(All Album Reviews by Sean)
Yes has been very good about capturing most every lineup in live form via CD or DVD and this is a document of their recent one featuring Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White, Oliver Wakeman and singer Benoit David. No doubt one of the most controversial lineups yet for the band and one that has managed to divide the band's already splintered, dysfunctional fan base all the more. Much brouhaha has been made over the changes. Could they pull it off without their cherubic front man Jon Anderson? Can it even be Yes without him? This CD/DVD shows that yes, it is possible.
I imagine by now you are familiar with the events that led to this particular lineup coming together so I won't bore you with the details. Bottom line is it did and you can either cope with the changes or move on. Anytime the band has a lineup change the question of how they will sound live comes up. Can they pull it off as well as ______ did? This is a spirited set that seems to confirm that the band can still deliver a show worthy of the Yes name and grandeur.
For many fans what keeps us coming back to see a classic act like Yes time and time again is variation in the set list. If they offer some freshness I am always up for seeing songs that haven't been done live in decades, or new ones. That was definitely the appeal of this tour. A chance to hear a couple cuts from their underrated Drama album, "Tempus Fugit" and the mini-epic "Machine Messiah" (not played since 1980) along with Yes v1.0 tune "Astral Traveler" (not played since 1970) were enough to pique my curiosity once again.
The show I caught was actually better than some I have seen with Jon. I think it all boils down to chemistry on stage. It was a lot more relaxed with this lineup, almost playful at times. Steve Howe in particular seemed to be rejuvenated and played with a sense of urgency I didn't always hear since he returned to the fold. He really shines here, like he is happy to have some space. This one if a must for his fans.
Oliver Wakeman turns in a colorful performance as well. It was sometimes hard to make out what he was playing in the mix live but here his level is even with the band and this set reveals that he was playing some pretty awesome stuff. He has a good reverence for the work of past keysmen like his dad Rick, Tony Kaye and Geoff Downes. I think it's nice there is a live document of his time with the band, he deserves something to remember his hard work by.
New front man David rises to the occasion and does conjure up the sound of a young Anderson at times. I won't say he's better than Jon, as they say "ain't nothin' like the real thing", but he's solid and fills the shoes about as well as anyone could. There's few men out there that can sing in Jon's range and style, so finding Benoit was a real bit of luck. He does Trevor Horn's vocals well too, maybe better than Horn did live himself. That said, I think it's good he was able to sing on an original album from the band and be himself a few months later and share his own vocal style as well.
What initially drew me to this release was the bonus DVD. It has about an hours worth of interviews and live footage. Two complete songs are included too, "Roundabout" and a really killer version of "Machine Messiah". These are really filmed nicely. I hope one day they can release the whole show on DVD.
The mix on this CD/DVD is excellent. It really is the clearest, punchiest live album/DVD they have released since Howe returned. Squire and White in particular really cut through nicely and have some ooomph I don't hear on past releases like their House of Blues set or even the 2003 Montreux show. I think this is a worthy addition to your live Yes collection and a good snapshot of this particular lineup.