Friday, July 18, 2008

Yes in Philadelphia 04/16/1991

Right now, I should be at a Yes concert. I won a Ticketmaster auction and had front row center seats in Chicago. The entire tour was canceled due to Jon's illness. It made me think of all the wonderful Yes concerts I've seen so far.

Spectrum Arena
Philadelphia, PA
Tuesday, April 16, 1991
Section V, Row 16, Seat 14

It's hard to separate my Yes fandom and love of the music from all the wonderful people I met through being a fan. I was a smart, socially awkward, non-drinking good kid who loved music, and I got to meet so many people 10 or 15 years older than me who thought this was a good thing and that I was headed in the right direction. They were past the partying phase, but still active music fans. Some of these friends I made became mentors to me.

The first of these older Yes friends was a guy named Bill. He worked, and later owned, the t-shirt shop at the mall where my friends and I hung out. I was 16 and Bill was 29. He and I were secure in our relationship - he was the older brother I never had - but other people around us wondered what was going on. He lent me out of print Yes solo albums, gave me advice on music to check out, and listened to my teenage drama. We saw each other less when I was at college and he got married. But he was the one who helped me put things in perspective when I had a huge blowout with my best friend A and ended my friendship with her. Bill came back into my life briefly just before I moved out to St. Louis - he even helped me deliver furniture to friends and helped load boxes into the U-Haul for my move.

Anyway, I ordered something at his store Way Out at the mall, and he had my phone number on the order form. Bill called me one night to tell me that the new Yes lineup had formed, with the 70s and 80s lineup joining in a union. They were coming to Philly, tickets were going on sale, and we should go together. My mom was not thrilled that I wanted to camp out all night for concert tickets with some older guy she barely knew. She definitely wasn't happy that I also wanted to go to the weekend shows in Atlantic City with Bill and his friends. I knew it would have been fine, but I can see where it would look weird. So the Philly show it was. (Ironically, when I went to camp out for tickets to the next tour, I convinced my mom it would be okay *because* Bill would be there. And it worked.)

Tickets went on sale in February. I had a cold that day and I imagined how sick I would get. My parents wouldn't let me actually stay out all night to wait for tickets, so we had a compromise. I was waiting for tickets at Strawberry's record store on Cottman Avenue. My friend Debbie's grandmother, our families were so close the woman was practically my bubbe (Yiddish for grandmother) too, lived around the corner from the record store. I would establish my position in line, then go there for the hours I shouldn't be out, and then get back in line in the morning. The way it usually worked was, I intended to stay out all night. I'd still be the only person in line around midnight. I'd get freaked out being alone, and go to Bubbe Edith's house. In the early morning, I'd get back in line, with several people in front of me. This time around, I thought I'd be fine waiting in Bill's van. But he changed his mind and didn't get in line til the next morning. So it went the usual way I mentioned above. My mom still remembers seeing me in line wearing stocking cap and looking "like a homeless person". All that time waited the day before for nothing, because I could have just showed up at 5 in the morning and gotten the same position in the ticket line.

This was the first concert I had bought tickets for with the concept of "golden circle" seats. The very best seats were being sold directly to fans, but at $40 per ticket. The rest of the tickets were half that price. When I got to the front of the line, I still had the option to get the golden circle tickets. I was going to the concert with my friend A, who didn't even like Yes, and she would never agree to pay that much to see them. Plus, I don't think I had enough cash on me to buy two of those expensive seats. The seats we got were pretty good - on the first level about half way up. The stage was "in the round", a rotating stage in the center of the floor, and our section was pretty close to the center. I don't know why A even decided to go to this with me. She refused to see them on the previous tour, and I went without her. Either she didn't want to miss out, or she thought that hanging out with Bill and his friends was cool.

I was so excited. This would be my first time actually seeing the band "Yes". The last tour had been former band members playing under their own names, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. A and I met Bill at his store at the mall, and we drove down to the Spectrum. Another guy from Way Out and Bill's ex girlfriend were with us as well. Bill had seen Yes a few nights earlier in Atlantic City, and told us how wonderful the show was. Except, they didn't play Starship Trooper. That was one of my favorite songs at the time and such a highlight of the ABWH show.

The show opened with the finale from Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, just like on Yessongs. It's difficult for me to separate my memories from the show from the live recordings I have of it and other shows on the tour. I do know this show took place two weeks before their new album Union was released. They played two songs from Union - Lift Me Up, which I had previously heard on the radio, and Shock to the System, which was new to me at the concert. The rest of the setlist was a mix of 70s and 80s material.

The band was literally two bands thrown together. There were two guitarists, two drummers, two keyboard players, and one singer and one bass player, who had been with both eras of the band. We joked that it was a good thing we were seeing the band so early in the tour. Even I knew of the lawsuits an arguments between the different lineups. They might break up before the tour is over.

Everyone did solos. The opening song Yours Is No Disgrace had a long guitar solo by Steve Howe, and then another by 80s guitarist Trevor Rabin. They both did solo guitar pieces later on in the show as well. The bass solo was really exciting - it was based on the bass showcase "The Fish" from Fragile, with snippets of other songs thrown in. The highlight of it was Chris playing Amazing Grace on bass guitar with Jon Anderson singing along. Chris does these same tricks for every bass solo, but it was my first time seeing it, so I thought it was pretty cool. I still think the mixing of Jon's beautiful high voice with the low notes on the bass sounded good together.

For the encore, Yes played Roundabout. Would that be it? I told A that I still hoped Yes would play Starship Trooper. She tried to bring me back down to earth. They didn't play it a few days earlier in Atlantic City, and they weren't going to play it here. Well, Jon Anderson spoke to the audience after Roundabout. "I think we've got time for one more song." They played Starship Trooper. They played it just for me. Yes weren't my favorite band yet, but they made me love them even more that night.

I purchased a tour program and t-shirt. In the program, they listed tour dates for this US tour and more dates in Europe. Another US tour would follow in the summer. I was excited that Yes would be coming back. My friend A once again tried to instill reality into me: Yes would be playing other cities in the summer, since they had already played Philly. But that very week, there was a Yes ad in the paper. I hadn't seen it, but several of my classmates told me about it. Yes were coming back to the Spectrum in July and tickets were going on sale that Saturday. And I will be there.

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