A Venture Seeker (Highland HL341/342)
Wolverhampton Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, England – October 11th, 1971
Disc 1 (40:59): Firebird Suite, Roundabout, I’ve Seen All Good People, Mood For A Day, Clap, Heart Of The Sunrise, Wakeman Solo (classic music medley)
Disc 2 (42:00): Long Distance Runaround, The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus), Perpetual Change, Yours Is No Disgrace
Rick Wakeman joining the band was the one move that truly solidified Yes’ sound. His classically influenced arrangements and melodies expanded the band’s musical vocabulary. Fragile, the first product of his joining, is a significant improvement over it’s predecessor. Wakeman’s influence was seen heavily in the live performance too and immediately after finishing recording Fragilein September 1971 they went on a month long tour of the UK beginning on September 24th in Devon. There are only four documents in existence from this seminal tour: audience tapes from Bradford, Wolverhampton and Newcastle and the television program Sounding Out filmed in Hemel Hempstead.
Wolverhampton is the only one to be released on silver disc. Highland issued it twice. First was on Out The Valley (HL169/70) and later on A Venture Seeker. This has the complete concert and is an improvement over the earlier release, but the tape runs a little too fast and the encore “Yours Is No Disgrace” in particular seems to run a bit faster. The sound is a bit distant from the stage but is clear with minimal audience interference.
The tape opens with the new introduction, the Firebird Suite by Stavinski. This replaced Also Spracht Zarathustra used on The Yes Album tour earlier in the year and the new piece is a much better choice. The Strauss, even though it became popular only three years prior because of the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, was already becoming hackneyed. And besides Elvis was using it as his introduction to the change is much welcomed.
The setlist is dominated by the new song which was a risky move because they album wasn’t even released yet. If fact, it would be available to the public until a month after the tour ended so most in the audience were hearing “Roundabout” for the very first time. After the more familiar “I’ve Seen All Good People” Steve Howe plays “a new track from the new album…it’s called ‘Mood For A Day'” which is followed by “Clap.”
Perhaps the most spectacular moments on stage are reserved for “Heart Of The Sunrise,” which Anderson introduces as “a new song from Fragile. It’s a song about a city where we all come from we’re all living in London.” It is the first song to truly exploit Wakeman’s talents in painting an aural picture with various keyboard and synthesizer sounds. The lush mellotrons under Squire’s melody in the beginning of the piece is extraordinarily powerful and moving.
Rick Wakeman’s solo spot follows, lasting five minutes and instead of focusing upon his own “Six Wives Of Henry VIIIth” he plays a medley of classical music pieces starting with Bizet’s L’Arlésienne Suite and seguing into Bach’s “Air On G String” and other snatches of pieces. Howe introduces the next song and seems to forget which album it comes from, “We’re going to carry on with another song from The Yes Album … I mean, we call all our albums the Yes album …. a song from Fragile. This is a song called ‘Long Distance Runaround’. The first part, and the second part features Chris, or Fish.” This is the reintroduction of Squire’s bass odyssey from earlier tours.
The show ends with “Perpetual Change” with Bruford drum solo and “Yours Is No Disgrace” is the only encore. Highland’s artwork is very attractive, using period photographs and design. The title is a bit strange, naming it after a song from The Yes Album that has never been played before. Although it would be great if the other tapes from this era were pressed, it is good to have such a nice sounding tape available on silver. If only the label were to have paid more attention to the speed and corrected the pitch, this could have been one of their definitive and legendary titles.