Close to VIII Progressers (Highland HL345/346/347)
Disc 1 (72:34) Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA – August 8th, 1991: Opening (Excerpt From “Firebird Suite”), Yours Is No Disgrace, Rhythm Of Love, Shock To The System, The Heart Of The Sunrise, The Clap (inc. Georgia Theme), Make It Easy (intro) – Owner Of A Lonely Heart, And You And I, Changes
Disc 2 (77:46): I’ve Seen All Good People, Solly’s Beard (Trevor Solo), Saving My Heart, The Fish (incl. Tempus Fugit, Chris Solo), Amazing Grace (Jon & Chris), Lift Me Up, Excerpts From “The Six Wives Of Henry VIII”, Awaken, Roundabout
Disc 3 (72:37) Chicago, IL – May 5th, 1991 soundcheck: Key & Drum Jam (Rick & Alan), Guitar & Drum Jam (Trevor & Alan), Key, Guitar & Drum Jam (Rick, Trevor & Alan). Birmingham, England – June 26th, 1991 soundcheck: Close To The Edge (c/ I Get, I Get Down, d/ Season’s Of Man Howe on vocal), Saving My Heart (inst.), Saving My Heart, Close To The Edge (a/ The Solid Time Of Change), Close To The Edge (d/ Seasons Of Man)
Yes’ Unionalbum and tour, one of progressive rocks most spectacular artistic and legal achievements, required a live document before being relegated into memory after the musicians went their separate ways. They waited until the eighty-third and last night of the second tour of the US to set up the cameras and consoles to record the live show for posterity, the August 8th, 1991 show in Mountain View, CA. Filming the final night of a long tour could go either way. One the one hand the band are obviously tired and could deliver a sloppy show, or it could be a fun event taking the form of an onstage cast party.
This show is a little of both. Watching the video show the evident weariness, but also they jokes between them. The video was released soon afterwards called The Union Tour Live which is now out of print. It is telling how much they dropped the critically panned Union album by omitting two of the three songs from the album regularly played, “Shock To The System” and “Lift Me Up,” in addition to cutting “And You And I,” “Changes” and the Bruford / White drum duet. And furthermore the DVD was released only in Japan.
An almost complete soundboard surfaced in the mid-nineties and was pressed on Yes Shows 1991 ‘Round The World In A Last Day (Whatever WER-03/04), spread out over two discs. Highland released Close To VIII Progressors in 1999 with the entire soundboard (minus the drum duet before “Changes”)and a disc with two interesting rehearsals tapes. The sound quality of the Mountain View show is very good to excellent but a bit flat sounding. The audience are far away and are not heard much in the mix. The music though does sound very nice.
The Firebird suite starts off the show leading into a twelve minute “Yours Is No Disgrace” with both Howe and Rabin contributing their style solos into the mix. “Rhythm Of Love,” which at this point was the most recent Yes hit, is interesting for Wakeman’s Tormato-esque keyboard solo in by the end of the piece. “Shock To The System” is the first of the very few new songs to be played live and sound strong as does the following “Heart Of The Sunrise” which some have pointed out to be the highlight of the entire concert.
Steve Howe plays “Clap” and a reference to “Georgia’s Theme” in the middle. “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” is the time Howe to take a break, but Wakeman again adds a great keyboard part to Yes’ biggest ever hit. Before “And You And I” Anderson get into a long winded, incomprehensible speech, saying: “There’s, reading about, don’t deceive your free will. You’ve got a free will. Anything is possible. Even this is possible. If you’ve got time during the evening visit the Greenpeace people from..they’re based here in San Francisco. They’ve been on tour with us. They’ve got a sign just outside. They’re great people and..uh this next song is sorta dedicate to..uh yeah Dion to Dion. Eventually, Eventually. The beautiful..uh albino whale that was born..well about a month ago whenever it was. White whale sailing around the coast of Australia. Dedicate to that whale. And remember on the wings of the moth is the dark gold dust of knowledge.”
Trevor’s solo “Solly’s Beard” references dueling banjos (even though he’s the only one playing). Jon tells the story about “Saving My Heart,” speaking about how “it’s only seems like yesterday, I went down to Trevor’s house. It was yesterday and he was playing this song. As he was prone to do on this day he writes songs and this was no special thing, One of those things and he was sitting on his stool with a microphone near his face. So I said ‘Trev, that’s a wonderful song. Can I sing along?’ He said. Not much so I said ‘C’mon Trev’ Okay. So I sang the song and it went like this.” It is a wonderful reggae piece that doesn’t deserve its current obscurity.
Rabin plays an acoustic guitar during the first part of the song, and later he has to change to an electric guitar for the song’s solo. But since he can’t be heard Howe plays it until Rabin can come in again. Chris Squire has his solo “The Fish” played without “Long Distance Runaround” and is accompanied by Kay, Rabin and White. It is interesting for Rabin playing the guitar melody during the “Tempus Fugit” interlude. After “Life Me Up” Rick Wakeman plays his long solo accompanied by White and Rabin by the end. The set ends with “Awaken” which never sounded so powerful as it does on the Union tour with all the musicians contributing their talents to the track. “Roundabout” is the only encore of the evening.
Disc three has two long amateur recorded rehearsals. In general rehearsal tapes are sometimes interesting if they reveal rarities. Others can be boring and worthy of no more than one listen. The first tape is dated from May 5th, 1991 in Chicago, but they played in Champaign, Illinois that day at The Assembly Hall. The keyboard and drum jam between Wakeman and White is the longest, lasting almost a half hour. Eighteen minutes of Rabin and White follow then with Wakeman joining in again for three minutes. There isn’t much to be commented on since it is long nothing interesting really happens.
The second tape is almost a half hour long from June 26th at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. Most of the recording is occupied by a run-through of the middle sections of “Close To The Edge.” The epic was only attempted once, three weeks later on July 14th in Lake Placid, New York. By all accounts it was a disaster and was never attempted again by the Union lineup. It is nevertheless interesting to hear them all rehearsing the song even though the rust is evident. The sound quality for both of these tapes is good but have a loud echo and were taped away from the stage.
Close To VIII Progressors also continues the line of really awkward and incongruous bootleg titles. Highland wanted the title to refer to Union playing “Close To The Edge” in rehearsals, but it doesn’t make much sense. Nevertheless, for collectors of the Union tour this is an essential one to own. The Shoreline Amphitheater show is one of the definitive highlights of what was a successful tour, but the additional material is great to have. This is packaged in a simple fatboy jewel case.