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Yes in Manchester 13.11.11
I was 18 when I first saw Yes at the Southampton Gaumont. Since that time Elspeth, Joel and I have seen them on various occasions and have never been disappointed. I approached the Manchester Apollo gig with lower than usual expectations, having read some slightly mixed reviews from their recent American tour with Styx.We were not to be disappointed, though, as the band gave a polished and exciting performance to a packed venue. I was pleased the band played plenty of material from the new album Fly From Here. Steve Howe announced the We Can Fly from Here suite by saying it was brave of them to play it. I guess he meant that the loyal Yes fans expect the band to play as much back catalogue as possible. Personally I was glad the band played this new stuff; they have been too conservative in the past with their sets. It may not match the classic Yes songs, but it is still, by most standards, excellent music.

Steve Howe was outstanding as usual. To me, he is now the man who carries the band with his unique style and astonishing virtuosity. Chris Squire still anchors the band with his grunting bass, while Alan White is steady on the drum kit, never missing a beat with some awkward time signatures. On keys was Geoff Downes, who performed Rick Wakeman's parts manfully whilst doing a good job with his own parts from the Drama album (in the track Tempus Fugit) and the new album. Thankfully the keyboard parts were easily audible, which has not always been the case in recent Yes concerts.

And what about Benoit David's vocal performance! His pitch control is not always perfect, but he put in a great performance last night, especially when harmonising with Chris Squire. He managed those high, sustained parts from Heart of the Sunrise ("sharp... distance...") and looked confident prowling around the stage. The Fly from Here songs match his range well, so it's no surprise he made these his own. Vocal harmonies in the higher register have always been a Yes trademark and these were beautifully executed all night. The very good sound mix, with clear vocals, thumping kick drum and rumbling bass pedals, contributed to the pleasure of the evening. Well done, sound men.

Towards the end of the night Alan White announced that his 88 year old mum was in the audience (just behind us), whilst Chris Squire thoughtfully thanked the fans for their loyalty.

I had the impression the band had rehearsed well for this tour and were pleased to get such a good reception from the enthusiastic Manchester fans, both for the classics and the new pieces. There's life in the old dogs yet.

Set list

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