The environment for the show wasn’t the best. An outdoor amphitheatre that isn’t really designed for a concert. Late summer and muggy. The crowd the type that is a little comfort entitled and thinking itself know what “real” music is. Fortunately, on that night, September 3, 2017, Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman made possible getting to see an era of the band Yes that is often overlooked as well as some deep cuts from the band’s classic 70s catalog.
Though an outdoor show the sound was somehow dialed in with a vivid clarify that allowed the aforementioned band members to shine through the dense air and late twilight. Taking roughly half the set from the band’s most commercially successful 80s albums, 90125 and Big Generator, Yes ARW started the show off with the instrumental “Cinema.” The song as it originally appeared on 90125, was a nod to the short-lived band of the same name in which Rabin, Alan White and the late Chris Squire performed after Yes split for a couple of years in the early 80s. Maybe it’s reading too much into the gesture, but it was a subtle and classy way to honor the legacy of Squire to start things off with that song.
Anderson’s voice many of us have heard most of our lives and you take hearing his truly unique and musical vocals in Yes songs for granted. But live his command of his native instrument in the context of a rock band, even one as dynamic and nuanced as Yes, was impressive. Perhaps none more so than in the sprawling “And You And I.” Wakeman’s synth work on the song is breathtaking just hearing it on the radio or on the record but having those brightly colorful atmospheres envelop you with the sheer volume of the sound system had an augmented power to transport you to the spaces beyond mundane human experiences of the song.
Rabin sometimes comes off like a jazz fusion guitarist and if that’s not your thing it can be distracting. But if you allowed yourself to take in his masterful turns on “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “Hold On” and “Rhythm Of Love,” it’s like his tone and style is something of the missing link between John McLaughlin and the more imaginative industrial and experimental metal guitarists of the late 80s and 90s in his use of texture as well as melody and the way his tone cuts through the song with an elegant precision.
A show like this could be the kind of thing you’d expect at a state fair or on the purely nostalgia circuit. But at no point did the show feel like a pander to past glory. It was a reminder of the power of imagination and how music that is truly experimental but imbued with a fusion of passion and intellect can attract a broad audience—something many musicians and record companies today would do well to take note.
Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman Set List For 9/3/17
2. Perpetual Change
3. Hold On
4. South Side of the Sky
5. And You And I
6. Lift Me Up
7. Rhythm of Love
8. I Am Waiting
9. Heart of the Sunrise
11. Owner of a Lonely Heart