Close To The East (Virtuoso 125/126/127/128/129/130)
Yes reached their artistic and critical peak in early 1973 when their three previous albums, The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close To The Edge gained the band more critical praise and popularity. Their first trip to Japan in March 1973 occurs right on the cusp of their rise as the most influential progressive rock band of the 1970’s and it remains their only visit to the far east during their seventies peak.
They played six shows in Japan. The first three were in Tokyo and each were in different venues (and none were the Budokan). Each of the shows were recorded from the audience and have been released several times in the past with the most important being Heart Of The Sunrise (Siréne-044), Close To The East (Ayanami-255) and Yes In Japan (Siréne-071).
Last year the CDR label Amity released Close To The East (Amity 250), a six disc collection with all of the Tokyo shows drawn from the three previous mentioned titles. In general, the sound quality is a slight improvement over the older releases. They are a bit more loud and clear, and the middle show is now complete.
After some hue and cry Virtuoso has issued Close To The East. It is identical to the Amity except pressed on silver discs. It is the third time this title has been used and it should be the final time. Unless superior tapes surface, these should be the final word on the Yes 1973 Tokyo concerts.
In the context of the history of the band, this is the time when Jon Anderson began to assert himself and his new-found spirituality. It was during these shows when the seeds for their next album were sown. As he relates in the liner notes of Tales From Topographic Oceans, released later in the year, Anderson writes:
“We were in Tokyo on tour and I had a few minutes to myself in the hotel room before the evening’s concert. Leafing through Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, I got caught up in a lengthy footnote. It described the four-part shastric scriptures (that) cover all aspects of religion & social life as well as fields like medicine & music, art & architecture. For some time I had been searching for a theme for a large-scale composition, so positive in character were the shastras that I could visualize there and then four interlocking pieces of music being structured around them. That was in February (1973). Eight months later, the concept was realized in this recording.”
Koseinenkin Kaikan, Tokyo, Japan – March 8th, 1973
Disc 1 (67:56): Firebird Suite, Siberian Khatru, I’ve Seen All Good People, Heart Of The Sunrise, Mood For A Day, Clap, And You And I, Close To The Edge
Disc 2 (43:28): Rick Wakeman solo, Roundabout, Yours Is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper
Yes’ first show in Japan was on March 8th at the 2062 capacity Koseinenkin Kaikan in the Shinjuku section of Tokyo and has been available on tape for years. Highland released the older source as An ‘Eve’ Of Autobiography several years ago. Although listenable, that tape is fuzzy with much detail lost especially Jon Anderson’s and Steve Howe’s between song conversations being almost inaudible.
The Siréne label have found and released a completely new tape of the event on Heart Of The Sunrise (Siréne-044) and it is by far one of the best sounding Yes tapes from the band’s early years. It is a crisp, detailed mono audience recording making this show much more enjoyable now.
Close To The East is a bit more loud and clear than the Siréne. The soft parts are more audible, even Steve Howe’s malfunctioning pedal steel guitar in “Siberian Khatru” can faintly be heard. Cuts in the tape at 12:05 in “Close To The Edge” and 5:56 in “Yours Is No Disgrace” are the only which are intrusive. There are minor cuts before “Mood For A Day” and “Starship Trooper,” but no music is lost.
Yes have obvious nerves playing before a foreign audience. “Siberian Khatru” sounds tentative and the shoddy PA system doesn’t help. Jon Anderson gives a quick “thank you, it’s nice to be in Japan” before trying to greet the audience in Japanese by saying “Ohayo!” (with some giggles and guffaws in response from the crowd).
“I’ve Seen All Good People” fares much better. Afterwards Anderson continues his struggles communicating, saying “you probably won’t be able to understand… No point in saying that, is there; you don’t understand what I said, because you can’t speak English, most of you. But it really is nice to be here … to play for you. We’re going to carry on with a song from the Fragile album.”
After “Heart Of The Sunrise” Steve Howe is given his solo spot, playing first “Mood For A Day” and “Clap.” The latter features the “Classical Gas” interlude from previous tours. Howe also seems to struggle a bit with the foreign crowd, confessing, “This is only our second day here, and we haven’t got to learn very much, but thank you anyway” and then complains about playing so early. “We’re playing in a place with a clock on the wall. It’s very, very strange.”
Anderson picks up on the dialogue, saying that it’s “very strange to be playing at a quarter past seven at night. I’m usually having my dinner quarter past seven. We usually play about ten o’clock and twelve o’clock. But, uh…” Howe chimes in “When in Rome…” and Anderson finishes the quip, “Do as the Romans do.”
Yes play a perfect “And You And I.” There is a slight delay afterwards, and Anderson addresses some people calling out to the stage. “Pardon? Sorry, I don’t speak Japanese. I couldn’t… Actually, I couldn’t hear what you said, actually, Sir.”
As the delay persists Anderson says, “I’m just waiting until everybody gets in tune, you see” and after another person in the audience shouts “Preacher Teacher,” alluding to that part of “And You And I.” Anderson replies, “Could you say it again? Preacher, Teacher. O.K. I’m just waiting until everybody tunes up, Sir. We’re very sorry.” And after yet even more of a delay he tells them, “we have to get tuned. Thank you.” When things are finally tuned, he announces that “We’re going to carry on with a song from the new album, our new album, a song called ‘Close To The Edge.'”
There are still problems with the PA. Howe’s guitar in particular is very low in the mix and Wakeman’s keyboards very high which sometimes works to good effect, such as at the beginning of the “I Get Up I Get Down” section.
Anderson gives a simple introduction to Wakeman’s solo spot where he plays themes from The Six Wives Of Henry VIIIth. The segue at the end is much longer than usual. Perhaps there were tuning or PA issues, but Wakeman’s transition is fascinating and terrifying. It takes the band a while to start “Roundabout,” the final number of the night.
The encores are “Yours Is No Disgrace” and “Starship Trooper,” two songs from the oldest LP represented in the set 1970’s The Yes Album. The Würm section of the latter takes a long time to end. But overall it’s a nervous and trouble plagued, but ultimately satisfying, opening night in Tokyo.
Shibuya Kokaido, Tokyo, Japan – March 9th, 1973
Disc 3 (48:33): Firebird Suite, Siberian Khatru, I’ve Seen All Good People, Heart Of The Sunrise, Mood For A Day, The Clap, Colours Of The Rainbow, And You and I
Disc 4 (62:44): MC, Close To The Edge, Rick Wakeman Solo, Roundabout, Yours Is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper
For the second show in Tokyo Yes moved to the 2084 capacity Shibuya Kokaido (Shibuya Public Hall) in the Shibuya section of Tokyo. This has been the most popular of the three shows on silver. An older tape source was used for Hallelujah (Dirty 13 Volume 1 D13-01 A/B) and Heart Of Yes (Platinum & Gold PG730309) as a good and listenable audience recording.
Years after Close To The East (Ayanami-255) came out featuring a new and previously uncirculated tape source that is much better sounding. All the instruments are clear and enjoyable although there is noticeable distortion in the upper end. It isn’t too distracting but it is present.
Unfortunately Ayanami is missing the encores “Yours Is No Disgrace” and “Starship Trooper.” The label could and should have edited the encores from the older tape source but unfortunately chosen not to. Virtuoso is the complete show. They have utilized the older tape source for the encores to present the most complete record of the second night in Tokyo.
The show stars as the others with the “Firebird Suite” opening tape leading into “Siberian Khatru.” After the opening song, a subdued Anderson tells the crowd that “It’s nice to be playing for you tonight. I hope you are enjoying yourselves. We’re going to play some music for you.”
“We hope” Howe interjects. “This is Lee Michaels of US of A” Anderson cryptically adds, referring to Howe. The bizarre song introductions continue before “Heart Of The Sunrise” when Anderson says, “It’s very nice to be in Tokyo, a little concrete, but it’s very nice, from our point of view. Warm welcome!”
Howe has his two song acoustic solo set after the mechanical crunch of “Heart Of The Sunrise” and “Clap” again includes “Classical Gas.” Afterwards, as Howe is absorbing the warmth of the audience, Anderson breaks into an impromptu performance of “Colours Of The Rainbow,” the first verse of a song called “The Beautiful Land” from a musical called The Roar Of The Greasepaint – The Smell Of The Crowd. Anderson sang it regularly on the Going For The One tour in 1977 accompanying himself on triangle to punctuate each of the colors.
“Close To The Edge” is dedicated to the Tokyo’s anti-pollution because, as Anderson explains, “When we flew into Tokyo airport we can’t see Tokyo. Better get rid of it. Come tomorrow and sweep it up.” The title track epic fares much better in this show than the previous night.
Rick Wakeman’s solo spot has the usual nods to The Six Wives of Henry VIII but also includes a boogie interlude and an electronic haze motif unique to this performance which segues into a motif from “Siberian Khatru” which in turn segues into “Roundabout.” It’s very interesting and a surprising way to end the show.
“Yours Is No Disgrace,” the first encore number, sound slightly disjointed in the middle with Howe trying out new guitar melodies. “Starship Trooper” is the proper elegiac ending to another triumph in Tokyo.
Kanda Kyoritsu Kodo, Tokyo, Japan – March 10th, 1973
Disc 5 (51:01): Firebird Suite, Siberian Khatru, I’ve Seen All Good People, Sakura Sakura, Mood For A Day, Clap, Heart Of The Sunrise, And You And I
Disc 6 (66:58): Close To The Edge, Rick Wakeman Solo, Roundabout, Yours Is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper
March 10th was the third and final night in Tokyo, this time at the Kanda Kyoritsu Kodo, their third venue in as many nights. This tape, a very distant but clear audience recording, surfaced and was pressed several years ago on Yes In Japan (Siréne-071). Close To The East isn’t simply a repressing of that disc.
Rather, Virtuoso have edited in other tapes to fill in the bigger gaps in the recording. “Firebird Suite” and the first twenty-seven seconds of “Siberian Khatru,” missing from the tape, is edited in from the opening night’s tape. It’s also used for the cut at 5:36 in “Close To The Edge.” The tape of the second night is used to fill a gap 7:51 in “And You And I.”
This show was added later on their touring itinerary and is notable for being the first where Jon Anderson sings “Sakura Sakura.” After the second song “I’ve Seen All Good People” Anderson says “last night some friends came down to see us and they sang us an old Japanese folk song and I’m going to try to sing it for you now.” (It was claimed he sang it at every show in Japan but the tape evidence proves otherwise. He sang it here and in Osaka two nights later and both times before “Mood For A Day”, not after the encores).
The performance is very good. Wakeman is very creative in his solo spot, adding a boogie section to Henry VIII’s wives, but his wandering head also misses some cues in “Yours Is No Disgrace” and “Starship Trooper” and “Close To The Edge”.
Despite that this is probably the best of the three Tokyo shows. They don’t sound as tense as the first show and are really enjoying themselves. It’s also great to finally listen to since this is the first release of this concert.
Close To The East is packaged in a six disc quad case and come with a miniature reproduction of the very rare tour program. Although Virtuoso have been slow on producing Yes titles, they’ve put great thought and care into the ones they do manufacture such as this and Saving Grace Of God (Virtuoso 113/114/115/116/117/118), they’ve been well worth the investment.