Friday (March 24) saw English progressive rockers, Yes, play the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall; a grand, regal venue in Glasgow, Scotland. They were no intervals or support acts, just straight to business. Perhaps thankfully. Just prior to the gig it was announced there’d be a late sound check, putting things roughly half an hour off schedule.
There were strains of sitar music, ringing out its laidback, relaxing vibes. Very Middle Eastern. Deep humming reverberated throughout. Despite signs saying otherwise, stewards told those seated in the audience that there’d a relaxed policy on taking photographs, just to be wary of using flash. People whipping out iPads to take videos would be out the question, though.
The era of Yes in question was to be headed by vocalist, Jon Anderson; guitarist, Trevor Rabin and keyboardist, Rick Wakeman. Hence ARW (Anderson Rabin Wakeman) of album, Union (1991), era. These primary members were bolstered by bassist, Lee Pomeroy and drummer, Louis Molino III. The former member of the rhythm section of course taking place of the late, great bassist, Chris Squire.
Opener, “Cinema”, saw a cacophony of keyboards as the band took to the stage, Rabin then Wakeman, as ever, in a cape. Then, finally, Anderson came. Mighty guitar playing closed said opener.
“Perpetual Change” followed with thumping drum and guitar adjoined with heavy slabs of keyboard. The line of, “Inside out, outside in” ringing in and out beautifully. Lights flared in tandem with a blazing guitar solo. Bass then syncopated expertly with the guitar.
Sexy, triumphant guitar opened “Hold On”. Rising above all with, “Justice to the left of you, justice to the right”. Driving and striving with menace latterly. A gnarly guitar solo was swaggering. A refrain beautifully came together, vocally speaking. Another solo, wild, ripped in with something approaching reckless abandon.
“I’ve Seen All Good People” and its stripped back dynamics enabled the focus to be upon those glorious Yes vocals and to letting them breathe. The crowd then went in with their own clapping. Church organ blared in, bringing a punch of majesty to proceedings. Bold.
Then came the expert tempo change, rocking into those “good people”. Bass drum boomed as the crowd clapped. This then isolated to bring focus, once more, upon those vocals. A loud reception to that, indeed.
“…that’s what Rick told me to say” was the quip from Anderson when talking about the arguable superfluous nature of the some within the original eight-man line up for the original Union era. About half of which apparently did very little. This then cued a drum solo. The lights syncopated to create quite a spectacle.
Ascending guitar, glorious and searching, weighed in afterwards. “God, I hate this town; depending on the day” let you know, for sure, “Lift Me Up” had begun. Rabin was heartfelt in his vocals, with military rolls of the snare emphatic. Lead guitar then cut in with a flash before only the bass drum was isolated alongside vocal.
“And You And I” had slow, stabbing bass rhythm; the first time the bass guitar was heard so prominently that night. Lights practically circled the crowd as orchestral elements of the song came forth. “…terms of all expression” seemed to herald the rattling notes of Pomeroy’s Rickenbacker ringing out. Almost spontaneous clapping saw song strive forward, and also back to the lyrics of the chorus. Standing ovation for quite an epic performance.
The subsequent vocal arrangement was very Beach Boys. Then the driving rocker, the at least partially Van Halen “Rhythm Of Love” emerged. This saw a tapping laden solo, screeching and wild. Wailing keyboards were also wanting in on the action, too.
Then there was “Heart Of The Sunrise”, with Anderson preluding it with saying he needed a lie down and perhaps a cup of tea to go with it. This track was raucous and slightly menacing. The bass was breaking out, aswell, embellishing upon those original lines.
Tense strings gave way to relaxed, ponderous bass. Lighting and backdrop went wild as keyboards spat forth a flurry of notes. Another standing ovation. Raucous stuff for a prog rock crowd, wink wink.
“Changes” fared in with acerbic guitar with real bite. “I’m moving through some changes, I’ll never be the same” urgent and dramatic, the middle section searching. A bit more tepid response to this; bold, ambitious but somewhat losing its way.
“Never a day goes by I don’t think of Chris Squire…” was the touching Anderson preamble to “Long Distance Runaround”. The lyrics, evoking “cold summer” and the like, were picturesque and perhaps encapsulated the chasm and void left by Squire’s passing.
Indeed, “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)” endeavoured to play proper tribute to the man. This, of course, is the famous layered bass solo, one replicated live with what seemed to be some sort of looping pedal. Pomeroy was rightly claiming some reflected glory; but also added some chops of his own, too. Some came upon their feet at its conclusion, showing their appreciation.
A flurry of piano saw the start of guitars descending into impassioned madness, despairing of the horrors of life. “Awaken” was confirmed with the lines, “Touching you…all is left to you”. Anderson, on the harp, ensured a haunting rendition foreboding.
Keyboard evoked very much the medieval. Ambience wrung the track for all its worth. The backdrop blue and placid now that the song had returned to its core. Later it became a calm and ethereal aural experience. Sizeable standing ovation.
There was triumphant fanfare come the track perhaps most greatly anticipated, given the era that night, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”. The keyboards stabbing in with movie esque, Roger Moore 007, intrigue from Wakeman. The guitar hero moment from Rabin.
The former then wielded his keytar walking up the aisles amongst the crowd with Rabin. He later took his seat right in the middle of us all. The bass, still onstage, grooved with boundless joy. The extended workout veered off into “Sunshine Of Your Love” territory. Yet another mass ovation. The raucous crowd stomped and clapped.
If there was another track more greatly anticipated, it was “Roundabout”. They certainly didn’t disappoint, the perfect track for their encore. There was clapping in tandem with swinging drum. Everyone one was still on their feet. There was a ring of sizable menace before levelling back into the song’s proper.
The crowd sang back to Anderson as the rhythm section drove the song to an emphatic end. What followed was a majestic, showman like bow to the crowd. “Life On Mars” of David Bowie played out on the tannoy as the sizeable crowd filed out.
Words by Andrew Watson