What does it sound like?:
Two of the band’s most contentious albums performed by one of its most contentious line-ups. This two cd set is culled from twelve dates in the USA recorded in February of this year, during which the band performed the entire Drama album, plus sides one and four (together with the Leaves Of Green section of side 3) of Tales From Topographic Oceans, supplemented with four ‘fan favourites’. Of course, since the sad passing of founder member Chris Squire, only Steve Howe and Alan White remain of the band’s classic line up. Here they are supplemented by Geoff Downes, who played on the Drama album, long term cohort Billy Sherwood, and Anderson soundalike Jon Davison on vocals. Due to back surgery, Alan White missed some shows, while others featured him playing in collaboration with additional drummer Jay Schellen – to be honest, I couldn’t tell which one was playing at any given time on here. I suppose this whole area begs the question of how many original members do you need to still call the band Yes – the current ‘other’ Yes of course also features two – Anderson and Wakeman, plus Trevor Rabin. Take your pick. Anyway, to the music: Drama has always been a much underrated album for me, suffering commercially due to the departures of the aforementioned Anderson and Wakeman, to be replaced by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, aka Buggles. However, songs like Machine Messiah, Tempus Fugit and Into The Lens are actually rather good if you give them a fair hearing, and can certainly hold their own in the band’s catalogue. Topographic has always been a controversial member of the Yes canon. I guess you either love it or hate it, and nothing on here will change your opinion. Personally, I’m a big fan of side one (The Revealing Science of God) and of parts of sides three and four, especially the Leaves of Green And Nous Sommes Du Soleil sections. In fact, I would gladly have forsaken two of the four ‘greatest hits’ tacked on to the end of of the two parts of the show in favour of an outing for side two (High The Memory) in its glorious entirety – one of the most neglected prog pieces in the genre in my humble opinion. You can’t honestly fault any of the performances here, which are technically spot on, especially Howe’s guitar work, and certainly the audience seems to lap it up. I know there’ll be plenty who will say this isn’t really Yes any more, but at the end of the day it is what it is.
What does it all *mean*?
For better or for worse, this is where Yes are at the moment: semi permanently on the road, playing their classic albums in full, with any occasional new releases being treated as a somewhat incidental diversion – but I guess that’s what their audiences want, to be able to relive their youths through hearing the old favourites performed over and again, just like they sounded back in the day. You even get a new Roger Dean cover thrown in to complete the illusion.
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…