Live At Montreux 2003 (DVD)

Yes

Eagle Eye Media, 2007

http://www.yesworld.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/07/2007

As a long-time Yes fan, I have probably heard the song "Siberian Khatru" more times than Ryan Seacrest has checked himself in the mirror.

And why wouldn't I have?  After all, Yes has been around in some form or another almost continuously since forming in 1968, meaning the members of its classic 1973-era lineup of Jon Anderson (vocals), Steve Howe (guitar), Chris Squire (bass and harmony vocals), Rick Wakeman (keyboards) and Alan White (drums) are all within spitting distance of their sixties.  It's amazing these guys are all still alive, let alone playing live shows all across the globe.

And yet, the opening minutes of this newly-issued DVD -- capturing a 2003 performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival -- still had me on my feet in my family room, wondering at the power of this band to continually amaze and inspire.

Part of it has to be the music itself.  Yes has certainly put out their share of mediocre material (Tormato, Open Your Eyes, the 1980s), but classic cuts like "Siberian" from classic albums like Close To The Edge still carry the power to amaze, and to see a quintet of sexagenarians (got to love that word) pull off songs with multiple time signatures, three-part harmonies, and lyrics dense and obscure enough to trip up a professional slam poet is simply astonishing.  In the space of these opening nine minutes, Rick Wakeman coaxes six or seven different tones out of four or five different keyboards; Squire throws aggressive flourishes on his bass while offering up some of the sweetest harmony vocals in rock; Alan White and Anderson play the intense, intricate drum-and-voice duet near the end with military precision; and Howe switches seamlessly between the guitar around his neck and the slide table mounted on wheels in front of him, kicking it out of the way after his first solo, before ripping through his closing solo like a speed demon a third his age.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The choral middle section of "South Side Of The Sky" is equally spectacular, Wakeman's piano taking the lead as Anderson, Howe and Squire perform wordless vocal melodies of truly mystical, transcendant quality.  And that's even before Howe and Wakeman go into an intense, dueling jam at the end that interpolates the central melody with one jazz-, rock-, funk-, pop- and/or classically-inflected tangent after another, a forceful reminder that these are in fact two of the most technically skilled musicians ever to play in a rock band.

Other Yes standards make obligatory appearances -- the energetic, light/dark “Heart Of The Sunrise”; the bouncy, nonsensical “I’ve Seen All Good People”; and, for better or for worse, extended solos for each member.  Howe and Wakeman are the natural standouts there, but even their sections are overlong and indulgent.  Squire and White have fun working snippets of “Tempus Fugit” and “On The Silent Wings Of Freedom” into their solo/duet selection “The Fish,” though Squire’s hammy stage presence does get old after a bit.

Deep in the main set, “Awaken” -- one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded, if you ask me -- is messy in places, with Squire’s harmonies mixed louder than Anderson’s lead vocals and some fudged unison notes between Howe and Wakeman.  Yet when the opening verses fall back and White starts playing the tuned percussion and Anderson and Wakeman come in with harp and church organ, respectively, it’s beyond sublime.  It’s magical, transporting, and when the second section false-ends eight minutes later and the music falls back for one last gentle reprise, the loud ovation from the crowd is well-earned.

Bottom line -- Anderson's voice has lost a bit of range with age, tempos occasionally seem to lag, and the aforementioned missed notes crop up now and again.  Plus there’s the seeming inability of any concert DVD director on earth to come up with an original shot any more.  But these are mere quibbles in the face of masterful performances of songs with the timeless qualities of "And You And I."

Having meant to skim through a few songs and get back to what I'd been doing before, I found myself 137 minutes later singing along to the final chorus of "Roundabout."  Hard to believe, but it's 2007, and Yes still matters. 

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2007 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Eagle Eye Media, and is used for informational purposes only.