Colston Hall Say YES in May with Delight
Yes, are back in Bristol. Colston Hall is full on a sunny May evening. The hall is energised with a prog rock vibe as memories are re-told and shared as the minutes on the clock tick around until seated we all wait for the show to begin. Tonight was a chance to hear two albums from Yes discography, Drama and Fragile from beginning to end.
Lights are low and a Rickenbacker Bass is place centre stage with a spotlight a tribute redolent with dignity and emotions. Chris Squire rembered through a video tribute and the swirling memories for many of the audience. His passing last year after a tragic illness left a huge place to fill. Chris Squire wanted Yes to play on, Billy Sherwood was his choice who should pick up the bass. The music played was Onward from Tormato, the emotional audience applauded the life of a virtuoso bass player that added so much to the sound of Yes.
The first act of the concert tonight was Drama with a backdrop reflecting the music. Opening with Machine Messiah we were off on a musical ride courtesy of Yes, the lights flashed with numbers and machines this was music up close, personal and the acoustics hummed with delight. Into The Lens, had the audience singing to the line ‘I am a camera’. What a delight with a camera/phone embargo everyone focused intently on the stage, no one viewed the gig through the back of a camera through choice or not. This intense concentration of the audience gave the music space to cascade the falls and shaping of notes and words to swirl unimpeded around the packed to the rafters Colston Hall.
Tonight proved Fragile/Drama combines into a concert that lingers long after the fading of the music and the house lights go up. Time waits for no-one and Tempus Fugit the bass playing from Billy was deep and intense just as it should be a brought the wonderful live rendition of Drama to life. Drama is a mix of Yes with clang of melodic metal in Machine Messiah and the shortest in the Yes repertoire White Cars. Before the intermission Time and Word, from the 1970 album of the same title was played as a tribute to Prog Rock guitarist Peter Banks, Steve Howe’s predecessor who died in 2013. Closing the first set Steve Howe revealed Steven Wilson is re-mixing Tales from Topographic Oceans in 5.1 next year; a chance to rediscover a concept album that was often talked of disparagingly and yet at the same time it was an intriguing enigma. Then Siberan Khatru, Don’t Kill The Whale, Owner of a Lonely Heart. Three tracks that seared into your music memory bank. What an opening set and we had more treasures to hear.
With a collective breath the audience got ready to immerse themselves in Fragile. The album is anything but Fragile. Roundabout, often heard but the rest is a pleasure. Now for the keys to take centre Stage, Cans and Brahms. Geoff Downes on a bank of keys was superlative his fingers danced across the keys with a delicacy and form. His feet choreographed with step perfect precision as he danced across the pedals changing tempo and textures of the keyboard. Magnificent.
Everyone was waiting in anticipation for Billy Sherwood to step forward to showcase The Fish a piece forever associated with Chris Squire. As Long Distance Runaround faded the bass picks up and the huge appreciative applause reflects that he did good tonight. Fragile was drawn to a conclusion with Heart of the Sunrise the music soared we wanted more.
Tonight was more that the playing of two albums, this was a prog-rock classical concert. Steve Howe on guitar was spellbinding, his acoustic solo, Mood For a Day, breathtaking, the mixing of electric guitar mesmerizing and lap steel casually dragged into and out of position with a foot added to the theatre. The vocal prowess of Jon Davison who hits seemingly impossible high notes with a purity of a choir boy. He has shaped the lyrics and approach so that they are his interpretation and they work. With Alan White sitting behind an impressive array of drums Yes is in safe hands – what two albums would you like heard in full the next time they tour. Before they go the encore lifted the roof as Starship Trooper entered the auditorium, standing ovations long and enthusiastic, and deserved. The performance was impeccable.
What a night of glorious prog rock the performances were masterful. A timely reminder how powerful an album is when you listen intently from beginning to end as originally intended. All too often in this day-and-age of instant music the random button gets pushed. Every Yes album is a work of art from the cover, sleeve notes and from the first to last note tonight we had the pleasure of hearing the art live.