Look Through The Dragonfly (Highland HL221/222)
Yoyogi Olympic Pool, Tokyo, Japan – March 5th, 1992
Disc 1 (78:03): Firebird Suite, Yours Is No Disgrace, Rhythm Of Love, Shock To The System, Heart Of The Sunrise, Clap, Make It Easy/Owner Of A Lonely Heart, And You And I, twin drum battle, Changes
Disc 2 (69:28): I’ve Seen All Good People, Solly’s Beard, The Fish, Lift Me Up, Tombo No Megane, Wakeman Solo, Awaken, Roundabout
The motivations and final result of the Yes union bordered on the absurd. Marrying together the classic Yes line up with the eighties Yes produced a mess of an album and left everyone confused about exactly who was in the band. Perhaps it was only a gimmick, but it is the strangest chapter in the long history of Yes. But even the sharpest critics of the Union project like Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman agree that the long tour was the best ever.
The trek in the US lasted from April to August in 1991 and the short Japanese tour in March 1992 was scheduled even without the knowledge of some of the members of the band. So seven months after their August 8th show at Mountain View, California they played this short five date tour in Japan beginning on February 29th Tokyo.
Look Through The Dragonfly on Highland is a document of the final show of the tour and the final Union show ever. It is a very good sounding complete audience recording that has nice dynamics. The only drawbacks to the tape are the occasional conversations scattered throughout the show that are not loud enough to affect the music but are audible, and the distortion in louder parts of the music.
The Union tour, with eight musicians on stage, required a tremendous amount of discipline and coordination given the extraordinary nature of the arrangements, trying to fit everyone in. The songs in the set list alternate between older classics which all of the lineups played, Yes-west staples, two new songs and many solo showcases. But there is good division of labor within the arrangements themselves, each adding their particular talent to the performance.
The tape cuts in during “Firebird suite” and the first song “Yours Is No Disgrace” is the perfect example. Chosen because this is the perfect song to expand and improvise (performances in past tours have reached close to twenty minutes), Alan White lays down the beat while Bruford augments his high pitched drums on top and both Howe and Rabin take solos emphasizing their particular style.
Rick Wakeman adds a great solo to “Rhythm Of Love” making the song his own. In every Japanese show Anderson sang “Zou-San” (a folk song meaning “Dear Elephant”) before “Shock To The System,” arguable the most effective of the new songs.
Steve Howe begins “Clap” with mid-paced country picking and Rabin plays “Make It Easy,” the 90125 outtake recently released on the Yes Years boxset, as a prelude to their biggest hit “Owner Of A Lonely Heart.” And like with the Big Generator single, Wakeman plays a blistering solo in the song’s concluding moments while Bruford plays very Crimsonesque drums. Stretching the song past any boundary before or since, the people by the recorder swoon in appreciation.
Anderson sings a bit of “Heiwa No Uta Desu” which he does in all of the shows on this tour. “And You And I” is played with the Howe harmonics introduction as on Close To The Edge instead of beginning with “Apocalypse” as they’ve done in past tours. But it does include the Squire harmonica melody in “The Preacher The Teacher” inserted in 1974.
During the drum duet, White bangs out “Mind Drive” underneath Bruford’s electronic drum improvisation. Anderson introduces Tony Kaye for the introduction to “Changes” and Highland leave the first thirty seconds of “I’ve Seen All Good People” at the end of disc one.
Anderson gives a long introduction for Rabin’s solo spot “Solly’s Beard” saying, “Chair. Chair. Chair. Ah. Chair. Guitar. Ah. Tall people. Once upon a time there was a young boy this big. He played Violin. Violin. Violin. Violin. Practice, Practice, Practice, Practice, Violin. Violin. Then when he was ten years old. He got the violin and threw it out the window. ‘Screw that’ he said. Sorry that’s a English phrase. I will play the guitar and be a rock ‘n roll player and so he grew up. Tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall so big and his name. Trevor Rabin.” Squire’s solo spot is comprised of “Saving My Heart,” “Tempus Fugit” and “Amazing Grace” in “The Fish.”
Wakeman’s solo is a five minute summary of all his major solo bits including The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, Myths And Legends Of King Arthur and Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. Trevor Rabin joins in the middle accompanying Wakeman and their collaboration is exciting.
Wakeman has said before that his greatest regret is not being in any Yes lineup with Rabin and hearing this gives a tantalizing glimpse into what could have been. The show ends with an “Awaken” that stretches to twenty glorious minutes. “Roundabout” is the only encore in the final Union show.
Look Through The Dragonfly was released in 1998 and is a great title for the collection.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)