Yes, one of the definitive progressive rock bands in both success and excess, has had an ever-changing roster of musicians throughout the band’s almost 40-year history, which explains why the DVD lists the line-up as “The Definitive Yes.” Some fans may disagree with that designation, not to slight Alan White, but because Bill Bruford was the drummer on three of the band’s most successful albums, The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close To The Edge.
However, as a unit, singer Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and White have logged the most time together under the name Yes, from 1972-’74, ’76-’79, ’90-’92 (during this time Yes was an octet), ’95-’96, and 2002-to the band’s current hiatus, which began in ’05. That doesn’t include time spent as members of Yes in other variations, which they all have done.
Live at Montreux 2003 captures Yes touring in celebration of the band’s 35th anniversary. Audio from nine of the songs was previously released in the Essentially Yes box set from 2006. While they do play a few hits that all classic rock fans know, such as “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Roundabout,” which close out the show, this is a concert for the serious Yes fan.
They open with “Siberian Khatru” from Close to the Edge. I found it an odd choice as the keyboards sound terrible, delivering a flat, harsh sound straight out of the ’80s. Next, they perform two tracks from Magnification, their last studio album from 2001 sans Wakeman. They offer up the very obscure “Don’t Kill The Whale” from 1977’s Tormato for the die-hards before finally performing something the causal Yes fan would recognize: “We Have Heaven,” the first of six out of the nine tracks off of Fragile that appear in the set list.
While the years have certainly caught up to their appearances, they are still very talented musicians whose skills get displayed throughout the night together and solo. In the latter category, we get Howe on acoustic guitar playing “To Be Over” and “Clap,” Wakeman on an untitled keyboard medley, Anderson plays “Show Me,” a new track off The Ultimate Yes: 35th Anniversary Collection, which features him on an instrument that looks like an electric lute, and Squire and White close out “The Fish” as a duet.
Yes’ lyrics have a wonderful blend of sincerity and nonsensicalness embued with New Agey optimism. Anderson’s vocals are a perfect evocation of the mood, greatly suited for listening to while smoking pipe-weed in the Shire.
The only drawback of the DVD is the camera work isn’t that great. Far too often, the camera zooms in to catch the musicians’ finger work, but they are so tight that the object easily slips out of frame. If they had pulled back slightly, it would have made all the difference.
Troopers, and you know who you are, should get this for the collection. Yes “Greatest Hits” fans and those new to prog rock should rent it first.