looking for a few good ideas

  amongst the irregular verbiage

Yes, North American Tour, Paramount Theater, Seattle

Cluching our print-at-home-from-PDF ticketmaster tickets, Lisa and I entered the Paramount Theatre amongst a mixed-age crowd of happy yesfans. Inside, I looked for a stand with T-shirts, programmes, and other miscellania but I couldn't see anything obvious. Oh well, first show of the tour, probably like the last one, the merchandise wouldn't be available until later on in the tour.

We had pretty good seats on the second mezzanine level, it would have been excellent except for the hulking guys sitting in front of us. Can't complain too much, we still had an excellent view of the stage...

Until YES walked on to the happy sounds of the "Young Persons Guide To The Orchestra", at which point everyone stood up for a standing ovation to the guys. Now I am average height and could see ok if I stood up, but my wife is slightly vertically challenged to the point that she didn't even try standing up to see over the shoulders of the guys in front.

A brief satorial word about the Yes-men:

Steve - thin, with stage lights glinting off his spectacles, wearing dark pants and a black-and-white silk shirt. This time around he has limited his arsenal to 4 guitars: The ES-175D; The yellow "fat" telecaster; the pedal steel, and a classical guitar (I'm wrong - also the "close to the edge" 335 came out once or twice, as did the Steinberger 12-string.)

Jon - In terrific voice, better than ever. Not sure about the lime-green track suit though. He played backup guitar a lot on his strange-looking custom instrument - it looks a bit like a "travelling" acoustic, only with scrolls attached to the body, knobs for volume and MIDI (?) and, a nice touch this, the "Olias" pentangle thingy in the sound hole.

Chris - he's gained some weight, Lisa thought he looked a bit unhealthy, and he's grown his hair out so that the floor fan he has down by his pedal-board blows it around. Shades of Spinal Tap videos, but I guess it keeps him cool. No boots this time - neat black leathers with a bit of a shine.

Alan - same as ever. He's a dynamo.

Rick - A bit plump around the middle, but actually looks great, with flowing blonde locks, a sparkly silver "Matrix" overcoat over a white turtle-neck and black pants.

Let me say up front that the lighting was HORRIBLE! Spots wrong, cues missed, I hope this gets fixed later on.

On to the set list:

Siberian Khatru - A great but predictable opener. Everyone stood up an cheered at the Wakeman keyboard flourishes. Damn it, but that man has presence. I can't help it, I'm getting excited at the classic line-up. Steve has pretty good guitar tone, but the end solo lacked a little fire. Still good though.

America - I didn't expect this, and I must confess I was thinking "uh oh, it's going to be a replay of the same set list from last time Rick Wakeman played with the band, in San Luis Obisbo '96". By the time we got to the middle part of the song where Steve gets all fired up, I'd changed my mind. It's an exciting peice. Wakeman was clearly reading from a score/chord sheet on a stand in one corner of his keyboard array.

In The Presence Of - Wakeman made this work, even without the original orchestra. His piano introduction sounded like it was always meant to be that way. Wakeman was still reading the cues off a chart, with glasses, but he did ok. A few missed cues, but overall I didn't miss the orchestra. Jon Anderson forgot the words to the second section, but the band kept time in a holding pattern until he remembered them. The audience laughed along with him and shouted out suggestions.

South Side Of The Sky - They nailed this. What took them so long? THIS ROCKED. The alternating duel back-and-forth between Steve's guitar and Rick's minimoog on the outro in South Side Of The Sky was totally cool.

The Revealing Science - Um. This threatened to become a train wreck at more than one point. I hope this gets tightened up by the time I see them again in Vegas. Wakeman has a good solo in him somewhere towards the end, I just wish it would come out right!

Steve Howe Solo - the other guys left the stage, with Jon saying "We'll leave you in the capable hands of Mr Steve Howe!". Chris and Rick looked _very_ chummy at this point, arms round each other's shoulders.

The roadies brought a chair right out front and center, and Steve came up the front with his classical guitar and played two numbers:

- the acoustic section of The Ancient
- The Little Galliard.

When he'd finished, he came back to a mike and said, "Yes will take a short break, see you back here in 15 minutes!" and left the stage as the house lights went up.

An intermission at a Yes Concert? Does this mean a longer set, or does it mean they've gone backstage to figure out what to play next? Or to practice?

Fifteen minutes later, Jon wandered back on stage (this is a very casual, laid back, low-energy concert so far!) and picking up his special guitar, played a lovely tune I'd never heard before, I guess it might be called, "The Child With Everything". It was really good, I look forward to hearing it finished on a future Yes album, or on The Big If, Jon's solo project.

Towards the end of the peice, Wakeman wandered out and added additional keyboard textures.

Jon introduced "Mr Rick Wakeman" and Rick played a solo medley, including:

- Wondrous Stories (theme)
- And You And I (first part). It was strange hearing the 12-string part played on keyboards, but it worked, with Jon singing the verses.

Heart Of the Sunrise - The band came back and kicked into this, a competent redition of a largely predictable addition to the set list.

Magnification - this is a truly great song, the more I hear them perform it, the more I think it has the capability to become a true yes standard. Rick adequately replaced the orchestra, but there were a few somewhat inappropriate notes happening in their somewhere. Again, there was a cue sheet involved.

Don't Kill The Whale - the heavy metal version! Quite the heaviest song Yes played all night. At this point, though, I was beginning to feel that we weren't going to hear either On The Silent Wings Of Freedom or To Be Over...

"Here's a song about a fish!" said Chris exuberantly, and played the repeated harmonic riff of "The Fish". Chris and Alan proceeded to perform an exciting Bass and Drum solo, at one point going directly in to the intro of Silent Wings Of Freedom. "Excellent!" I thought. I could just see Rick and Steve coming back on stage to add their parts and for the band to kick in to the song proper...

...but I guess it doesn't really happen. Alan and Chris veered off into other territories (including SoundChaser and Tempus Fugit) and eventually Rick and Steve came back to finish up The Fish. I was quite disappointed.

Out came Jon's harp, and Yes finished up their set with "Awaken". This also needed further rehearsal, with serious threats of train-wreck tendancies. I've heard better...

Hopefully, they'll pull a surprise out of the catalogue for the obligatory encore. I shouldn't have been optimistic. They came back and played the short version of "Roundabout". Bah. I really think they should retire that for a while. Perpetual Change or No Disgrace or even Starship Trooper would have been good.

On the way down the stairs with the crowd, I noticed some tour T-shirts, the best one being the cover from Topographic Oceans (ironically, Rick's least favorate Yes album) on the front and the tour itinerary on the back. I still couldn't see the merchandise stand. I figure I'll get a T-shirt at the Vegas show next month.