Live Review: Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, Wembley Arena, 29th October, 1989

What's in a name? Legally, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe can't call themselves 'Yes.' Musically, you can't really call them anything else! Therefore, tonight's show had been billed as 'An Evening Of Yes Music.'

It was the second of two sold out shows at Wembley Arena (Anderson still referred to the venue as the 'Empire Pool') and a capacity audience (ranging in age from 5 to 50) eagerly awaited the return of a '70s phenomenon.

The familiar strains of The Firebird Suite heralded the start of the show as a solo spotlight picked out vocalist Jon Anderson amidst the crowd singing Time And A Word as he gracefully moved his way onto the stage before breaking into excerpts from Owner Of A Lonely Heart and Teakbois. Howe, Wakeman, and Bruford followed suit to rapturous applause as they played their various intro pieces. Two decades on, Anderson's choirboy singing, Howe's old acoustic sshowcase, and the modest blasts from Bruford and Wakeman have ceased to be over self-indulgent displays for the 'worshipful' masses. instead, they were warm and welcoming!

Showcasing their 'Yes Music' the band came across as powerful and majestic as they ever were. Long Distance Runaround, And You And I and the spontaneous I've Seen All Good People displayed excesses of energy. Complete with a gigantic 'spider' backdrop (courtesy of the Dean brothers) this could well have been seen as 'classic' Anderson Bruford Yes?

Submerged in billows of dry ice, Anderson's gentle voice transcended into magic as he broke into Soon. He told the crowd that they were wonderful, the band's energy was their energy, a reflection, a circle, a kind of cosmic magic. Of course, everyone seemed pleased to go along with that!

New album cuts such as Birthright and The Meeting fitted in perfectly with the older material, while Brother Of Mine and Order Of The Universe stood out as classics in their own right, showing that creative versatility still abounds. Arguably, 'Yes Music' (a concept in itself, whoever may contribute to it) has thrown up two of the '80s most exciting songs; namely Owner Of A Lonely Heart on the one hand and Brother Of Mine. The latter being a masterpiece of modern music!

Bassist Tony Levin, with his finger extensions, augmented the band admirably although the 'Squire' magic was most noticeably missing! Nothing would have pleased me more than to see Chris Squire up there alongside Msrs Anderson, Wakeman, Bruford, and Howe! The presence of 'the fish' would have made the combination almost perfect!

Rick Wakman, behind a mountain of keyboards, launched the combo into Close To The Edge, which proved to be the 'religious' highlight of the show. As the stage set began to take an almost alter-like shape the 'priests' of rock threw everything they had into their music; Howe and Wakeman being definitive exponents of their art forms.

Heart Of The Sunrise saw guitarist Steve Howe in his 'element' as he jumped around the stage brandishing Gibson. Bill Bruford's flamboyant drumming introduced time signatures that have yet to be discovered! Showmen all!

The Wembley crowd cried out the band's name (you know, the other one) and they came back to encore with Roundabout and Starship Trooper as the lighting rig dropped down its rays of crystal clear light over the well satisfied congregation. Ecstasy wasn't the word for it!

Tonight's show was a musical education if nothing else. A trip down memory lane perhaps? Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe put their emphasis on the music as opposed to the elaborate big stage show of 90125 Yes(the other lot).

I'm sure as we race towards the year 2000 that 'Yes Music' will blossom and flower into something greater. But for the moment it is as important in this "computerised, commuterised, saturised and businesswired" world as it was eons ago! The name may change but the music will still stir the memories. Anderson's voice will be as unmistakable in the '90s as it was in the previous two decades. Be it 1969, 1979, or even 1989, there is still life in the old dog yet! YES INDEED!

Mark Crampton
Riff Raff
December, 1989

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