The quintessential YES line-up featuring Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman arrive on Tyneside as part of a short UK run that will culminate in a headline appearance at Stone Free Festival in London this weekend.
For the purpose of this review, we won’t be going into too much depth about the politics regarding the different incarnations of the iconic progressive rock group out on the road at the moment. However, the beauty of this for the diehard YES aficionados is that there are now more opportunities than ever to celebrate the music of this iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted outfit.
Of course, the reformed YES line-up featuring both Trevor Rabin and Jon Anderson witnessed great success during the 80’s. The band’s seminal album 90125 remains their best-selling album to date. This being a record whereby YES adopted a more commercial and pop-orientated sound which in turn ushered in a whole new legion of fans.
Shrouded in his trademark golden cloak Rick Wakeman is the first to hit the Newcastle City Hall stage where he meets Trevor Rabin for a friendly embrace before assuming his position behind his gargantuan keyboard setup.
ARW sets the tone for the night ahead with a pair of tracks from 90125 in the shape of “Cinema” and “Hold On” before delving into one of the group’s classic cuts with an incredible airing of “South Side of the Sky”. Of course, the aforementioned number featured on the Fragile album, which in turn marked the arrival of Rick Wakeman in 1971.
“I’ve Seen All The Good People” features some sublime vocal harmonies. Just like a fine wine Anderson’s dynamic and far-reaching voice just keeps on getting better with age and has lost none of its range. Tonight there’s no holding him back, Jon Anderson makes his vocal performance look effortless.
Having been performing in this majestic venue for almost 50 years, Anderson recollects days gone by playing at the Newcastle City Hall alongside rock legends such as The Who and Joe Cocker.
ARW are incredibly tight this evening. Trevor Rabin’s blistering fretwork lights up the stage all night long. Likewise, there is also great chemistry between Rabin and Wakeman who perfectly compliment and play off one another throughout. This is particularly the case during “And You And I”.
The likes of the hard rocking “Rhythm of Love” and a frantic airing of “Changes” showcase the heavier and more up-tempo side of the YES songbook. During the previous number, Rabin features prominently on vocals. This track has so many layers; intertwining keys and guitars and heavy percussion and bass, it is one of the many standout moments of the set.
After a brief interlude for ‘a cup of tea’ as Anderson puts it ARW returns to the stage for the second half of the show. During the latter moments of the evening, the band showcases a few of their epic progressive rock masterpieces.
A spellbinding performance of “Heart of the Sunrise” featuring some almost hypnotic guitar and keyboard riffs from Rabin and Wakeman certainly captivates the room. However, it is a breathtaking harp infused rendition of “Awaken” that steals the show; each member of the group taking their moment in the spotlight during this 15-minute tour de force of musicianship and the end result in a standing ovation from the Newcastle faithful.
ARW bring their main set to an explosive conclusion with their unmistakable anthem “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” before this two and a half hour musical marathon culminates with an encore of the classic “Roundabout” that has the whole room up on their feet; dancing in the aisles ensues.
Tonight ARW breathes a new lease of life into many tracks from the vast YES songbook, with a set list which features a healthy dose of both the band’s classic 70’s material along with choice cuts from their 80’s/90’s repertoire. For fans of the progressive rock legends, this vibrant and lively representation of the band’s music by the quintessential YES line-up is simply unmissable.
Event Date: 12-June-2018