Yes – Royal Albert Hall

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Why this gig?

I’ve been a Yes fan for quite a while. The first album I bought was Going for the One back in 1977. Although they stopped releasing interesting new albums pretty soon after that, I still listened to a lot of their 70s stuff. But I never got round to seeing them live until November 2011. That show was a bit of a disaster. Their vocalist, Jon Anderson, was no longer with the band and it was all pretty poor. I vowed to never see them again.

And then they announced this show. Where they were going to play three albums – The Yes Album, Closer to the Edge and Going for the One – all the way through. I was tempted and went back on my previous vow.

Support

Don’t be silly. Yes are playing three whole albums. There’s no time for a support.

Headline

The problem with these shows where an artist plays an album (or three) all the way through is that they lose control of the set. They have to play the songs in the same order as on the album – that’s the rule. Yes have some flexibility here. They can choose the order that they play the albums. They choose not to go in chronological order and open with Close to the Edge. Which is a terrible idea.

The first song on Close to the Edge is the title track. And if you wanted to choose a track to represent the worst excesses of Yes’ music then this would be one good choice. It’s one side of the album (who remembers albums?) and it’s largely made up of unstructured instrumental noodling. Add to that the fact that tonight’s performance is rather lacklustre and it all adds up to one of the worst concert openings that I remember seeing.

And the band seem unrehearsed. Which seems astonishing, given that they’ve been touring this set for over a year.

Twenty minutes on, “Close to the Edge” ends and we get “And You and I”. This has always been one of my favourite Yes songs. The performance is better than “Close to the Edge”, but that’s not really difficult. The album ends with “Siberian Khatru” which has more punch than anything else on the album, but still sounds disappointing.

Then we get a brief welcome from Chris Squire and Steve Howe before they start Going for the One. It starts well, but then new vocalist Jon Davison slightly misses his entrance on the first lyric. It’s the worst mistake he makes all night, but he’s really not a patch on Jon Anderson. The rest of the album goes reasonably well – the final track, “Awaken”, being the highlight of the night.

After a twenty minute interval, they’re back for The Yes Album. This is a favourite of many fans. I had really been looking forward to seeing it played live, but given the performances we’ve seen so far, my expectations are lowering.

In the end, it’s not bad. Better than Close to the Edge was but, perhaps, not as good as Going for the One. During “Yours is No Disgrace” the screen at the back of the stage was displaying shots of the album cover. But it was clipped to just show Chris Squier and Steve Howe – the only performers on that album who are still with the band today. That seemed a little petty to me. It’s a good job they were standing next to each other in the photo!

The Yes Album features Steve Howe’s solo performance of “Clap” and tonight it allows him to nicely demonstrate that he has lost none of his classical guitar skills. It’s another of the evening’s high spots.

And then we have the “playing the album in order” problem again. “Perpetual Change” is played competently, but it’s really not the climax that you would choose for the end of a gig. So after a break exit, the band return for an encore of “Roundabout” from Fragile.

As I said, I was tempted back because they were playing three of their classic albums all the way through. But, actually, that causes a few problems as you can’t pace a concert properly if you’re playing songs in such a rigid order. That might have been OK if it wasn’t for the fact that the band themselves really weren’t in good form.

This time I’m really not going to bother again.

Well, unless Jon Anderson is playing with them.

The setlist is on Setlist.fm.

4 thoughts on “Yes – Royal Albert Hall”

  1. Sorry mate you’re totally wrong or at the wrong gig. The band were awesome. That was evident from the standing ovation after every song and at the end. Ive seen them numerous times and while I miss JA ( who just can’t manage these gigs nowadays) the new guy is the closest you will get to him. I thought he handled it superbly, great singer and was appreciated and applauded warmly by the crowd. I found the whole concert excellent and moving.

  2. I was at that gig having seen Yes numerous times since the Relayer tour. I agree with the comments about the rigid setlist. Yes, the applause and ovations were rapturous, but the sound was terrible for most of the gig. It sounded like it was being played in a toilet. For CTTE, the drummer was inaudible. Steve forgot to turn his Pedal Steel guitar on at one point! Maybe I was too close and the sound was better at the back. People around me agreed to a certain extent. The worst Yes gig I have been to, since the Hammersmith Apollo gig with Benoit David, which considering they had performed together in the US before coming to the UK, was a surprise. And I didn’t subscribe to the “Yes tribute” jibe; I went with an open mind, but it was just a poor performance. Chris Squire didn’t look like he was enjoying himself. So back to RAH, the band played well and seemed to be enjoying themselves – but the visuals were low key. Expected better. So looking forward to next album, which hopefully will include a tour in support – and I’ll be there again.

  3. You’re right about the sound engineering: It was disappointing. Otherwise, this was a magical show. A tremendous performance. I saw them three previous times on the “3 Albums Tour” – the first right at the beginning in San Francisco and most recently before the Albert Hall in Glasgow. Each performance was better than the one before it and yet each was a rocking great show. Sorry you missed it but, as you point out in your observation of the the crowd, not many others did. It was an awesome show. Legendary.

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