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I didn`t choose to print this concert review with Yes only because I like the band. The last time I printed an article about Yes I got a lot of hits on my blog, and I really do like hits like dogs like to lick their balls. So as an gesture to the Yes fans, and a small hint to other fans – get me readers, and your favourite band or artist will be featured more prominently here.
YES in America
They`re bringing some of the old British
mystique back to the U.S. rock scene, reports Anne Tan
The scene is the Academy of Music, fast becoming a not-very-worthy successor to the defunct and lamented Fillimore East. The first two groups have gone on and off – a rather incompetent American group called Compost and a British offering of excellent musical standard, the Mark Almond Band.
The time is late Saturday, early Sunday morning. The auditorium is quiet with the occasional restlessness of a crowd waiting for the headlining act – Yes.
The tape goes on. It`s loud and clear, the majestic strains fill the converted cinema and, in the darkness of the stage, is the sudden small glow of a hand-held flashlight – light applause goes through the audience.
The tape ends, Rick Wakeman lays down the opening chords of “Roundabout” and the stage lights go on.
The auditorium erupts into one seething crowd of ecstatic Yes fans, shrieking, applauding, stomping, whistling, some already on their feet.
Yes has arrived. Yes has reached top-billing status in the tough, cold town of New York. Yes has reached this status all over the country.
Their fourth album, “Fragile” is No. 4 in the charts. This tour is different from their previous ones. On the first, back in the late summer of 1971, they were third on the bill to Humble Pie and Jethro Tull, although ask lead guitarist Steve Howe about touring with Jethro Tull, and he sighs for the kind of rigorously supervised perfection of that tour and the kind of kinetic excitement of playing in superlarge auditoriums.
“You don`t feel closed in,” he says, “it`s free. I like playing those big halls, you feel it`s really worth it knocking yourself out to give a good show.”
But New York City doesn`t have a suitable big hall. There is Madison Square Garden, but the drawback here is that sound gets lost beyond the first twenty or thirty rows of seats. To overcome that takes a tremendous amount of money invested in equipment.
There is Carnegie Hall – usually the ultimate downfall for a group because the acoustics defy description.
Not that the Academy of Music is any great acoustic bargain. The first time I heard Yes there they played through a sound system that had been giving them problems all night and wound up being inaudible vocally, Chris Squire`s bass getting totally lost as did the lower notes of Rick Wakeman`s keyboards.
But success is its own reward. The reward of having your album high in the charts translates neatly into terms of billing.
As the top act Yes can now command the kind of public address system it wants.
Tonight, as most nights, the Academy of Music has attracted a strange audience.
There are the younger people from their sheltered homes out on Long Island who flow in for a concert, get stoned on pills, and disappear afterwards back to stable security.
There are the pleasantly mellowed heads, some of the customers of the former Fillmore East, with their hash.
Finally there are what are called the ripple-and-red crowd. Reds are secconals and ripple is a kind of sweet, fruity wine, and the combination is lethal – the head is aggressive and paranoid and the vibrations of such freaks are bad. Here is the stuff of which riots are made.
There are the perpetual encore-demanders, the threateners, the hasty hecklers, the loud-mouthed yellers, and they always take up their seats towards the back, which means they get small satisfaction both aurally and visually during the concert.
Yes is playing to one of these audiences. They have clapped enthusiastically, cheered, whistled, stomped, but there is a bulk of the nasty crowd which has interrupted Steve Howe`s acoustic solos a few times.
They don`t think too much of the classical background which shows very prominently in Rick Wakeman`s keyboards solo, and Rick is labouring under the strain of an ill-tempered mellotron.
The show is over and the group holds its customary post-mortem.
Chris Squire, looking rather worried: “I don`t know about your solo, Steve, it seems the acoustic break goes on too long…you know, it brings them down too much.”
“I don`t think the acoustic numbers are quite what they meant before,” Steve says. “I mean, before they were meant to be just that, you know, a quiet break.”
They go through different ideas – maybe the possibillity of playing “The Clap” before “Mood For A Day”, although this presents technical problems.
“You see, `Mood For A Day` I play with my fingers and `The Clap` I use the plectrum, so it`s better for me to play the one with the fingers first while they are supple – but I could try it,” says Steve.
“Anyway,” Bill Bruford says, `Yours Is No Disgrace` just isn`t the right encore – it`s much too long, an encore should be just a taste of what`s gone before. In fact, I am against the whole idea of playing encores at all.”
You can`t get away with not playing encores. The audience can get nasty if denied them – chairs have been thrown, halls have been torn up.
Rick Wakeman sighs in the face of this fact: “Even if we played for four hours, they`d still demand an encore.”
Rick points out that “Your Move/All Good People” fits in much better at the end, it`s a great finishing song. Everyone agrees.
“You know, we`re a very conservative group,” Bill Bruford says thoughtfully. “I mean, we tend to find something that`s good and stick with it, but I think sometimes that we should change for the sake of change.”
So they go back to replanning their set.
They are supposed to get up to Burlington, Vermont the next day, but the night is running overlong and the snow has been falling hard and fast all day so there is the possibility that the Vermont trip is out for the next day.
It`s exhausting. As Steve says: “I have a date sheet that shows another 33 dates, I don`t want to think about anything else.”
On this tour they are combining the West and East Coasts, with most of two weeks concentrated on the East and finishing off with dates in Los Angeles and San Diego.
This means moving equipment over vast areas of territory and the only time off is the day they fly to California.
Steve, Chris, Rick, Bill and Jon are sighing for their return to Britain and the old familiar halls where the audience is a kind of family.
If anything, America is a little pie-eyed over anything out of Britain, but Yes are bringing some of the old British mystique back into the American rock-and-roll scene.
Some of the concerts that week around the U.K. A really exciting time for music!
This number of the NME also contains articles/interviews with these people: Don McLean, Felix Pappalardi (Mountain), Dave Cousins, Carly Simon. Denny Cordell, Bob Dylan, Tommy Hunt, Hookfoot, Gilbert O`Sullivan, Paul Williams, Greyhound, Mahalia Jackson, Chicory Tip, Curved Air.
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