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Yes - Like It Is: Yes at the Bristol Hippodrome CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.81 | 85 ratings

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3 stars In 2013, some time after Benoit David had left and Jon Davison had joined, but before the band recorded Heaven and Earth, Yes found itself in need of a gimmick for its next round of live touring. The solution they fell upon was somewhat simple and yet somewhat genius; they decided that, on a nightly basis, they would play three of their 70s albums in full, with a short encore (generally "Roundabout") at the end. Dubbed "The Three Album Tour" (haha), a typical show would feature the entirety of Close to the Edge, followed by the entirety of Going for the One, followed by the entirety of The Yes Album, and it would end with the encore. This live album does not capture an entire typical set; instead, it presents the performances of Going for the One and The Yes Album from a show the band did in Bristol (the band clearly knew at the time that it would do Close to the Edge in full in a subsequent tour and could release that portion in a separate live album, which they eventually did).

Quite honestly, I still can't figure out if this album and its successor are interesting curiosities or completely pointless cash-grabs, and while I slot them both in a general "pretty good-ish I guess" range, I can't really figure out when I'd want to go out of my way to listen to either of these as opposed to other live Yes albums. Just as on In the Present, Howe and Squire are generally in good form, while White does his best to keep the overall sound from dragging too much but sounds like he'll really need a warm bath to sooth his aching limbs when he's done. Regarding Davison, I initially found myself much more irritated at listening to him sing classic Yes material than I did at hearing David, but I quickly got used to him; I still find it a little unsettling to hear him work his way through "Turn of the Century," a song that clearly meant so much to Anderson when he helped write it way back when, but other than that I generally barely notice him. Downes, then, is a curious case when it comes to this material; he's fully competent with the material, and he manages to put his own spin on small details in the parts that make it so he's not just aping Kaye and Wakeman, but "his own spin" tends to involve streamlining some parts in a way that makes them blander and more milquetoast than in their original incarnations. His playing of older material is a good way away from the punchy, energetic playing that characterized his performances on the bootleg I have of one of their 1980 shows for instance; I get that he's more than 30 years older at this point at all that, but it's still a little disappointing.

With all of these quibbles noted, this live set is still a presentation of two of my 100 favorite albums or so, and thus there's a floor on how low I can reasonably regard it when listening to it. Plus, it's not like the set is without its own interesting quirks, especially in the portion covering The Yes Album. For this tour, the band made the decision to alter its live performances to more closely match the original studio versions than they'd typically attempt, and this leads to some interesting deviations from established patterns of live performance. A couple of examples: the mid-section of "Yours is No Disgrace" is significantly shorter and more restrained than had always been the norm for live performance, and the ending portion of "I've Seen All Good People," rather than crashing into the end after a build into a prog-boogie frenzy, instead quietly ratchets down in the mantra-ish manner of the original. Plus, this album features "A Venture," never performed live before this tour, and Downes clearly has a blast in taking ownership of it.

Nobody really needs this album or its successor, but "unnecessary" need not mean "unenjoyable," and if your tolerance for inessential late-period live albums is high (and boy howdy mine is apparently unhealthily high), you could still get this without feeling regret. Whether you would later feel a need to sell it or give it to Goodwill is another matter entirely, of course.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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