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Yes

Live in Rosemont, IL, May 4th, 2004

Review by Gary Hill

The last couple Yes shows it seemed that the band was just getting better and better live. Probably a lot of this was due to heightened excitement and energy from the return of Rick Wakeman. That vitality must have waned just a little as this show was not quite as good as those two. Still, it was a great concert. It just didn't live up to the expectations brought on from those earlier tours.

I had really been looking forward to the much heralded Roger Dean designed stage set. Dean is my favorite artist, and I had yet to see any of the stages he created for the band. That, like the rest of the show was a mixed bag. The Dean work consisted of several parts. One piece, a giant crab like structure hovering above the group was one of the effective pieces. This served many times as a dramatic ceiling, catching and reflecting the lights from the stage. This was especially potent during the band's acoustic jam. The more intimate setting there allowed for the crab to seem more immediate. Far less effective were the large pieces at the back of the stage. These, I believe, were fashioned to look like parts of the Tales From Topographic Oceans cover. They did this well enough for me to recognize them as such, but the overall effect was that they looked like huge inflatable pool toys. They rather took away from the drama of the show because of the absurdity and cheapness that they conveyed. Far more effective, though, were the large cauldron looking structures that surrounded Alan White's drum kit. These worked well throughout the show, their purple structure and green mallet accents setting an otherworldly atmosphere. One point in the show gave them special significance, but we'll get to that part in a bit.





As to the music - as the familiar Firebird Suite wound down we were treated to the seldom played live "Going For The One". Although I would have preferred "Parallels" from the same album, this was a great inclusion, as it was one I had never experienced live first hand. The band tore through the high-energy rocker, setting off the show in fine form. This was to be one of several firsts for me at this show. The next was when they launched into "Mind Drive" from the Keys To Ascension discs. This cut worked exceptionally well live, taking on an out of this world texture. They even split it up, moving on to other songs, then coming back later in the set. This use of the cut as a framing device worked especially well. Although not a first, getting to hear "South Side of the Sky" live again was a treat. It seems that Howe and Wakeman are getting more and more intense in their musical "combat" at the end of the piece. I should add that Howe in particular played like a man on fire at this show. Never have I seen him come at his guitar work with such intensity and fury. He really seemed to be enjoying himself more than I had seen before.

Back to the firsts, I also got to experience live for the first time "Footprints", "Turn of the Century" and "Wonderous Stories". Of those, the two from Going For The One were the most effect, but I have never been a huge fan of "Footprints". The band also included an acoustic set that was mentioned a bit in the opening section of this review. They all gathered round on stools mid-stage and performed. This added a level of intimacy to the show, but I felt somehow that this was less appropriate in the arena setting than it would have been in the smaller venues the band has been playing on the last few tours. This set consisted of "The Meeting", "Long Distance Runaround", the aforementioned "Wonderous Stories", "Roundabout" and Steve Howe's solo. I have to say that I would have preferred the electric version of "Long Distance…". However, something interesting happened with "Roundabout". After seeing Yes time and time again I had gotten rather bored, as I gather the band have, with live renditions of "Roundabout". Apparently in preparing new material for their retrospective disc set that came out earlier, the group have reworked the classic. In creating an acoustic performance they have turned it into a bluesy sort of number that works extremely well. In my book, they have added quite a few more years' life into this as a live piece.


As to the rest of the show, there were both high and low points. Getting the worst out of the way first, I need to mention "Rhythm of Love". This has always been, in this reviewer's opinion, the worst track from the band's catalog, bar none. I really do not like this one at all. I must say, though, Steve Howe certainly found a way to shred on this cut, and Jon Anderson added a nice touch by delivering the piece while strolling through the audience. These two factors made this an almost enjoyable experience. Now to the good side of things - the band did "Ritual", as they had on the Masterworks tour. During that show Igor Khoroshev, Anderson, White and Squire all took to drumming as part of the rhythmic mid-section of the piece. This time around it was Anderson, White and Squire back at it. That brings us to those Dean creations surrounding White. They resembled both cauldrons and kettledrums. As the group launched into their percussive marathon, the mallets above these started moving in time, seemingly a multitude of mechanical drummers joining in the fray. It was a very effective sight. Overall the lighting in this segment was quite cool.

That pretty much covers the main show. The encore, though, included the band's cover of the Beatles' "Every Little Thing", dating back to Yes' first album, all the way back to 1969. This was another Yes piece I had never seen played live, and it was a treat. Howe's presence was especially welcome here. All in all this show was quite good, just not quite up to what they had done on the last couple times around. I have to add that it was nearly standing room only in the 18,000 seat All State Arena. This was definitely the biggest crowd I have seen Yes draw in many years. Hopefully this means the band is starting to become the concert draw that they were at one time. This would be a good thing for them, their fans and fans of prog in general. I for one and anxiously awaiting the Summer tour now.



This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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