Sunday, July 05, 2009

Yes / Asia @ The Warfield, San Francisco, 2 July 2009

I had a ticket to see Yes in March, but it was canceled. They rescheduled with Asia as support band. This make some sort of sense as Steve Howe plays guitar in both groups. The new show is at the Warfield, which is a downgrade from the Fillmore. Inside they have video screens, is this just for the aged audience or a new feature of the venue?

Asia were a great laugh. They only ever had one good album, so they play most of that. They are a real supergroup made up out of parts of old bands like some Frankenstein's monster. They played a big song from each of their former groups. John Wetton was in my favourite version of King Crimson and he boomed out In the Court of the Crimson King in his distinctive baritone. He looks like one of those football players you see playing on senior teams, you would not want to mess with him. Carl Palmer (Fanfare for the Common Man) looked like he was really happy to be there, and I was happy too until he played a drum solo. Geoff Downes (Video Killed the Radio Star) poses like the 70's star he never was. He has 10 keyboards to choose from but mostly he plays with one hand, using the other arm for balance. Later he played air guitar. Steve Howe seems wasted in this band. He looks thin and frail (he is a vegetarian) but his playing is superb tonight. There are big cheers when it is announced that Roger Dean is attending the concert.

Yes are one of those groups that have had a lot of different lineups. At one point they had so many ex-members that there were two extant bands playing the same material. I saw Yes in 1980 when they had got rid of their distinctive singer and lyricist (Jon Anderson) and gotten the Buggles in instead. Now, when I go and see them again, they have shown their usual disregard for history by again replacing Jon Anderson, this time with a singer from a tribute band. Still I should be happy that I can see them at all as they mostly play evil seated stadiums. And for once I am not anywhere near the oldest person in the audience.

The most surprising thing is how good the new singer is. Plus he is having a good time, dancing to the long instrumental sections. The other new player is the son of a previous member. I don't like this trend but Oliver Wakeman is modest and rather prettier than the rest of the band.

The only person who has been in all of Yes's incarnations is bassist Chris Squire. I have to admit that at one point in my life I owned one of his solo albums. He is great, he has the rumbliest bass sound in rock. As Steve Howe has got more emaciated, Chris has got larger. Still he sounds good, especially after some discussions with the sound guys.

Yes play a lot of the same songs they always do. Apart from 2 songs from Drama (the one with the Buggles) which are greeted with great excitement they don't play any songs written after 1974. But who cares? This is what everyone (including me) came to see. Yes, they are a it of a nostalgia band, but they still rock.

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