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Yes Featuring Anderson, Rabin, Wakeman

Live at the Apollo

Review by Gary Hill

It seems that a common occurrence these days is for different factions within a classic band to form versions of the band and go out and tour. Well, it has now become a thing with Yes. I suppose that it actually happened years ago when Jon Anderson left the Rabin era group after Big Generator to form Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe.

Change is really a constant in the history of Yes. The band has one of the most dynamic and steadily shifting line-ups out there. That said, despite all the other changes, there really are two different approaches and eras of the group. The classic period of the band could be considered the Steve Howe era. The Trevor Rabin period in the 1980s was really, in terms of sound and textures, a completely different era of the group. It was focused perhaps a bit less on virtuoso musicianship and more on a dense vocal presence with multiple voices and a more screaming, almost heavy metal, guitar sound. Steve Howe's finesse was replaced with a lot of sheer power. That's an over-simplification for the sake of brevity, but it's reasonably accurate. In some ways, then, I think that it's appropriate that there are these two groupings out there representing both main eras of the band.

This live set captures the Rabin-era outfit in fine form. All three of the main players sound on top of their game here. I would say that perhaps they played it a bit safe in terms of the set-list. I saw the Rabin grouping several times in the 80s, and this seems pretty close to the expected set list from that time period (excluding the Talk tour which was quite different). Either way, though, it's a great way to revisit that sound. Also, I should add that this grouping does seem to lean a bit closer to the sound of the other era of the band than they did at the time. There might be some arguments about names and rights and stuff within the world of the musicians themselves. I've seen that spill out into fandom with various fans seeming to feel that you can only like one group or the other. I don't think that's the right answer. I think that perhaps we should look at it as more Yes music to love, and with two somewhat different flavors represented.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD 1
               
Intro / Cinema / Perpetual Change

A symphonic sort of introductory piece starts things for the show. Bits of "Perpetual Change" appear in this introduction, just done symphonically. They break into "Cinema" after that peaks, putting in a solid live performance of the instrumental number. They take it out into "Perpetual Change" from there after a count-in from Anderson. Wakeman's keys start it before it becomes a full band arrangement.  There's an almost playful nature to some of the mellower sections of this. It's an intriguing arrangement. The more rocking parts come closer what one expects. They turn in some killer jamming on the later instrumental movements.

Hold On
Wakeman puts in a cool keyboard jam accompanied by the rhythm section on this number. They launch into "Hold On" at the end of that with the introduction of Rabin's guitar. This is a screaming hot live rendition of the tune.
I've Seen All Good People
Here they do another cut from The Yes Album. They create some intriguing alternate flavors (particularly the flute sound) on this. They pull it out nicely on the rocking portions of this track, driving it upward.
Lift Me Up
I've always like this song quite a bit. The drums lead it off here, and they launch into an altered introduction on the piece. By the time it hits the main theme, though, we're in familiar territory. Rabin and Anderson both put in solid performances here. Wakeman's keyboards lend a bit of a different flavor. Overall, this is a solid performance that's mostly faithful to the studio take.
And You & I
This has been one of my favorites of Yes' music for years. This version is solid. It's not my favorite live take on the piece, but it's quite strong. I'd rank it above the performances they did on the 90125 tour, which never quite made it for me. While Rabin's guitar approach is very different from Steve Howe's, I kind of dig the more crunchy and intense take. This is a strong version.
Rhythm of Love
There is one Yes song in the whole history of the band that I really don't like. This is the one. This live version, though, works better than the studio one for me. They change the vocal arrangement at the start a bit, taking a bit of the Beach Boys element out of it. There are some odd little vocal changes at times on the later parts of this that don't work as well. That said, I did the keyboard textures on this thing a lot.
Heart of the Sunrise
Here we get a powerhouse rendition of a Yes classic that works really well. The mellower movement has a bit of a different flavor than I expect, but it is actually really cool. There are other variants in terms of texture. That said, I've seen Yes live something in the neighborhood of 17 or 18 times and listened to too many live recordings to count. Each show sounds a little different. That's true of shows on consecutive nights, so "Perpetual Change," really is the order business with any incarnation.
CD 2
         
Changes

One of my favorite tunes from the 90125 disc, they put in a solid live performance of the tune here. The contrast between Rabin and Anderson's voices has always been a big part of the effectiveness of this cut, and it is on this version, too.

Long Distance Runaround / The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)
The version of "Long Distance Runaround" here has a very different texture on this live performance. It takes on almost a reggae vibe. I'm not blown away by that decision, but it's an intriguing change. The rest of that first song is closer to the original and intriguing performance. I have some trepidation about the group even doing "The Fish." I mean, it was Chris Squire's trademark piece, so to do it without him seems a little odd to me. The other version of Yes has done Anderson's trademark "We Have Heaven" and Wakeman's "Cans and Brahms" without them, and I felt similarly about that. Beyond that, this arrangement really seems a lot different, and I think the lack of Squire's presence is felt pretty deeply.
Awaken
Rick Wakeman is purely on fire on the piano solo opening here, bringing a new passion and intensity to it. They do a smoking hot rendition of the piece, but it's not without its flaws. For one thing, the "stars" voice over some of the music is way too high in the mix, feeling a bit distracting and intrusive. That said, the spacey kind of building jam later in the piece gets some intriguing new angles and textures.
Make It Easy / Owner of a Lonely Heart
This two-fer was a staple of the live sets during the Trevor Rabin era, but the opening portion wasn't released as a studio recording for a long time.  Here they put in a solid performance of both cuts. They play it pretty straight until the end of the cut where they fire out into a killer keyboard and guitar jam fest. I'm thinking that Wakeman probably came out behind the keyboard wall with his keytar to duel with Rabin up close in that section. They really make that section shine, and it might be just about worth the price of admission all by itself.
Roundabout
I suppose you can't have a Yes show without "Roundabout." I'd say that of the Yes catalog, it's easily the most over-performed tune. That said, I think this version is pretty interesting. They start it with a more textural approach. They launch into a pretty energetic performance from there. The jam later in the track is especially effective, but there are times here where I again miss Chris Squire's bass playing.  I would say that they manage to bring some excitement and freshness to a piece that's often a bit tired from just being heard so many times. It's a strong way to end this in style.
 
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