This past Tuesday evening my friend Bob and I ventured into the wilds of West Philly, to the grand old Tower Theater, for for one of those once in a lifetime events, a double billing featuring Asia and Yes. We've seen both bands previously over the past year or so, but never together. The venue is an outstanding place, really not a bad seat in the house, it's just a bit of a bitch to get to and it's not in a great area, but none the less, a very good evening was had.
Asia opened up at 8 PM. As you may or may not know, the band is made up of folks who formed the band and all have a great musical lineage; The bassist and lead vocalist is John Wetton, by way of one of the old King Crimson lineups and Hawkwind, not to mention many other outstanding groups. The percussionist is Carl Palmer, late of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and others. The keyboardist is Mr. Geoff Downs, by way of The Buggles ("Video Killed The Radio Star", remember? The very first video ever broadcast on MTV, when they actually used to play music videos), he also was part of Yes for a while and other grand efforts. Guitarist and backup vocals is Steve Howe, one of the founding members of Yes and performer without peer. Without winding through the set list, I'll get to what I like the best of seeing them, they always play a song from each of the members previous bands; They played "Fanfare For The Common Man", by ELP, which I really love, not only for Carl Palmer's ten minute solo exercise on the drums, which always, always amazes, but also for Downs keyboard work, which is pretty much a note for note takeoff on Keith Emerson's playing, but with so much more of a fluid approach, rather than Keith's usual chunky keyboard attacks. They also play "Video Killed The Radio Star", but the highlight is when they perform "In The Court Of The Crimson King" from KC's first 1967 album. Wetton does a great job on the vocals and it's always a treat to hear this song performed live, as it is usually not on the KC play list any more, but the real surprise was when Ian McDonald, one of the original KC lineup, walked out on stage and played the flute part and did back up vocals. Damned near jumped out of my seat. It was just one of those things that, if you're a KC fan, you'll talk about the rest of your days, and I'm sure I will.
The only strange thing about Asia's set was the closing number, "Heat Of The Moment", one of their big hits, with Downs jumping all over the stage with a keytar slung around his neck. A real eighties moment I could have done without, but the crowd seemed to love it.
After Asia left the stage and they changed the stage setting, we settled down for Yes.
As they've done since the release tour for "Close To The Edge" (1972), the house lights went down and on came the final movement of Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite", the band takes the stage and as the final note of the Firebird crescendos into the night, they pick up the same note for the beginning of "Siberian Khatru", one of the better true prog rock tunes they've created and the night was off and running. The lineup of Yes was the same as the last time we saw them, Steve Howe (who, somehow, at 62, managed to not only rip it up with Asia for over an hour, but then picked it right up with Yes), Chris Squire and Alan White, all original members, although White was their second drummer, the first being Bill Bruford. On keyboards was Oliver Wakeman, son of the great Rick Wakeman and fronting vocals was Beniot David, who Yes discovered a year or so ago fronting a Yes tribute band in Canada. He looks and sounds just like Jon Anderson, one of the Yes founding fathers and, in my opinion, has picked up the band with his level of energy, bounding all over the stage and, I don't care what his detractors say, he has a set of pipes that even a young Jon Anderson would kill for. They ran through a few of their more popular numbers, but ventured into some of the more eclectic stuff, like the seemingly impossible to perform live "Machine Messiah", a real snake of a song with, at times, bass, drums and guitar all playing different time signatures withing the same measure. Gotta love hearing that live. My real thrills of their set were having Wakeman's keyboards properly amplified, unlike the last time when I really couldn't hear most of what he was playing and some better miking of White's drums, along with a real surprise, a nice rendition of "Heart Of The Sunrise" which I've only heard played live twice before, both times with Bruford on the skins. He and White are distinctly different drummers, Bruford is steeped in Jazz and if you really listen to that track on the "Fragile" album with an ear for his work, you will be amazed at what it does for that particular song. White approaches it with a more traditional tact, not the syncopated off time beating of Bruford, but it was still a real treat to hear it once again, it being one of my very favorite Yes numbers, for more reason than just the music. But I digress...
Once again, as both Bob and I observed, the house was full of young people, most of which I assume were brought by their Yes fan parents, but obviously they were well versed in what they were hearing and really had a great time. It's a good thing to see these days. As usual, every concert experience with Bob is one for the books, he and I share a deep appreciation of progressive rock and we always have a great time together. He's a good friend that I don't see nearly enough, which is my fault, I'm sorry to say. But he forgives me, I think.
In other news, I went to the doctor on Wednesday and he's finally capitulated and has referred me to a specialist to find out just what is going on with my kidney and gastro system. I'll let you know how it plays out.
go ahead, make your day...