Thursday, 12 May 2016

Yes at the Royal Albert Hall, 10th May 2016

It's always a fine day when you are going to see Yes that evening at the Royal Albert Hall.

Here's Jon, looking a little tired, in a kaftan which unfortunately more than adequately covered his midriff.

  Jon Davison, singing 'Machine Messiah'.  Jon gives a much more nuanced, fluid and emotional delivery to Drama than the brittle, staccato, punky superficiality of Trevor Horn's original 1980 recording, which, to be fair,  very much reflected the time in which it was made.  
Thirty six years later, Jon is only reinterpreting the album by giving it a warmth that it previously lacked (no mean feat faced with lyrics that are a pile of twaddle), but the rebooted tempo that Billy Sherwood brings has cranked up the power and urgency of the piece. Not only does this bring Drama to the notice of a new generation of listeners, but enables old fans to finally make peace with an album that was yanked off the turntable years ago and thrown away into a corner in disgust.

Steve Howe.  You'll have to forgive the blurry photos of Steve - they're from the sixth row Billy's side, with my little Olympus camera.

Billy Sherwood chose to wear tails, in a change from the black draped coat he had been wearing for the previous 9 dates.  

(The coat had suffered a wardrobe malfunction during a swift bass change in Birmingham, meaning that a large portion of the Sherwood midriff was on mesmerising display right in front of me, including, it has to be said,  Mr Sherwood's billy button.)

Having seen the first shows with Billy last year in America, he is now much, much more relaxed.  Then, he obviously had to tread an extremely fine line with regards to Chris's legacy, and he did a wonderful job under the difficult circumstances and expectations of the fans.  Even in Glasgow, the first date of the tour here, he cried after The Fish because of the pressure and the overwhelming, positive reaction of the crowd.

 However now he is playing as part of a group of musicians who are clearly enjoying themselves, and who, for the first time in years, have picked up the tempo and are really rocking. I wasn't looking forward to Drama ten times on the tour, but this line up have given it substance, emotion, and a rip-roaring delivery.

   Here's a change of outfit too for always-too-low-in-the-mix Geoff as well, but he kept the silver sparkly scarf. The whole ensemble was a much better sartorial choice for the low-crotched one than the creased turquoise number he'd been wearing for the previous 9 shows.

Geoff came out from behind his keyboards to read a special introduction to his fellow Buggle, Trevor Horn, who was to be guest singer on Tempus Fugit.

Geoff isn't a natural orator, so it was rather sweet that he had his notes with him.

Hear Geoff's announcement and the Royal Albert Hall Tempus Fugit HERE.

Yikes.  It's Trevor.  Buggles glasses alert.

"It's been 36 years, maybe some of you have forgiven me by now", Mr Horn had said at the Oxford show the previous night, thus addressing all those still scarred from experiencing his 1980 Drama tour, when his voice had cracked, and the universe as we knew it was rent asunder.


Jon hung about, kept his head down, and shook a tambourine at the back of the stage. 

Fortunate that he did.  For Mr Horn does not have the range to reach the notes at the end of the song, and Jon had to step in and help him out.

Trevor.  We remember the Glasgow Apollo in December 1980.  And we do not forgive. 

They played a beautiful, mellifluous version of Time and a Word, sung as a tribute to Peter Banks.  The album artwork is in the background.

Billy was cranked up far too loud, but he was enjoying himself hugely.

Incidentally, Roger Dean, who designed the Yes logo, was in the audience in Brighton on Saturday. 

The second half of the set was the whole of Fragile, the 1971 album more suited to Jon's emotive voice.  Because of the one-off support from Moon Safari, the Albert Hall gig had Yes playing Drama and then Fragile with no interval between.   

There had been a number of car crashes in Sheffield a few days earlier, not only Five Per Cent for Nothing (where Jon doesn't sing, so he had time to do a little wormy dance behind Alan's drum riser), but also a truly jaw-droppingly catastrophic We Have Heaven.  However, all went well at the Royal Albert Hall, thanks to a super-strict, eagle-eyed Steve, The Man in Charge

Lovely, lovely, under-rated Geoff, the guy who just gets on with it.

Billy Sherwood, enjoying himself perhaps just a little too much. He's a wonderful guy, interacting with the crowd, but as a result he does just tend to lose that little bit of focus (much to Steve's frustration).

 They also played, for the first time on the tour, Soon.  It was quite a moment, until it all started to fall apart in an under-rehearsed way at the end.


And then it was all done.  The last note was played.  The lights came back on.  The UK tour was over.  

Back out of the rabbit hole again, until next time. 

Hey hey hey.

Hear and see the whole Drama set at the Royal Albert Hall on Youtube HERE. 

See my other photos of some of the gigs on the tour here - 


  1. A wonderful sequence which really captures the atmosphere of the performance.

  2. I can't thank you enough for posting this...I adore yes and wasn't able to go....I now feel like I looks like you had an amazing time

  3. Thank you so much!

    I did the whole tour with a big, ever-changing group of friends, who had come from all over the world, so it's as much about the journey and the friends and the places as it is about the band and the concerts and the music.

    Yes, it really was amazing.

  4. Excellent! You really captured the emotions of the evening..

  5. Thank you, that's very kind. It was quite a night!