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ConcertsYes return to the UK at Symphony Hall in Birmingham

Posted on Friday, November 27 2009 @ 16:08:10 CST by Pete Pardo
Progressive Rock

In the last two months of 1980 a Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman- less Yes line up toured the UK to a tepid reception in support of the Drama album. Former Buggles Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes have long since departed the ranks of Yes but some twenty nine years later the spectre of that tour looms large as Messrs Howe, Squire and White returned to the UK without both Anderson and Wakeman for the first time since that ill-fated 1980 jaunt. The pros and cons of touring without their former colleagues has been debated ad infinitum on forums worldwide but at the end of the day the trio are the current custodians of the Yes legacy. And at the first UK show for five years at Birmingham's luxurious Symphony Hall they did their utmost to ensure that legacy was treated with dignity and respect.

Inevitably it is Canadian vocalist Benoit David who is the main focus of attention as they enter with the strains of "Firebird Suite" leading into the opening flurry of "Siberian Khatru". Benoit appears relaxed and receives a warm welcome from the Birmingham audience. No Jon Anderson means the band are free to revisit Drama and Chris Squire introduces the punchy "Tempus Fugit" before Benoit finally addresses the crowd for the first time. Confessing to felling a little nervous he leads the band into a majestic "Onward"; a sleeper cut from Tormato that has lain dormant for some time the song is injected with a new sense of purpose with its very title seemingly describing the bands current state of affairs. "And You And I" is an emotionally charged rendition that brings about the first standing ovation and ensures Benoit's performance will be a triumph and there will be no repeat of the Horn-Downes era. Steve Howe steps forward to introduce "Astral Traveller" and Howe's performance tonight is nothing short of astonishing. With no interval and a set length running to 140 minutes Howe barely leaves the stage throughout and is simply inspired form. His solo slot is altered from the usual pairing of "Mood for a Day" / "The Clap" to bring about a welcome return of "To Be Over" before the obligatory "Owner of a Lonely Heart" which is the sole selection from the Rabin years. If Yes are to be applauded for including two tracks from Drama then equally something other than "Owner..." from the mid-80's would have been a welcome alternative but this is a minor quibble as the show tonight is flawless.

"Machine Messiah" makes a long overdue return to a Yes set and is greeted like a long lost friend; Benoit contributing some acoustic guitar to provide an authentic rendition. If Steve Howe is in inspired form then Chris Squire continues to be the glue that holds Yes together; prowling the front of stage during "Heart of the Sunrise" and clearly rejuvenated by the current shows. And if Benoit had big shoes (metaphorically speaking) to fill then what of Oliver Wakeman? A significantly less flamboyant and unfussy player than Wakeman, Snr, he stays in the background for much of the set before trading solos with Howe on "Heart..." and "Roundabout" and was clearly the right man for the job. Eventually they close with "Starship Trooper" and the first UK Yes show for this new line-up is an outstanding success. There is talk of a new album in 2010 and clearly the time is right for them to embrace the new lease of life that Benoit (and Oliver) have provided and take Yes onward into a new era.

Dean Pedley

Set List
Intro: Firebird Suite
Siberian Khatru
I've Seen All Good People
Tempus Fugit
Astral Traveller
Yours Is No Disgrace
And You And I
Steve Howe Solo / To Be Over
Owner Of A Lonely Heart
Southside Of The Sky
Machine Messiah
Heart Of The Sunrise
Starship Trooper

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