Yes - "Yessongs" (Image 76 min.)
"Yessongs" is the classic and original Yes concert movie, showing the band in action at the Rainbow in London shortly before Christmas 1972. So what you get here is the band in the most important and ultimately best phase of their entire career. "Close to the Edge" had been released a few months earlier and Alan White had just joined the band. The movie opens with Roger Dean's fantastic art combined with still-images and slow motion clips from the film upon the opening sounds from "I Get Up, I Get Down". This beautiful intro goes directly into a blistering performance of "I've Seen All Good People". Just as on the album, the addition of Wakeman's Mellotron to the song gives it a new dimension of depth and atmosphere that the original studio-version on "The Yes Album" didn't have. And speaking of Wakeman, his glittering cape here is sure a sight. Howe then takes the solo spot for a few minutes in "Clap" that is followed by a magic "And You And I". To watch Howe deeply concentrated over the steel guitar during the most grandiose and beautiful parts is really seeing a great artist at work. The rotating wheel with lots of small mirrors is showering the audience with tiny lights during the intro to "Close to the Edge". This is in my opinion the definitive live-performance of this masterpiece, as it's played just SO good, raw, fast, energetic and powerful. And when the mystic blue light and dry-ice smoke fills the stage during "I Get Up, I Get Down"...pure magic. The atmosphere is enhanced further by additional and beautiful footage of microbes and underwater life. It also strikes me that Chris Squire undoubtedly was the most energetic and showman-like of all the members in the band. And Jon Anderson sings as clean and clear as an angel. Wakeman's solo-section with extracts from "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" is almost identical to the one on the album, but he also plays a few notes from "Jingle Bells". "Roundabout" was always a highlight in the concerts at this moment, as it was Yes' hit from that time and the one that all of the audience were familiar with. The encore consists of "Yours Is No Disgrace" where Howe shows himself from his most energetic and hardest rocking side. The film finally closes with the chords from "Würm" from "Starship Trooper". You won't see a tighter and better performance from Yes on any other film and the 70's atmosphere is perfect, making "Yessongs" the definitive Yes concert movie.
Yes - "Live 1975 at Q.P.R. Vol. 1 & 2" (Panorama 149 min.)
This is the only vintage Yes concert movie to feature a whole concert from beginning to end. It was filmed at the Queens Park Rangers Stadium at the 10th of May 1975 during the tour for "Relayer". It was still daylight when the finale from "Firebird Suite" is played, and the white curtain in front of the stage opened and allowed the BIG crowd (this was after all at an outdoor stadium) to see the Roger Dean-designed stage. The band, led by a white-dressed and bearded Jon Anderson, enters the stage and kicks right into "Sound Chaser" that opens the concert at a neck-breaking pace. This is followed by a good performance of "Close to the Edge", although considerably tamer than on "Yessongs". Patrick Moraz is interestingly enough constructing his own solos both here and on "Roundabout" later in the show instead of mimicking Wakeman's solos on those songs. The dry-ice smoke was as always filling the stage during "I Get Up, I Get Down", but the daylight partly spoils some of the effect here. Next out is a nice "To Be Over", and both this and "Sound Chaser" has to my knowledge never been performed live after this tour, making their appearances here very important and worthwhile for any Yes fan. It's also interesting to see Jon Anderson's development as a musician and stage persona since "Yessongs" two and a half years earlier. Now he often played rhythm guitar (that actually threatens to drown out everybody else in "To Be Over") and also bashes away on his set of various percussions during many of the instrumental passages. Next out is (drumroll!) "The Gates of Delirium", and to be able to see Yes perform this masterpiece in their golden era is a wet dream come true for me. The performance is great and energetic, and the goosebumps never fail to set in when the first shivering tone of "Soon" is heard toward the end. The acoustic set in the middle of the show features "Your Move", "Mood for a Day" and "Long Distance Runaround". Moraz also plays a piano-improvisation that features themes that later would surface in "Descent" and "Impressions (The Dream)" from his "i" album. I must however say that Howe performed "Clap" a lot better in "Yessongs" than what he does here. The second volume starts with "And You And I", and is yet another song that worked better in "Yessongs" than here. It may have something to do with Moraz who not quite manages to recreate Wakeman's fantastic walls of majestic sounds that are so important to this masterpiece. But it was now almost completely dark at this moment in the concert, allowing Roger Dean's stage to be fully revealed in all its glory, and it visually takes completely off during the performance of "Ritual". This version also includes a brief quote from "The Remembering", and I would guess that this also was one of the first times where the riff from "The Ancient" was incorporated in the instrumental part. The band then leaves the stage, but returns of course for the encore, and Moraz is very close to falling flat on his face when he comes back on stage! The encore is quite long, and includes "Roundabout", the probably best performance of "Sweet Dreams" that you'll ever see and finally "Yours Is No Disgrace" that has been surprisingly funked up by Anderson's rhythm guitar. Cool! Personally I don't think the performances here beat "Yessongs" when it comes to energy and tightness, but "Live 1975 at Q.P.R." is still essential viewing for anyone interested in classic progressive rock at its very best.
Yes - "Live in Philadelphia 1979" (Sanctuary 50 min.)
The final Yes concert movie from the 70's shows the band at the very end of the decade during the tour for "Tormato". While the quality of their output in the studio had fallen several levels down with that album, they still delivered better shows than any other progressive rock band from the same time. Personally I think the stage set for this tour very well could have been the coolest they ever had. It consisted of a circular rotating stage with an impressive lightshow overhead that constantly bathed the band in all sorts of colours and atmospheres through the whole concert. The actual footage here was shot in July 1979 at the Philadelphia Spectrum in America. The tracklist is short but good, and gives you finally a chance to see a 70's performance of "Siberian Khatru" and not at least a whole performance of "Starship Trooper". Personally I also think the version of "Roundabout" is the best from all the three Yes movies reviewed here. Wakeman's solos really soars and rips. And I love the red light during "I've Seen All Good People", giving a very warm and comforting atmosphere. Actually, many of the colour combinations and moods created by the lightshow will make you think of the atmosphere in many of Roger Dean's covers. You also get some curios in form of an electronically distorted drum solo from Alan White and a performance of the acoustic part from the end of "The Ancient". It's also very cool to see and hear "Circus of Heaven", and Jon Anderson is not exactly afraid of showing his dreamy and romantic personality during the introduction of the song and is more charismatic than ever. The filming of the show is also very good, especially when you consider that the stage was rotating all the time, making it hard for the cameramen to really focus and making good shots of the band.