Yes has demonstrated and proved themselves as a true progressive rock band of all-time despite the old ages of the musicians – Steve Howe (65), Chris Squire (64) and Alan White (62) – through delivering a flawless, fabulous and fantastic concert at The Ritz Carlton Hotel’s Ballroom, Jakarta, 24 April 2012. It was the first time in forty-four year history of the band they ever made live in Jakarta through an event beautifully titled as ‘Celebrating 44 Years of YES in One Wonderous Night’. They played wonderfully for approximately 135 minutes non-stop music with songs spanning from their seventies, eighties albums as well as some from their new album ‘Fly From Here’ (2011). I am totally amazed with how great they play together as a band.
Getting Ready for Yes Concert
I was first introduced to progressive rock in 1974 when I was fourteen-year old boy, lived in a very small city, Madiun, located around 750 mile away from Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta. My brother (Henky, then was a rock broadcaster) gave me a tape of Yes “Fragile”. Oh man . I could not believe that mankind could create such a brilliant and high energy track like “Roundabout”. I was hooked to this kind of music; a kind that I was not aware that later would be called as progressive rock. I did enjoy also “Southside of the Sky” as the piano melody was terrific! It gives me a strong classic nuance to me, and “Heart of the Sunrise” – Wow! What a wonderful compositions, especially on stunning bass playing! Then I got “Yessongs” where I felt in love with “Perpetual Change” performed live – so energetic! Damn great mannnnn!!!! I explored more on YES until I got “Tales from Topographic” and “Relayer”. These two albums have pushed me forward and made me realize that Yes is a rock group with no comparison. They are just terrific! “The Revealing Science of God”, “The Ancient” and “Gates of Delirium” were my top list favorites, especially the latter. In this period also I got Rick wakeman’s solo “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “The Six Wives” which I admired very well.
It was about dream came true when in 2003 YES planned to play a concert in Jakarta which finally was cancelled due to travel warning after JW Marriott bombing. I already purchased eight tickets at the front row with my colleague progheads. In fact we already designed a very big banner ’29 Years in Waiting’. I then flew to Singapore to see them play at Sun Tec City Hall 25 September 2003. It was great show with classic line-up: Anderson, Wakeman, White, Squire & Howe.
For this Asia-Australia Tour actually I did not expect much but I was fully aware that Yes is a solid band – no matter who plays the vocal or keyboard – because I trust Chris Squire, Alan White and Steve Howe very much that he would only recruit musicians with the right and appropriate talent to join the band. When they recruited Benoit David and made a record on Fly From Here album, Yes still demonstrates its roots as Benoit’s voice is pretty close to Anderson. And then I got the YES ‘In The Present – Live From Lyon’ (2011) album and found out the band still play like other YES classic even though no Jon Anderson (replaced by Benoit David) and no Rick Wakeman (replaced by Oliver Wakeman – Rick’s son). So, I was still excited about the concert in Jakarta – even though it collided with my work schedule to go out of town during the period of the concert. But finally I was able to reschedule and then I attended the concert. In order to promote the concert, I started to make countdown from 35 days before the concert until Day Zero by writing articles about YES on my personal blog. It works as many of friends who are basically Andersonist as well as Wakemanist were finally made them coming to see the concert.
What do you expect from the guys who already made their sixty-five-year of age to play their progressive music they wonderfully crafted forty something years ago? Ah .. they won’t play as good as they were young in the seventies or eighties … Ah … Steve’s fingers are no longer as fast as Opeth’s guitarist or Dream Theater’s Petrucci …Gone are the days of seventies prog musicians, here we get the new talents with young lads like Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree … Ah that seventies prog are only for old people, there is no dynamics anymore for today’s music…..and many naysayers say similar mode of expressions….
WRONG! Since the band kicked off at 20:40 with a classic ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’ I was so amazed by their performance especially in their ability to emulate exactly what they played in Yessongs record or in ‘Live From Lyon’ as I heard it from the CDs. They really proved that they only know and understand the meaning of one word: being ‘professional’ musicians! Those who said doubtful words about YES in the present must see the concert in Jakarta. Jon Davison, whom I already knew him through ‘Cor Cordium’ album of Glass Hammer, played his duties beautifully. In fact he could sing every bits of lyrics exactly as written originally (I bring the hard copy of the lyrics with me in the concert). He has his own style and he did not force himself to emulate Jon Anderson. That’s good, because no one should emulate others – be yourself! Geoff Downes whom I did not expect much on him played at the safe side and did not brave enough to play Wakeman’s inventive notes. He just played safe, but it’s OK as Howe covered him a lot.
Just after ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’ I shouted loudly ‘Tempus Fugit!” as I knew that they would play the setlist exactly like in Auckland (1 April) and Perth (5 April). And, it’s true, they really played this song from ‘Drama’. I love this song very much as it has fast tempo and very dynamic flow even though the composition is quite straight forward – not typical Yes music. Tempus Fugit was one of my reason to see the concert as I thought it would be impossible to see Yes play this one when Jon Anderson is around. Drama was recorded without Jon Anderson being the lead vocals, replaced by Trevor Horn who later became the producer of Yes ‘Fly From Here’ (2011) album. The second song was played in a balanced way and it was terrific to see this one played live especially sung by relatively young (41) Jon Davison. Now I can see how Chris played his bass guitar which is one of critical points in this song. The other good thing beside performance of this tune was when the lyrics reached the word ‘yes’ like in lyrical verse ‘ To navigate waters and finally answer to – yes’ at the same time the large screen at the back showcasted the word YES not in the Roger Dean font – indicating different meaning of Yes. This is really great!
When the band played acapella of ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ from The Yes Album every one in the concert hall sing together with the band. Lucky that I brought with me the hardcopy of the lyrics so that I can sing along with the crowd. Oh man .. I really enjoyed the live vibes it really surprised me that there are so many Yes Freaks in Indonesia, coming from many parts of Indonesia: Surabaya, Bontang, Balikpapan, Malang. Yes really rocks man! We all were very happy with the show and this tune was very popular in my country – no wonder that may of the crowd emulate their voice like they are Jon Anderson. The vocal harmonies of Jon – Chris and Steve are really great and they sounded like it was thirty or forty years ago. Steve played his wonderful licks here and he seemed to enjoy his part where filled most part of the interlude with his Gibson.
It’s about time then the band to play a softer track from the new album with ‘Life on a Film Set’ which I happened to study the song only couple of weeks before the show. In fact, I prepared the playlist on my iPod exactly like the setlist in Perth so that I could familiarize myself with the flow of music. As I played the playlist over and over I felt like the whole setlist is just another concept album as get used with the sequnce. By doing so, it trained me to enjoy the music as whole piece and to see on song by song basis. To be honest, I do not quite like this song. But, being played as one setlist with other songs, I don’t see problems at all. When the band played this one, Jon Davison played acoustic guitar. In fact … when this song was played I imagined how would it sound like if Fly From Here were released as The Buggles album and not Yes album? For sure, it lacks beautiful guitar fills by Steve Howe.
Next was another tune which was quite well known here ‘And You And I’ and I could see people around me sung along with the band. Jon delivered his voice clearly, backed wonderfully by Chris and Steve. As in most cases of this tune being played live, the major attraction point is the lap steel guitar playing by Steve Howe – who always changed guitar set during the show depending upon the song the band played. My colleague observed that during the concert he played with Gibson ES 175, Fender Strat custom, Mandolin (I’ve Seen All Good People), Acoustic, Martin, Gibson Les Paul, Fender Lap Steel. Couple of days before the show I made a review on how this tune really fit being positioned here to enter the Fly From Here suite as the nuance of the music is similar. After that Chris announced ‘We’ll give the stage to the beautiful hands of Mr Steve Howe …’ followed by Steve playing great two acoustic set: ‘Solitaire’ and ‘The Clap’. When he played The Clap I saw many crowd were excited with this song. Oh man … he played his acoustic set wonderfully; it’s a flawless playing really!
Next was an epic from Fly From Here album that comprises Overture followed with five movements: ‘We Can Fly’ – ‘Sad Night at The Airfield’ – ‘Madman at The Screen’ – ‘Bumpy Ride’ – ‘We Can Fly (reprise)’ with total duration of 24 minutes. Composition-wise, this epic is much simpler than any epic that Yes has ever created like Gates of Delirium or Close To The Edge or The Revealing Science of God, etc. When I wrote a review about this album I only gave three-star rating as I compared it with classic Yes album. But, as the time is moving closer to the concert date, I realized that I enjoyed the track because there is a great combination of simple flow of music and complex guitar fills that Steve insert to the album. When it’s played live, I feel different kind of nuance especially with great sound system and excellent acoustic of the Ritz Carlton’s Ballroom. For me personally, I love the way Chris played his bass guitar who is standing in font of him. It’s a great view from my perspective.
Right after they finished with the epic, the band prepared for another classic track but with ‘still’ similar nuance with Fly From Here, i.e. ‘Wonderous Stories’. When this was played, the crowd also sung along with the band as this track was quite become favorite to many people that I knew. I did not expect that the crowd would sing together and I was really happy seeing the crowd behaved like this – it created great live vibes. Well, at least, Yes must regret themselves why they only come here now – not the years before.
‘Into The Storm’ was actually not my cup of tea as it does not give me peculiar feel – melody-wise and composition-wise. However, performed live, it’s different feel, of course. And the band delivered this excellently. Not so many people knew very well about this so there was minimum audience participation. I enjoyed how Chris played his bass guitar part.
I was wondering what the guys would play next as they changed the Perth setlist with ‘Machine Messiah’ (Drama) when the played in Tokyo 18 April 2012. I could not even decide which one should I prefer: Heart of The Sunrise as per Perth setlist or Machine Messiah as per Tokyo setlist. Machine Messiah has been rarely played as it would never happen if Anderson as lead vocal because he did not contribute in the making of Drama album, so I really wanted to see this played alive. While on the Heart of The Sunrise I really love the bass guitar solo even though I have seen it quite often through DVD as well as live on Singapore 2003 concert. I really had no power to choose which one I prefer. In fact the band finally played Heart of the Sunrise! It proved that Steve Howe replied my question during Press Conference about the possibility to add ‘Awaken’ on Perth setlist “Well, practically we would play similar setlist. Imagine Shakespeare, can you still call it as Hamlet if you add some more acts?”. And … I did really enjoy this one being played live! Even though Geoff played the safe side of Wakeman licks, the bass guitar solo part of Chris is really wonderful. In fact he walked closer to Steve Howe side at the left side while playing his bass guitar. Steve played his guitar at his best with flawless chords. Jon Davison sung nicely throughout the song.
Next was something that made YES name famous to all generations including the teens. Steve Howe announced before he started the music “This is now from our eighties” ….and the crowd automatically responded with big yell “Owner!!!” Yes, you bet, the next track was from 90125 album through a track written by Trevor Rabin ‘Owner of A Lonely Heart’. You can imagine then how the crowd would react ….yes, of course, everyone in the room danced and sung together with the band. I admire Steve Howe for having BIG HEART willing to play this tune where actually he did not contribute the writing or the recording of the album. He is really a YES guy unlike Jon who refused tracks where he did not contribute in recording like ‘Drama’ album. BIG salute to Steve Howe!
Next was another classic from, again, ‘The Yes Album’ i.e. ‘Starship Trooper’. One of the chief reasons to see this track played live is the bass guitar work, guitar work and long sustain and inventive keyboard solo at the end of the song. I could see how precise Steve Howe delivered his role to produce very nice guitar fills, while Jon Davison sung excellently and Chris provided attractive basslines. The harmonious vocal of Jon with Steve and Chris is another good point of this track. They played it excellently. As I wrote before hand in my countdown to the concert that the most likely weak point of the band would be Geoff Downes really happened here as he did not brave enough to provide inventive notes at the ending part of this track. He seemed to play the safe site of the composition and in some ways it was covered by Steve Howe and Chris Squire. He had been too much with Asia with simpler keyboard notes. That’s alright overall as the music was still really solid and created great atmosphere for the crowd to stand-up making an applause to the band. Luckily there was stunning guitar solo at the ending part that made everything looks great at the end. I was totally satisfied with the ending part – especially the guitar solo by Steve. It’s really greaaaaaat!!
After ‘Starship Trooper’ the band left the stage followed with ‘we want more’ shout as regular acts during typical rock concerts. After couple of minutes the band members showed up again. The encore was usual ‘Roundabout’ – many of Yes concerts put this song as encore as the music is energetic and captivating. Even though the intro acoustic guitar part is replaced by electric guitar but Steve made the guitar sounded like an acoustic one. As this song means a lot to me – first, because I knew Yes for the first time from this song; second, the composition is really great with high energy beats, varied style and mood changes. This encore made crowd participation much more intense and dynamics.
Despite the old ages on members of Yes, they still could deliver flawless concert. The tagline of event being ‘one wonderous night’ proved to be right and effective as most people who attended the show said similar feel with what I feel. My colleague Rinaldi put “YES … a memorable performence’ on his Blackberry profile right after the show. Yes indeed, that night was really memorable night with the band that has been my idol since my teenagers life until now. Overall, the have made a wonderful show that I called it as TRIPLE F : Flawless, Fabulous and Fantastic! As far as rating, I would give the following:
Performance: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Sound: 5 out of 5 stars
Musicianship: 4 out of 5 stars:
- Steve 5 out of 5 stars
- Chris 4.5 out of 5 stars
- Alan 4 out of 5 stars
- Jon 4.5 out of 5 stars
- Geoff 3 out of 5 stars
Crowd vibes: 4 out of 5 stars
Overal: it’s a really excellent and memorable performance. And …the most interesting one is : I DID REALLY ENJOY THE SHOW!!!! If there was little flubs during the concert – it’s humanbeing and I didn’t really care!
After The Show
I gave a very BIG hug as a token of thanks to my colleague Rinaldi Firmansyah who invited me to join the Meet and Greet session with all Yes members right after the show! I never dreamed to be able to speak directly to the band members so I personally thanked them in person one by one saying “It’s a great show and I really enjoy it!”. Each member gave me a big smile saying thanks. To Chris I especially mentioned that I met him the day before at the super market and he replied “Yes, I know!”. Whoooaaaaaa……..!!! Dream came true! We all finally took a picture: Rinaldi, Rindra (Rinaldi’s son), Nelwin, myself and all Yes members. What a memorable night!
- Big thanks to Variant (promoter)
- Telkom Group: Telkomsel and Melon Unlimited Music Download who made our dreams – the dreams of Indonesian Yes Freaks – came true.
- Personal thanks to Rinaldi Firmansyah (CEO of Telkom Group) who became my close friend through YES music. Yeah, YES unites people, really!
- Personal thanks to Wita Lesmana who insisted me to reschedule my trip in order to attend this memorable concert of Yes
- Personal thanks to Nelwin, Haryo and Igun for the pictures featured here.