Review by Mark Wiechman
Stars: Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Trevor Rabin,
Alan White, Tony Kaye
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Audio: DTS, Dolby 5.1, Dolby Digital
Video: Full Screen Color
Studio: Image Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 69 Minutes
Release Date: April 18, 2006
“Justice to the left of you,
justice to the right
Speak when you are spoken to, but don’t pretend you’re right
This life’s not for living, it’s for fighting and for wars
No matter what the truth is hold on to what is yours!”
When I was a teenager, fashion and music underwent vast upheavals, when albums were named after numbers, earth tones disappeared, and paranoia permeated the arts. The 1980’s were interesting years for rock music because while many new styles are artists emerged, artists from the 1970’s produced some of their best work, often with a polish that they did not achieve in their early years. While they would often be accused of selling out, there is no denying the great 80s music released by veterans such as Deep Purple, Chicago, Bruce Springsteen, and Yes.
While progressive rock deflated in the late 1970’s under the pressure of more rebellious and primal music like early punk and new wave, Yes imploded mainly from too many years on the road and the eventual realization that band members simply did not need each other any more. Always a band of musician’s musicians, any of them could play anywhere with anyone and make a good living.
Largely for this reason, the Yes lineup changed as often as jazz bands of the bebop era. To this day they have not made more than two consecutive studio albums with the same lineup. Bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White continued to work together and briefly formed “XYZ” with Jimmy Page, but the project never went beyond the demo stage. But then they came across a gifted young musician from South Africa named Trevor Rabin. There were no plans to even re-form Yes, but rather to go in an entirely new direction. Rabin sang, wrote, played great guitar and even keyboards. His original music had been rejected by major labels for being too unusual, which actually encouraged his quest to get it recorded. When he practiced with Squire and White for the first time, they had the opposite experience of most bands. The jam was actually horrible by all accounts, but they liked each other and had good chemistry.
Squire also contacted Tony Kaye, who had played on the first three Yes albums, deciding that his departure was not “the most justified thing in the world,” and the band moved forward with Rabin and Squire sharing vocal duties in a band tentatively called “Cinema.” When an album was begun, Jon Anderson heard some of it and was impressed. Many of the tunes were more in his range anyway, particularly “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” which became their biggest single ever. So completely by accident, Rabin found himself part of a re-formed Yes, which had a modern rock energy and polish. Interestingly, the band’s classical influence was all but gone while its progressive quirkiness actually made them interesting enough for the new wave era. The introduction to “Changes” was in an irregular meter, Squire’s melodic basslines continued to propel the rhythm forward, “Hold On” features Alan White mixing up the rhythm in the middle as only he can, and of course Anderson’s soaring vocals made clear that Yes was still progressive but could also be commercial.
This excellent concert video portrays them in full 80’s mode with no earth tones anywhere, every instrument wireless, outfits that make them look like Marvel Comics heroes, and an innovative aluminum stage where the monitors were actually under the surface of the stage. It was the first major project by Steven Soderbergh, who went on to make films such as Sex, Lies, & Videotape, Far From Heaven, and Erin Brockovich.
Songlist: 1) Introduction, 2) Cinema, 3) Leave It, 4) Hold On, 5) I’ve Seen All Good People, 6) Changes. 7) Owner of a Lonely Heart, 8) It Can Happen, 9) City of Love, 10) Starship Trooper.
Well-restored with little graining or flaws considering the constantly shifting light levels of bright rock star lights and vivid colors with a darkened arena. Extremely good transfer considering the medium used at the time.
The DTS is as good as almost any modern mix, though not quite as loud. The stereo mix is actually even better and louder, with less crowd noise.
The real find is a version of the concert without the strange visual effects which really just distracted from the excellence of the show. It has the same excellent audio as the other version. There is a 24-minute behind the scenes feature which frankly is not very interesting, with the band meandering to and from gigs. A version of “Roundabout” which looks excellent but has inferior sound is here. No explanation is given as to why it is not in the final version but more than likely it is due to audio problems. The band interviews are not bad but unfortunately very bland.
I do not recall any of these features being on the original Beta and VHS releases, but the animation-less version of the show is excellent. The other features are barely interesting even to a die-hard fan like me.
One of the best concert films of the 1980s is finally on DVD and well worth another look.