I found with it is that sometimes Jon Davison pronounces “get” as “git.” On the mellower movement, Chris Squire has a particularly inspired bass fill/solo. You can really hear Squire’s voice prominently on that mellower movement, too. As they come out of that mellower movement there are some definite differences in the keyboard parts. The thing is, it still works. It’s also not the first time that Yes have made changes to the arrangement of a song. If you’ve heard as many live shows as I have, you know that no two shows are exactly the same, anyway. I like this version. It’s noticeably different, but I like it. In fact, some of the later keyboard soloing actually enhances the sound with the different voicing and arrangement, as far as I’m concerned.

And You And I

The arrangement on this feels different at times. Still, it’s the same song, and quite a strong live version. I love the multiple layers of vocals – they seem more prominent here. The whole song flows really well. Over the years, at times this song has featured harmonica playing (by Chris Squire) in the live performance. I’ve always liked that touch, and this version is one of those performances.

Siberian Khatru

This has always been one of my two or three favorite Yes songs. This live version works extremely well.

Disc 2
    
Roundabout

This is one of the classic Yes songs. It’s delivered fairly faithfully. That said, the acoustic guitar break mid-track feels a bit rushed. Beyond that, this is really a great live recording of the song. I’ve heard this song live so many times, along with the studio version over and over again, though. For that reason, to me, it can be a little stale, and sort of something you have to get through.

Cans and Brahms
Rick Wakeman’s solo piece from the Fragile album, Geoff Downes does a pretty respectable take on the number. It’s not Wakeman, of course, but it’s quite good.
We Have Heaven
Now we have Jon Anderson’s solo piece. This works pretty well in this live rendition.
South Side of the Sky

This is definitely my favorite Yes song. I remember how happy I was the first time I got to hear it live. This rendition is quite similar to that one. The song is played a bit slower than the album rendition. It works quite well, though.

Five Per Cent for Nothing

If there is a cut that fails here, it’s this one. The timing seems off, and the whole piece feels a little sloppy. That said, this was Bill Bruford’s solo piece from the original album, and I don’t think it was every intended to be played live. The timing is quite odd and would be incredibly hard to get right.

Long Distance Runaround

Another classic Yes song, over the years, this piece has taken on sounds that made it feel quite different from the studio rendition. This live take is far closer to the version on the Fragile album than just about any live version I’ve heard before. It’s a breath of fresh air in some ways. That said, Davison does some odd things with the delivery of “dream,” stretching it to a couple syllables. That feels a bit awkward to me.

The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)

Here we get Chris Squire’s solo piece. Now with his passing, this really stands as a tribute to his talent.

Mood for a Day

Steve Howe’s acoustic guitar solo, this still holds up so well, all those years later.

Heart of the Sunrise

I remember Chris Squire once saying that this song was the ultimate Yes song, showcasing the various aspects of the group in one piece. This live version, completely with some awe-inspiring soloing from Mr. Squire, really works extremely well. The instrumental section around the eight minute mark does feel a bit odd at times. It’s both in tone and timing. That said, it doesn’t really take away from the piece, but rather add a different flavor to it.

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