Songs From Tsongas
The 35th Anniversary Concert
Yes is still a hard working band that tours regularly and records new music. At the same time, they have a vast and varied history worthy of review and examination. Hearing Steve Wilson's 5.1 mixes of Close To The Edge and Relayer are two aurally sumptuous ways to relive a couple of the band's landmark albums from the 70s. Watching a Special Edition Blu-ray Disc of Songs From Tsongas - The 35th Anniversary Concert from 2004 is yet another feast for both the ears and eyes — and a chance to see a classic lineup on what is likely the final tour we'll ever see featuring these five particular musicians.
For those out of the loop, the classic lineup according to Yes lore was Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman and Alan White. Even though this combination only made three full studio albums and a three-record live album together in the 70s (discounting the studio tracks they recorded for 1996's Keys Of Ascension), they are, for many, the quintessential version of Yes. So when they came together once again in 2002 and plowed through a couple of years of solid touring, they had become a well-oiled machine by the time they landed at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts.
While there have been oodles of live Yes releases in recent years (including this one, which originally came out in 2005), this reissue is a keeper for a multitude of good reasons. Even as everyone was aging, all five players were in prime form for their 35th Anniversary. In addition to Yes staples like "Roundabout," "And You And I" and "I've Seen All Good People," the band dive deep with such hard-to-reach gems like "Sweet Dreams," from 1970's A Time And A Word, "Turn Of The Century" from 1977's Going For The One, and all three parts of "Mind Drive," from 1996's Keys Of Ascension, which they hadn't performed live since recording it in the mid 90s.
They also pull out "The South Side Of The Sky," from Fragile, and blow everyone's mind. The jam off between Howe and Wakeman during the song's homestretch is worth the price of the Blu-ray alone. The interplay between those two is the heart of the classic lineup. And, of course, the acoustic run of "Wonderous Stories," "Time Is Time," "Roundabout," 'Show Me," and "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" gives the band a chance to pull away the pretentious prog mask and get close to the people. Meanwhile, Jon Anderson wanders through the audience during "Rhythm Of Love" and Alan White employs his customized, Roger Dean-designed Robo-drums — employing eight huge bulbous, synthesized drums that White was able to trigger in sync with own set before "Sweet Dreams" and during the bonus track, "Ritual." This is Yes at their quirkiest.
In addition to the Tsongas show, this new reissue includes 10 more songs from outdoor and rainy show at Estival in Lugano, Switzerland. The stage is a little leaner and the songs are a bit rawer, but it's still the classic lineup. Another bonus is an interview with Yes designer and album cover guru Roger Dean, who created the stage set for the tour's shows. Songs From Tsongas - The 35th Anniversary Concert is also on DVD and CD. Whichever way you go, this is one of the better treasures of the past to pick up by one of prog's mightiest institutions.
~ Shawn Perry