dvd & video review
It took a few decades, but finally in 2001 a dream of Jon Anderson, lead singer and "godfather" of Yes, has come true: not only an album but also a tour with a real symphonic orchestra. The album was Magnification and from the tour following the production of this album a DVD has been released with the appropriate title: "Yes: Symphonic live". These productions are however not the first orchestral releases of Yes pieces, as we can hear in the "Dreamtime" documentary on the bonus disc that comes with the DVD package. On the second Yes album, "Time and a word" there were some orchestral songs and in the eighties David Palmer produced a series of albums with orchestrated music of famous progressive bands such as Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd, that featured guest appearances of members of the bands mentioned.
On the one hand it’s surprising to see that already quite a few DVD´s have been released of this more than 30 years old band. On the other hand it’s not so surprising that still many people want to see and hear the musical performances of one of the founding bands of symphonic rock music. The fact that they still produce albums and go on concert tours on a regular basis, with almost the same line up as in the seventies, proves that there is still a lot of musical magic between these guys going on. Ok, no Rick Wakeman this time (although the latest news is that he will be present again on the next tour), but for this tour he was very adequately replaced by the young talent of Tom Brislin and of course the European Festival Orchestra, conducted by Wilhelm Keitel. The rest of the line up for this tour was formed by the hard core members Steve Howe (wherever did he get those glasses!) on guitars, Chris Squire on bass, Alan White on drums and of course the already mentioned Jon Anderson as lead vocalist and occasionally playing acoustic guitar, keyboards and percussion. A line up that guarantees high quality musicianship, because Jon Anderson still has a great voice, Steve Howe still manages to play more notes than chords, where each note still matters, Chris Squire’s bass still groans his own parts or sings his own melodies that still fit in the intriguing arrangements and Alan White’s drums, well, they just put it all together.
The concert on this DVD was recorded in Amsterdam and gives 2 hours and forty five minutes of Yes music with a very good (Dolby 5.1) sound and good camera work. Extra are some nice animations and film scenes that accompany some of the songs and the already mentioned bonus disc. This disc contains a documentary with interviews of bandmembers and a video clip of "Don´t go" that is also performed during the concert, so a little redundant. but nonetheless value for money. Interesting about this concert registration is that it includes quite a few older and especially some longer pieces. Of course the classic Yes epic "Close to the edge" but also "The gates of delirium" and "Ritual".
Before the band starts of with "Close to the edge" (that is present on almost every live recording of Yes) the concert opens with an atmospheric orchestral introduction accompanied by an animation that shows a typical Yes landscape and some spacey images with a floating Yes logo. A suitable introduction of the concert and DVD. As one would expect the orchestra fits well in to this piece of music, especially in the introduction to the last up tempo part of this work. We’ve heard it before during the last 25 years , but it’s still fascinating. Also in this part Tom Brislin shows his craftsmanship on keyboards, while playing the organ and synthesizer solos. As said, a very adequate replacement of former members Rick Wakeman and Igor Khoroshev.
After a short orchestral intermezzo in the vein of "Days of future past" of the Moody Blues, another old song "I’ve seen all good people" is played, featuring the brass section of the orchestra. This song has some catchy guitar tunes in it.
The third track "Don’t go" comes from the latest studio release "Magnification" and is a more simple and popular song, although it features the typical Yes structure and arrangements and again some catchy guitar riffs. Nice supporting role for the orchestra.
Also from "Magnification" is the fourth track "In the presence of", that begins with a sensitive piano part, played by Alan White. The orchestra contributes quite much to this song, that, after relaxing guitar solos from Steve Howe and good backing vocals (primarily by Chris Squire) reaches a dramatic climax near the end, before the song fades away.
After the introduction of the orchestra and it’s conductor another long piece follows: "Gates of delirium" that deals with the craziness of war, as is illustrated by the accompanying animations and film scenes. A piece very suited for band and orchestra. Wonderful guitar work from Steve Howe, driving but also subtle bass playing by Chris Squire and again a good job by Tom Brislin, who also shows expressively his involvement with the music of Yes.
After this dynamic epic Steve Howe shows his virtuosity on the classical guitar and broad orientation on guitar music with two pieces: "Lute concerto in D Major, 2nd movement" by Vivaldi and "Mood for a day". A pity that no orchestral arrangement was fitted in the first song.
This peaceful part of the concert is followed by yet another classic and powerful Yes piece: "Starship trooper". This version features the thundering bass of Chris Squire, that in the final part of this song, where the orchestra comes in again, performs a thrilling solo. In this part also a nice synthesizer solo by Tom Brislin, simultaneously on two keyboards and of course the apocalyptic guitar solo of Steve Howe.
From the latest studio album the title track "Magnification" follows, with a nice arrangement of the orchestra and a beautiful steelguitar solo of Steve Howe.
"And you and I" (that Jon Anderson dedicates to his wife Jane) is again not only a classic track because of its age, but also because of its classical beauty. A very atmospheric piece, very well suited for an orchestral arrangement, although I should have expected more of the role of the orchestra. In fact the arrangement doesn’t differ much from the keyboard arrangement. Steve Howe keeps fascinating me with his beautiful guitar play. Some mouth harp notes by Chris Squire
From the much criticized double album "Tales from topographic oceans" comes the almost twenty minute long track "Ritual". A good choice because this piece is also very well suited for an orchestral arrangement. Again a prominent rol for an echoing bass guitar in solos and in an old fashioned duel with guitar and drums, that is followed by a percussion solo, where al band members apart from Steve Howe play percussion instruments such as Chinese drums. After a threatening orchestral part this epic ends gentle, with beautiful acoustic guitar and a crying electric guitar solo.
Another song from the past is the pleasant clap-and-sing-along song "I’ve seen all good people" that stimulates some members of orchestra to make some dance movements. Guitar work full of nice riffs.
Of course Yes’s greatest commercial success "Owner of a lonely heart" couldn’t be left out in this concert. Noticeable is that the first originally guitar solo in this piece is played by Tom Brislin on keyboard, but Steve Howe does play the second solo, which makes this song, which I think is not really a Yes piece, for me worthwhile.
The concert (as many concerts of Yes) finishes with one of the best known classic Yes pieces "Roundabout". A pity it doesn’t open with the original classical guitar intro and it seems that Jon Anderson’s voice, as in the previous song, has become a little weary. The contribution of the orchestra in this song is restricted to dancing orchestra members on stage. A pity, because a concert with an orchestra should finish with an grand orchestral piece.
Nevertheless an excellent concert registration of the founders of symphonic rock, that shows that especially the music from their best period, still stands and that they are still capable of giving high quality musical performances. The addition of a real orchestra puts an extra flavor to their music, especially in terms of moods and depth, although in my opinion a greater role for the orchestra in terms of arrangements and presence could have been possible, to really distinguish this concert from other live performances of Yes. Also in the light of the other video and DVD release of Yes concerts, the setlist is not very original, but probably inevitable because of the orchestral concept of this specific concert tour. Because of these minor points of criticism I cannot give this product the maximum of five stars, but a more than deserved 4 1/2 of them.