22nd October 1989
In the nine years since I had last seen Yes in concert, the group had undergone all manner of convoluted and frankly incestuous intercouplings; the complete detailing of which would make a Dickens novel read like an episode of Mr Benn in comparison.
But to summarise: After the Drama tour, Trevor Horn had decided he had had enough of pretending to be a rock star and quit to concentrate on studio production. Steve Howe and Geoff Downes looked to bolster their pension fund in Asia (the band not the continent), leaving rhythm section Chris Squire and Alan White holding the baby.
The pair briefly flirted with Jimmy Page, before joining up with South African guitarist Trevor Rabin, and then inviting Yes founder members, vocalist Jon Anderson and keyboard player Tony Kaye back into the fold. This incarnation enjoyed a deal of success particularly in the US, before Anderson disappeared once more, to link up with Howe plus a brace of other former Yes-men Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford: this outfit recording and touring as Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe (or ABWH). Squire and White were at this point touting their own particular version of Yes featuring Rabin and Billy Sherwood, around the US record companies. (You are keeping up, I hope?).
In 1991, with the lawyers on both sides circling like buzzards, the two outfits chose to take the path of least resistance and merge, with the resultant Frankenstein-esque creature releasing an album called Union. However, in my opinion, the music contained therein was so eye-wateringly awful, the collection really should have been called Onion.
The multifarious silliness did not stop there, and I must point you in the direction of Wikipedia should you wish any more gen on the greatest soap opera in prog-rock history. You really could not make up the Khoroshev and David episodes.
Anyway, ABWH (remember them?) undertook a short tour of the UK in 1989, advertised as “An Evening of Yes music”. Bassist for the tour was Bruford’s former King Crimson colleague Tony Levin, whose extensive talents I am guessing would barely have been taxed by what was asked of him.
Proceedings opened with Anderson alone strumming away on an acoustic guitar, singing a rather pleasant little medley, his voice in fine form. He made way for Howe, who rattled through his traditional acoustic set of Clap and Mood For A Day linked by some vaguely classical sounding piece. Wakeman was next, with an instrumental version of Madrigal from the Tormato album, before performing a selection of snippets from his solo releases.
Our first sight of Bruford came when, resplendent in white top and silly baggy trousers, he tapped a tambourine along to Long Distance Runaround, before jumping up onto his podium to bash away at his electronic drum kit for a spell.
Thereafter the show was split between new songs (all universally naff with the possible exception of the rather twee Meeting) and classics from the 1971-72 period. All good fun, but it did all feel decidedly un-Rock’n’Roll. The volume certainly could have done with being jacked up a few decibels, but the real low point came during an interval, when usherettes appeared carrying trays of ice cream and sweets.
“It’s supposed to a rock concert, and they’re buying fucking King-Cones!” spat my companion C in disgust at the queues of eager customers.
Time and a Word/Owner of a Lonely Heart/Teakbois
Mood For a Day
Madrigal/Gone But Not Forgotten/Catherine Parr/Merlin the Magician
Long Distance Runaround/Drum solo
And You and I
I’ve Seen All Good People
Close to the Edge
Brother of Mine
Heart of the Sunrise
Order of the Universe