8 May 2014

Yes at the Royal Albert Hall

It was a somewhat tortuous route of my own making that got me to see Yes in concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

I was slow to get tickets through indecision and then they sold out. I checked again much later and some gaps had appeared and when I finally convinced myself that I did want to go there was a brilliant seat available in the Loggia Stalls near the centre.

I am not sure why it took me so long to decide to go as my interest in Yes goes right back to the mid-70's and I had not seen them in concert before. Perhaps I was put off by my one Bob Dylan concert where another life-long idol failed to live up to my estimation or perhaps it was the line-up with no Jon Anderson or Rick Wakeman (who, incidentally, I had seen on an "evening with" tour).

It was obvious that my reservations were not shared and the Albert Hall was packed.

Not only was it busy but everybody seemed desperate to buy a t-shirt too and the merch stand was very busy despite being well staffed. I joined in and after some thinking I settled for the tour shirt based on the Yes Album cover. I like green.

My seat in the Loggia Stalls was even better than I expected from the booking process. It was virtually in the centre and was set a little above the stalls so it did not matter how tall the person in front of me was. I settled down in to my comfortable seat and prepared to be entertained.

The evening had a few surprises all of which worked out for the better.

The set-list was known in advance as Yes were playing three albums in their entirety, The Yes Album (1971), Close to the Edge (1972) and Going for the One (1977). However, I expected them in that order but Yes played them in the sequence Close to the Edge, Going for the One, interval, and then The Yes Album. That meant that they finished with what is arguably the most important of those albums.

The biggest surprise for me was the audience. Based somewhat on other concerts, and Roger Waters' in particular, I had expected a lot of loud singing-along, some shouting, a bit of dancing and a lot of talking. Not a bit of it. This lot were as well behaved as any at Glyndebourne. Until the encore anyway and you are meant to be a little lively then.

So having gone expecting to have my evening disturbed throughout I was, instead, able to relax and enjoy the music.

And what good music it was.

Jon Davison on vocals was close enough to the distinctive sound of Jon Anderson for the difference not to matter. Geoff Downes (keyboards) had been with Yes/Asia for so long that he almost counted as an original member. Then there were Alan White (drums), Chris Squire (bass) and Steve Howe (lead guitar) who had been there for all, or almost all, of Yes' long journey.

The first two albums were played pretty much to their original recordings and The Yes Album was extended slightly in places, which everybody was very pleased about.

I fought hard to be as well behaved as everybody else and managed to curtail my wish to sing to just mouthing the words and reduced my desired movements to just a bit of foot tapping and head shaking.

There was an encore, of course, and it had to be Roundabout; hence the Fragile image above.

The concert was as near to perfect as makes no difference. These were three stunning Yes albums that I have kept playing (and buying) since they came out played by a group that were both technically and artistically proficient.

Next time I'll be quicker to buy tickets.

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