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Music Review: Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe – An Evening Of Yes Music Plus

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By 1980 the classic Yes lineup had begun to splinter, led by the departures of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman. Veteran musicians Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn were brought in as replacements and the Drama album and tour soon followed, but the band eventually split up in 1981. Bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White continued working together and in 1983 they recruited South African guitarist Trevor Rabin for a new group that would be dubbed Cinema. Later that year Jon Anderson was invited to join the band and the decision was eventually made to simply call it Yes.

Rabin, along with producer Trevor Horn, proceeded to significantly overhaul Yes' beloved classic progressive-rock sound with a more modern, radio-friendly, pop-rock sound that came to fruition on this new lineup's first album, 90125. The album won over millions of new Yes fans, even producing their first #1 single with "Owner Of A Lonely Heart," and made the band more popular than ever. Another hit album of the same formula, and a couple of hugely successful tours followed, but longtime Yes fans and especially Jon Anderson began to grow weary of this new musical direction. They eagerly wanted a return to the classic Yes sound.

Following the 1988 Big Generator tour, Anderson began working with former Yes members Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, and Bill Bruford on what was probably originally planned as an Anderson solo album, but eventually turned into a band effort. Legally, the Yes name still belonged to the current members of the band, Chris Squire, Alan White, Trevor Rabin, Tony Kaye, and Anderson (still), so they would have to come up with something new. After floating around some interesting names, the best one probably being "No", they eventually decided upon Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe, or simply ABWH.

Their self-titled debut album was released in 1989, and blended the classic Yes sound with some obvious world music influences. Later that year the band, including bassist Tony Levin, keyboardist Julian Colbeck, and guitarist Milton McDonald, embarked on a massive world tour, having legally secured the right to promote the tour as "An Evening Of Yes Music Plus." Jeff Berlin filled in for Levin who was too ill to perform at this show. This amazing tour was captured on video and was initially released as a CD and VHS in 1994. This year a limited addition, two-DVD edition of the video, and more recently a single disk edition, minus any bonus features, was finally released.

An Evening Of Yes Music Plus was recorded Sept. 9, 1989 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountainview, California. This performance is sure to please any fan of the ABWH album, and especially fans of the classic Bruford era of the band, since it focused mainly on The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close To The Edge albums. I know those are my three favorites. The ABWH album is also solidly represented by five songs – and fairly long ones at that.

This performance definitely has a certain charm that distinguished it from the legion of other Yes concert DVDs that are floating around. To begin with, the show starts off with Jon Anderson strolling through the amphitheatre crowd, as he sings a medley of songs, "Time And A Word," "Teakbois," and "Owner Of A Lonely Heart," that are accompanied only by some light keyboards and acoustic guitar from Colbeck and McDonald. Anderson, who is wearing a garish white suite that appears to be borrowed from either Siegfried or Roy, eventually makes it to the stage, after being groped by all of the adoring fans as he strolls by.

Steve Howe takes a short solo spot next and proceeds to work some of his six string magic with two of his best known acoustic arrangements, "The Clap" and "Mood For A Day." Rick Wakeman takes the stage next, climbing inside his enclave of no fewer than nine keyboards and proceeds to amaze the crowd with snippets from some of his best solo compositions. At first I though that TV hero "Dog The Bounty Hunter" had joined the band, because Wakeman sported a spiked, blond mullet that only those two guys could get away with. This solo spot, and the rest of his performance this night simply blew me away. I have never been enthused by keyboards as I am with guitars.

Wakeman's solo section leads right into a majestic piano intro to the first band song of the night, "Long Distance Runaround," and it is here that Bruford gets to show off some considerable improvising throughout the song. Bruford's drum kit was entirely electronic, except for a single acoustic snare drum. Its makeup was of Neil Peartian proportions. Viewers will be amazed by the overhead shots of his entire kit, shown throughout the performance. My only real gripe with the performance was that the electronic timbre may have served some of the new material well, it definitely did not do justice to most of the classic Yes songs.

"Birthright" is the first full offering from the new album and it carried an atmospheric African vibe throughout. Next up, they deliver two thirds of the great Close To The Edge album beginning with a gorgeous "And You And I" and a little later following with the epic 20-minute title track. They may as well have thrown in "Siberian Khatru" to seal the deal, but I am not complaining.

There is no need to go through a song by song analysis here. All of the performances were exceptional, and it was nice to see some fresh material performed by these guys. Believe me, I have already seen "I've Seen All Good People" performed enough times to hold me over until the 50th anniversary tour, at least. This was also the most fun I have seen Anderson, Howe, and Wakeman have on stage together. It was also great to finally have a performance with Bill Bruford captured on DVD.

The DVD did not really offer a significant production upgrade from the original VHS. I was disappointed that a 5.1 surround mix was not provided along with the Dolby Digital stereo track. Although the bass was sorely lacking in the mix, a snub against Mr. Squire maybe, the audio sounded excellent overall for just your standard DD 2.0 mix. The picture was very soft throughout and offered no real improvement over the VHS version. The camera direction was very good, offering some incredible angles looking down over Bruford's massive drum kit as well as Wakeman's array of keyboards as they played.

The single-disk version of this DVD provides absolutely no special features; not even a measly booklet is included. I guess you'll have to track down one of the limited edition sets for $50 to get those luxuries. Most importantly though, this DVD provides nearly 2 1/2 hours worth of live Yes, err ABWH, performances, which makes it an essential addition to any fan's collection

Set List
01. Benjamin Britten's Young Person's
Guide To The Orchestra
02. Jon Anderson Solo

-Time And A Word / Teakbois / Owner Of A Lonely Heart
03. Steve Howe Solo
– The Clap / Mood For A Day
04. Rick Wakeman Solo
– Gone But Not Forgotten / Catherine Parr / Merlin The Magician
05. Long Distance Runaround
06. Birthright
07. And You And I
08. I've Seen All Good People
09. Close To The Edge
10. Themes
11. Brother Of Mine
12. The Meeting
13. Heart Of The Sunrise
14. Order Of The Universe
15. Roundabout
16. Starship Trooper

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