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Open Your Eyes Tour

The Dome - Brighton, England - 21 April 1998

Yes Ticket

Concert Review   © 1998 Russell W Elliot

Last Updated: 02 May 1998

Twenty three years ago the big progressive rock bands favoured by United States East Coast university students included Renaissance, Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer as well as numerous others. These were my favourites. After following them for three years very heavily, that year I saw both Renaissance and Yes for the very first time. I saw Yes in Barton Hall -- a huge box of a building with absolutely awful acoustics -- at Cornell University. The show featured the full-side long songs from their then new double album Tales From Topographic Oceans and it made a big impression on me. The sound, overall performance and unique Roger Dean stage effects were spectacular. Loud progressive rock music with glorious lights, wonderful colours and futuristic mechanical effects characterised the show.

While many bands like Yes have been through serious changes, their lineup -- with its starts, stops and interludes -- is once again whole with Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White forming the backbone. The band was revitalised through a variety of inter-related circumstances in 1996. Contributing factors likely include include a large and extremely loyal -- even intense -- fan base, a completely soldout reunion concert -- more an event which was ultimately captured on a stunning professional video and two live albums -- and a subsequent studio recording session. Their current world tour, with yet further changes, is now a testament a successful reunion in parallel with the individual projects each of the members are involved in.

Perhaps someday a similar story will be written about Renaissance.

Brighton is just under an hour away and The Dome seemed like the right venue to see Yes this year. After all it's been twenty three years since seeing them last; how could we miss a concert by one of our favourite bands when it was so close? The tickets were some of the most expensive we've bought so we hoped it would be a good show. We bought early and got great seats too. It turns out the seats are very close together and that's probably the one factor against seeing another concert in The Dome. We learned upon our arrival that getting good seats is really important. The centre section or balcony is the place to sit for a band like Yes. Forget anything on the side; you can't see anything because the huge speaker arrangement would be in the way.

At about 8:10PM, the "Firebird Suite" excerpt that was used to open the last Yes show I attended came on and the lights went out. Fond memories from years ago and other images came into my mind as the current members of Yes walked onto the stage and took their position. The recording faded out and the show opened with "Siberian Khatru" to absolutely wild acclaim. The Yes fans from the south coast of England were all here. And wow were we in for a show.

For this tour, the band included official members and their new keyboard player who at this time is still a "guest." Jon Anderson sang lead vocals and jumped in with percussion and guitar at times. Steve Howe played a vast array of lead guitars as always and sang as well. Chris Squire delivered vocal harmonies and played his almost-unique lead guitar version of bass complete with pedals. Alan White played drums. New Yes member Billy Sherwood joined in for vocals and played a backing kind of guitar except for one riff. Igor Khoroshev played keyboards and sang backing vocals as well.

The band were all in top form, but Howe and Squire won our votes for the stars of this show. Jon Anderson's vocals were outstanding at most times, but there were lapses where the end of this leg of the tour took away some of his magic. We certainly thought Alan White was excellent on drums and thoroughly enjoyed Igor's keyboards. Billy Sherwood seemed to be having an "off night" but we've never seen him before so he might be more laid back than the others.

The virtuosity of Steve Howe is something to behold. He is the consummate guitarist, at home with a Spanish guitar, a Martin or his Gibson ES.[*] Steve moves between guitars frequently and engages the audience with his unique facial expressions and body movements. He is able to create sounds with his instruments that at times border on the supernatural while sounding so totally traditional at other times. And then there's the inbetween. He can sure play a wide range of guitars and has a knack of holding your interest while doing so.

Chris Squire plays bass as if it were a lead guitar and makes no bones about it. Some might say he shows off. Squire gets into what's going on and he lets you know it every minute he's on stage. The interaction with the other band members he achieves is superb and it contributes to the overall energy of the show. He must be seen live to be appreciated.

The concert with the two encores ran just shy of three hours which is amazing to us because these guys have been doing this kind of thing for a long time, at least twenty three years by my calendar! Here's the set list as we got it:

Siberian Khatru
Rhythm Of Love
Open Your Eyes
And You And I
Heart Of The Sunrise

Steve Howe Guitar solos:
Mood For A Day
Diary Of A Man Who Vanished[**]

From The Balcony
Wonderous Stories

Igor Khoroshev Keyboard Solo

Long Distance Runaround
including Chris Squire Bass solo
and Alan White Drum solo from
Tales From Topographic Oceans

Owner Of A Lonely Heart
The Revealing Science Of God
All Good People/Your Move

Starship Trooper

Yes released their latest studio album Open Your Eyes in the United States in late 1997. It was released in the United Kingdom some time later but has yet to be heavily promoted. Jon Anderson mentioned however that it was sold in a nearby Tesco who are a large United Kingdom supermarket chain. The album has received significant discussion in the trade press and on the internet and opinions differ widely on it. This concert included a couple of tracks from the new album, but as can been seen from the set list it focused more on the band's prior successes and compares more favourably to the live tracks from the two albums Keys To Ascension and Keys To Ascension 2. The set did not include any songs from the studio tracks made in the same time frame and recorded on the second CD of each of these double albums unfortunately. The live versions of the two tracks from Open Your Eyes worked better on stage than on the studio recording.

Visually this Yes concert was substantially different than the last one I saw. Although he was actually in the audience on this very evening, gone were the legendary Roger Dean stage effects. A simpler approach was taken with lighting that was quite good but not excellent. There were two effects that worked quite well. During "Heart Of The Sunrise" a slide of a sun was used in a number of effective ways quite different from anything else that was done. Another effect was a turquoise fog that was used during one of the encores. The effects of stars during "Starship Troopers" and another couple of tracks was also neat but not terribly original. The lights were done well overall, but they were perhaps a bit simpler than we expected for Yes.

The acoustics and associated engineering were both outstanding. Although there were just a couple of unwanted audible artifacts, they were in between the songs. We were amazed at what Jon could do with his mike without unwanted feedback squeals. This can only be done with top engineering talent. The concert was very very loud -- surprisingly so. And it got louder as the show progressed and by the encores it was almost deafening, but the system could handle it distortion-free. We were left with ringing ears afterwards which also reminded us of concerts twenty three years ago. The ringing ears and feeling of cotton in them is one of those wonderful concert souvenirs. Ours lasted through the night and was almost gone by morning.

Every concert should result in a favourite song from the show. I had a very difficult time picking one in this show as so many of them were so good. So two have been picked, interestingly they are "Starship Troopers" and "And You And I." The two songs differ somewhat although basically from the same era; they both showed off the individual talents of the players as well as the band playing as a whole. The version of "Troopers" performed also included solos and as the closing number it has left another lasting impression on us.

We're certainly ready to see Yes again and hope the guys stay together and come around again soon. However we hope they evolve their style away from the new sound of Open Your Eyes. We'd like to hear new music with a sound more in the direction of the music they did earlier in their career. If you haven't ever seen Yes or it's been a long time, go see them. And fasten your seatbelt because it's going to be another great show. If you can't do that, get the Keys To Ascension CDs and give the live tracks a good listen. With a good imagination and lots of volume, a vision of the band will appear in your mind and you won't have to Open Your Eyes to see them.

[*] My sincere thanks to Graham Lubin who wrote some wonderful remarks about Steve Howe after seeing the final Yes show of their European tour on 24 April 1998 at The Apollo Hammersmith in London. I have stolen two sentences shamelessly for this review as they perfectly expressed my own views on his performance.

For more information about Yes and the band members, check out these links to their official internet sources:
Yes Magazine - The Offical Yes Fanzine
YesWorld - The Yes Online Service
Notes From The Edge - The Internet Yes Source

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