Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yes Hartford 10/17/1997

Meadows Music Theatre
Hartford, CT
Friday, October 17, 1997
Section 600, Row NN, Seat 601

The day was finally here! We were going to see Yes. We were also going to see some friends. We drove back to Boston Logan airport to pick up everyone. Kevin from Milwaukee was flying in today for opening night.

So were Brian and Jean from Scotland. Yep, Scotland. We didn't even know them. Roy and I were both active on some on-line Yes forums, and Brian posted on the old Southside list. Roy heard that Brian was flying in for the Boston show, thought he sounded like a nice guy from his posts, and offered to drive them to Hartford with us. Complete strangers. And they accepted. It was a good move - Roy has traveled to Scotland to visit with them and their whole family came over for our wedding.

You can read all about Brian's tales of this tour at his Diary of a YES-Mad Scotsman. The previous Yes tour, for the Talk album, did not come to Europe and Brian missed it. He was not going to miss another tour. He made himself a t-shirt of "Brian's US Yes tour" with all the dates he was going to see - Hartford, Boston, New York City two weeks later, and San Francisco towards the end of the tour. His account was written during the tour, so the details are a lot fresher. I remember reading a paper copy of Part 1 when I was him in New York.

We arrived in Hartford and found the venue. It's an amphitheater that can be closed off and made into an indoor venue during the colder months. There wasn't much around. We could hear Yes soundchecking from outside, but decided to get dinner. There wasn't much around the venue. I remember we met up with some other people and got dinner at a nearby hotel.

All the while I was making plans for this tour and getting excited, I still had no idea what Yes I was going to get. The last few lineups had flip-flopped between classic-era progressive rock and more top 40 sounding material. This tour was in support of Open Your Eyes, which had not been released yet, but there were actually two CDs of new music coming out soon. Open Your Eyes would be more pop-rock and Keys to Ascension 2 was supposed to be more proggy. (Two different record labels were releasing these albums, and Yes couldn't control the sale dates. A third album of vintage BBC sessions was also released around the same time.) But what would the tour be like? The Talk tour only featured five songs from the 70s. The setlist for the reunion concerts in San Luis Obispo was all 70s material. This wasn't just the first concert of a new tour, it was the first of a new lineup. Rick Wakeman had left and Billy Sherwood joined as an official member. Igor Khoroshev was the new keyboard player. I was so excited about the concept of Yes, but I still wasn't sure they'd do a proper follow-up to the SLO concerts.

Brian had spoilers. One of the guys from the official Yes website gave him a probable setlist. Even though I was going to see them that night, I needed to know in advance. I'd even get more excited, or I'd get over my disappointment by the time of the show. He let me peek at it, and I saw three songs that made my day - my all-time favorite song Revealing Science of God, America, and their 1970s standard concert opener Siberian Khatru.

We got to the concert and milled around. I saw some people I knew and we found out some all important information - what hotel Yes was staying at that night. I bought two tshirts and we got to our seats.

Roy had gotten the seats. They were in the center, but in the back section and pretty far from the stage. The people around us were friendly, but not as big fans as we were. I was so excited!

The concert started with some piped in music. It had nature sounds and occassional harmonized vocals. When Open Your Eyes was finally released, this music was included as a bonus track. Yes was about to come on stage. They opened with... Rhythm of Love?! This was their last charting single from 1988. I knew this song from MTV before I even got into Yes and I didn't like it then. Why do they keep pulling it out to play live? The opening song is a portent of things to come in the concert - did they really want to sound like a hard rock MTV band?

The second song was Siberian Khatru. To me, it sounded like the band was putting a joke on us. *This* was the real show opener. That other song was just played first to get it out of the way or something. America, a cover of the Simon and Garfunkel song, followed. I remember the new keyboardist Igor coming in a half-second late for a keyboard bit in this song, maybe a bit tentative, but otherwise I didn't notice any mistakes from him. Good first show.

Visually, the band surprised me. I had heard that Chris Squire cut his hair, but the whole front line of the band seemed to have short hair this time around. Chris's was quite short, Jon's was all pulled back in a ponytail and Steve Howe, who had always worn long hair, had a pageboy cut. Chris' outfit was easy to make fun of - black pants, shirt, and shoes, with white socks. Steve was more animated than I've ever seen him - lots of jumping and moving around.

I thought the setlist was really brave. So many people just know Yes from the top 40 hits or the songs that still get played on classic rock radio. But Yes was an underground FM album rock band, and they actually played the 20 minute long Revealing Science of God from the Tales from Topographic Oceans album. I knew they played it for the hard core fans at SLO, but they were actually touring with it. Other small portions of Topographic Oceans got played during the show. Steve Howe's solo set included the Leaves of Green section and Jon joined in on the vocals. Beautiful. Alan White played a drum solo that was actually part of the percussion section of Ritual. America was also an obscure track, but their arrangement is so upbeat, it works great live and goes over well. Those two full tracks account for a half hour of unfamiliar music for most people.

Even I didn't know all the music Yes played that night. The new single Open Your Eyes had gotten some radio airplay, but they played two other songs from the yet-to-be released CDs. I knew Children of Light - Jon had played it in concert and at a radio station performance before and there were bootlegs for it. The other song, I had no idea about. I can't tell you how excited I was to be hearing a new Yes song.

And how disappointed I was in actually hearing it. The song was called "No Way We Could Lose". It was a simple, dull, slow, little song with a singalong vocal and practically no arrangement to it. It killed the momentum of the show. All the people around me were asking me what I thought - it was obvious by my applauding before I even heard the song that I was excited. Bad song, bad Yes. I named this "the worst live Yes moment," and that title stood until Jon tried singing Owner of a Lonely Heart karaoke style at a solo concert in 2004. We dubbed the song "The Way We Lost". It's not that horrible a song. But it is a complete throw-away and the meeting of high expectations and low delivery in concert sealed its fate.

Even Yes realized the song was a dud. According to Forgotten Yesterdays after the song Jon said:

"Okay, it’s the beginning of the tour. We’re trying…we’re trying to get it together here. But it shall come around as they say. It shall work, it shall come around." Sounds like an admission to me.

The show ended with three standards, I've Seen All Good People ending the main set, and Roundabout and Starship Trooper as encores. I was happy I was going to nine more shows!

We went back to the hotel. I wanted to see if the Yes hotel info was true, but Brian and Jean were tired from their long trip and ready to rest. Kevin, Roy, and I got directions to hotel and drove there. This was it! Jon was walking through the lobby and we got pictures with him. I saw Igor walking around and told him I thought he did a great job that night. Then, we headed into the hotel bar.

Jon's wife Jane, Jon Anderson, and me at the hotel lobby in Hartford

Kevin, Dian, Jon Anderson, and Roy
I had forgotten we saw Dian there too!

I was surprised to see Steve Howe sitting with a bunch of fans. Steve is always willing to sign an autograph, but I got the feeling he usually kept to himself on tour. I joined them. While we were sitting there, Igor came up and confirmed with Steve that they were going to drop No Way We Can Lose and replace it with Heart of the Sunrise. One of my favorite songs! Tomorrow's show was going to be even better! Steve obviously didn't know the etiquette of hanging out with fans at the bar; when he was ready to leave, he actually pulled out his wallet. As if we were going to let him pay. He looked like he was enjoying himself.

We stopped at an all night restaurant to get something to eat and went back to the hotel. Brian had been a Yes fan for years and never got to meet the band. He couldn't believe we were so lucky.

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