In full flight

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I waited too long to lose my Yes virginity.

From my seat near the back of Brighton Dome this is evident from the sea of heads arrayed before me: white or bald or both, almost to a man. And man is the operative word – this is the first gig I’ve ever been to where there’s been a massive queue for the gents’ but none for the ladies’. Current Yes singer Benoit David would be forgiven for feeling similarly – being nearly two decades younger than the rest of the band

‘Yours Is No Disgrace‘ is not the most auspicious start – played at a somewhat slower tempo than its original incarnation on The Yes Album these days it is further slowed by an extended solo from Steve Howe, something that could have waited ’til later in the set. Opening numbers need to be punchy and this, great song though it is, didn”t quite fit the bill. Happily, ‘Tempus Fugit’ from the Drama album picks up the pace somewhat and it’s good that this Anderson-less line-up are exploiting the opportunity to air some Drama material mixed in with the old classics and new tracks from Fly From Here. ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ is a dead-cert crowd pleaser with those trademark vocal harmonies; on which subject I’ve received a belated lesson on how much of a contribution both Chris Squire and Steve Howe contribute to the distinctive Yes vocal sound. On his own, David often doesn’t sound that much like Jon Anderson, bringing his own style to bear on familiar songs and revitalising them in the process.

The band seem relaxed and at ease, as well they might be; they’re old pros at this and it’s clear that the audience are on their side from the off.  The new material goes down well and, I’m pleased to say, doesn’t pale by comparison to the more established fan favourites. After a brief interval in which an overenthusiastic fan is ejected for upsetting his neighbours, we are treated to the entire ‘Fly From Here’ song cycle. This is an undoubted highlight of the show as well as the album, as are ‘Life On A Film Set‘ and ‘Into The Storm‘ which also feature tonight.

Howe gets a solo spot proper after ‘FFH’ and in contrast to some of his electric work tonight which is untidy in a Page-ey way, he shows that his fingers are still nimble on the acoustic as he plays ‘Solitaire’ and ‘Clap’ (during which   the audience do just that) back to back. The change of pace works well and sets us up nicely for another epic ‘And You  And I’.

Despite – or maybe because of – the epic qualities and sheer length of much of the material, the night really flies by (no pun intended). It’s heartening to hear that the new material sits comfortably amongst the old: the constant flux of personnel – bassist Chris Squire is the only original member – within the Yes camp has ensured that they have never become stale whilst – miraculously – retaining a distinctive ‘Yes-ness’ and the level of audience appreciation never flags for a minute. If I was put up against a wall and threatened with a loaded firearm I might gripe that there’s not a great deal of audience interaction – David, despite his obvious vocal prowess doesn’t appear to have found his feet as a frontman; and being in a seated venue restricts audience interaction somewhat. But witha band of this vintage I’m mostly just pleased that I got to see them whilst they can still do a creditabvle job with their vast canon and whilst they don’t appear to be showing any signs of throwing in the towel you never know when they might call it a day (I’m still kicking myself for missing the last Genesis tour in 2007).

On the general ambience I was impressed by the light show which enhanced without being overpowering (the mini-film avec Trevor Horn cameo during ‘Fly From Here‘ was particularly apposite) and The Dome is a perfect venue for this kind of show, striking a nice balance between club and arena.

All in all, a very good show indeed.

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